If someone told me you had three days to live and asked me where I wanted to spend those last three days it would be on a canoe trip on the Lower Wisconsin River Valley near Boscobel, Wisconsin. I have paddled this stretch close to 50 times.
The Wisconsin River is one long river though. The Lower Wisconsin River Valley starting at Sauk City only stretches 92 miles. The complete river is 430 miles, so I have only canoed a little less than 1/4th of the total river. I have also canoed the Wisconsin Dells section and fished the river for Walley Days in Nekoosa.
One stretch that has always fascinated me has been the Upper Wisconsin River near its headwaters in Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin. The river drains out of Lac Vieux Desert along the Wisconsin and Michigan border then flows down the center of the state. Near Madison the river bends west almost 90 degrees and goes straight for the confluence with the Mississippi River at Prairie Du Chien.
The Wisconsin is a quite large river for most of its impressive run and even rivals the Mississippi in size near where they merge. The river does not start off this way when it flows out of Lac Vieux Desert at its headwaters. It is not much more than a little stream or creek meandering through the Wisconsin northwoods.
I have always wanted to paddle this section, but it has eluded me. I have driven over it many times on the way to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I even got out and hiked a little trail last year from the headwaters to near the highway in the Nicolet National Forest, but my paddle has yet to grace itself on my favorite river this far north.
This changed on my way back from Isle Royale last week. Kevin Revolinski is deep into canoeing 40 river stretches for a guidebook of Wisconsin Rivers. I paddled Badfish Creek with him earlier this summer, and we tried another section of the Wisconsin near the Dells, but we were rained out.
He wanted to meet me in northern Wisconsin for a couple of days on my way back from Isle Royale. I was pleased to find out that the the Wisconsin River headwaters was on the itinirary. We did not start in Lac Vieux Desert, but we put in not too far downstream.
The Lower Wisconsin River is full of sandbars and perfect for paddling and camping. I knew the upper portion of the river would not be as awesome to camp , swim, and paddle, but I looked forward to finally checking out the upper portion. The Upper Wisconsin River turned out to be quite scenic in its own way with green grass growing along the river bed with green pine trees hovering over the banks.
We put in at Rohr’s Wilderness Tours, which is a business that rents canoes, kayaks, and provides shuttles for those that want to paddle the upper Wisconsin. If you have your own canoe and transportation, you can still park and put in here for a $5.00 parking fee.
We did just that although the Mad Paddler got an earful from the owner about the deficiencies of his Pelican boat. He waved the $5.00 fee for us either out of courtesy for putting his company in Kevin’s book or for allowing him to blow off steam by making fun of the Pelican.
It was a beautiful day in the mid 70s, and we enjoyed a pleasant paddle down the upper Wisconsin River. It was hard to believe that the mighty Wisconsin I have paddled many times was the same as this shallow river flowing through the land of pointed pine trees.
One perk about the lower stretch of the river is the many opportunities to view bald eagles. About halfway through the trip we looked up to see the majestic bird on the upper stretch. The Mad Paddler said he has seen a bald eagle on almost every river he has paddled this summer.
We pulled in a few hours later after a nice leisurely paddle and then hit a Wisconsin Brew Pub in Eagle River. The perfect way to end the day, and heal those wounds made by the stinging comments about our lovable canoe.
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