I was contacted by the Mad Traveler to join him on some Wisconsin canoeing in order to help him complete a Wisconsin paddling guide. Our initial plan for this last weekend was to canoe the Black River. Mother Nature intervened with several severe thunderstorms Friday and Saturday.
The next plan was to canoe closer to home on Sunday. The storms just kept coming and even that plan looked in doubt. On Sunday morning I got a message from Kevin saying the temperature was beautiful and the canoe was on the car. That was the only prodding I needed. I jumped in the car and met the Mad Traveler at Badfish Creek – about halfway between Madison and Janesville, Wisconsin.
Normally this creek is supposed to be clear and have very little water in it. With all the rain over the weekend in Wisconsin the creek was a muddy brown river flowing at a decent rate. Fortunately, it was not at a flood stage that made it dangerous.
The Mad Traveler had just recently bought a used canoe and was eager to try it out. It was a Pelican, which I had never heard of, but it turned out to be a decent craft. It was sturdy in the water and maneuverable, which turned out to be two qualities we needed.
The beginning part of the trip was very uneventful. The river weaved in and out of farm country and through some wooded section. We did not see any herons, which was a surprise, but we saw perhaps a half dozen Baltimore orioles.
Then we turned a corner and a dead fall was completely over the river. The only place it was feasible to go through was a small gap under a log at extreme river right. We had to do the limbo and get completely on the bottom of the boat to skirt under the log.
We turned another corner and two logs were securely across the river with no gap in sight. This was going to have to be a small portage. We pulled the canoe up into the tall grass and in doing so my paddle fell into the water and drifted downstream. I stupidly had not put the paddle all the way in the canoe.
Fortunately, it was not going anywhere thanks to aforementioned two logs. I scampered over the root of the tree on the shoreline and shimmied over the dead tree into the middle of the river and retrieved the paddle and then climbed back to shore.
We got back in the canoe and a few turns of the river found another deadfall completely across the river. This time we just barreled right into the sweeper where the current was not so strong and just picked our way through the limbs and eventually broke through.
This turned out to be the last of the deadfalls that covered the river, but it did not end the adventure. There were many trees down that only allowed a canoe through at a certain gap. We had to line up the canoe perfectly and sometimes we had to turn sharply to avoid another log or tree after getting through the initial passage.
Fortunately, we were able to maneuver through on all of these passages without getting caught up or turned over. I did make the Mad Traveler and myself eat a few overhanging limbs full of leaves that could have been avoided, but we made it through unscathed although we had to wipe away a few spiders who joined for the ride.
Normally the river is not this high and I think many of the deadfalls were from the recent high water. I don’t think the river is usually this adventurous. We got a little bit more than what we bargained for, but enjoyed the adrenaline rush created by avoiding the deadfalls and fast water.
It made the ice cold New Glarus wheat beer in my cooler taste that much better when we emerged from the fallen trees and completed this fun stretch of the Badfish Creek.
For more information on this river and many other Illinois and Wisconsin Rivers, check out Morrall River Films and their video canoe guides.
Also check out the Mad Traveler’s blog and of course stay tuned for his future canoeing guide in print.
We did a stretch from a bridge on Old Stone Road just north of the Badfish Creek Wildlife Area to a bridge on Casey Road near Evansville, Wisconsin.
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