Traveling Ted is a blog that takes readers along on my adventures hiking, canoeing, skiing, and international backpacking. Many blogs focus on one aspect of backpacking, but I tackle both the outdoor adventure side and international exploration as well.

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Paddling Kickapoo River

At Steuben, Wisconsin excited for my two day journey down the Kickapoo

Driving to the small town of Steuben, Wisconsin with Wisconsin River Outings, I was excited for my two day solo adventure down the Lower Kickapoo River to Wauzeka, Wisconsin. Steuben to Wauzeka is a 19 mile stretch. The plan was to travel by canoe 12 miles one day and then camp along the river at Plum Creek and then finish the last 9 miles the next day.

Wisconsin River Outings dropped my car off at Wauzeka and then drove me up with the canoe I would be paddling, my cooler, and my other possessions to Steuben. This meant my car would be waiting for me at the end of the trip. All I had to do was call the outfitter and they would pick up the canoe at Wauzeka.

Lower Kickapoo River canoeing

Canoeing the Lower Kickapoo River was very peaceful

The Kickapoo River is a small meandering stream that empties into my favorite river: the Wisconsin River. I had just paddled the Wisconsin River for three days prior. The Wisconsin is a wide river quite like the Mississippi, so I enjoyed the contrast being on the smaller Kickapoo.

It was liberating and peaceful to have everything I needed in my canoe for the next day and a half. I cracked a beer in celebration and drifted downstream enjoying the scenery and the solitude. It was a beautiful day, and I was excited to be outdoors.

The paddle went smoothly. Canoeing during the middle of the week is the way to go. I saw two people all day and they were in a golf cart on the side of the river. I did not see one other paddler the whole two days. I spent the day sharing the river with the cackle of kingfishers, the squawks of great blue herons, and several swimming muskrats.

I was told the campground was at a flattened stretch of grass with a pool. Plum Creek Park was a turnabout on a country road with a stretch of grass, a few trees, and two fire pits. There was no picnic table or latrines: only a handful of cars passed by all night.

I was psyched to get off the river, grab a chair, and have a beer. Although the camp was nothing special, it was home for the night. I found a huge log and quickly sawed it up for more than enough wood for tonight. I was looking forward to roasting hot dogs over the fire and enjoying a few beers under the stars all by my lonesome.

Camping Kickapoo River Wisconsin

The Plum Creek Camp was not much, but it was my home for the night

Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans. I noticed a line of clouds to the north and a slight murmuring coming from that direction. As it moved closer it became clear that a thunderstorm was heading in my direction.

It is not uncommon for an afternoon thunderstorm to roll through and in an hour or two be done. I put a tarp over the logs and put all food, cameras, and phone in the dry bag. I hunkered down for the coming storm.

Kickapoo River camping

The darkening horizon is an ominous sign

It started out innocently enough with a benign quaking thunder with no wind and a pitter patter of rain. After a half hour I thought to myself it was almost a cute storm as no wind or hard rain had developed.

I was tucked away in a valley, so it was difficult to see what weather was coming my way. Suddenly, a dark cloud came in from the north. It started to rain harder and a gust of wind came up that almost blew my tent and canoe into the water.  I grabbed my tent and held on to it as several tent stakes had come undone.

What followed was hours of thunder and lightning from two different directions. I found out from Wisconsin River Outings later that there were two storm cells in the area. I was tucked in between them and it rained all night ending my hot dog dinner and campfire.

Fortunately, my twenty-three year old tent stayed dry, and I was able to get some sleep in between the thunder.

Here are some tips for waiting out a thunderstorm while camping:

Have a beer or two (maybe even three)

Just like a little alcohol helps relieve the pre-flight jitters for those who fear flying, a couple of drinks will help with the fear of the coming storm. Don’t drink too much as you will need your wits about you.

Camping Kickapoo River Wisconsin

Ready to ride the storm out on the Kickapoo River

Have a camera

Taking photos and video helped relieve stress and took my mind off of the fact that a lightning strike could make life tenuous at any moment.

Bring a dry tent

Getting in a wet tent is miserable, so always make sure you have a quality tent when camping

Camping Kickapoo River Wisconsin

The hero of the story, my 23 year old tent, looking a little disheveled the day after, but don’t we all

Put up your tent in a safe place

Make sure your tent is out of a flood plain if camping near a river and do not put under trees with loose limbs.

Check the weather forecast

If a severe storm is forecasted, do not go out on the river or the woods. It is best to forgo the trip and hike and canoe another day.


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