For the last three summers, the August highlight for me has been a weekend camping and canoeing trip with Wisconsin River Outings on the Wisconsin River. We enjoyed another beautiful weekend on this awesome river last weekend.
The trip began on Friday with the road trip up and then a night camping in the river park in Muscoda. This is not the best campground, but it is one of the few in the area near where we begin in Boscobel. We gathered around the campfire in anticipation of another great camping trip.
Related: Paddle the Wisconsin River for the best canoe camping
Wisconsin River Outings
The next morning we headed out to Boscobel after bagels, coffee, and orange juice. The great thing about using an outfitter is no car shift in the morning. We got our canoes, and Wisconsin River Outings would pick us up at the end. I highly recommend using them. Their cost is reasonable and they are efficient since they have been running trips up here for decades.
We somehow managed to get all our coolers, gear, firewood in eight canoes. I think half of our weight was in ice. No beer left warm was our moto. The day was misty as we got in the canoes and left the Boscobel backwater and merged onto the mighty Wisconsin. The sun spent all day breaking through the clouds, which was nice because we had intermittent shade and sunshine all day. The best part about the clouds though is they make for more interesting photos and GoPro video.
It did not take us long to spot our first bald eagle. Jay pointed across the river and sure enough a black body with a white head and white tail was visible at the top of a tree. You are almost guaranteed to see at least one eagle on the trip. We usually see more than five.
Our first stop was for lunch on a sandbar right in front of a barn that was tucked into a valley. It was definitely a quintessential Wisconsin scene. We had a few beers and sat around in a circle for an hour and enjoyed the beautiful day. Marvin soon had us back in the canoes. We needed to secure a camping spot, which is not always easy on a busy summer August weekend. Check out our bad etiquette experience last year.
Related: Bad etiquette camping on the Wisconsin River
The water level was just about perfect. The U.S. Geologic Survey water data page for Muscoda indicated a water level of 1.73. Anything under 2.5 is good although sandbars can be a little harder as you head towards the confluence with the Mississippi. You do need to be mindful of the channel when the water level is this low or you could be in for a walk. Or maybe these folks were just wanting to stretch their legs.
Camping on Etiquette Island
We pushed forward, and for the third straight year, Etiquette Island was our home. It is amazing how the island transforms from year to year. The first year it was several football fields long when one lone fool tried to secure the whole island from one corner. Last year it was a narrow spit compared to the year before. It was a little tight camping there last year. This year the island was somewhere in the middle. It was not as long and narrow, but much more wide.
At first I was worried it was going to be a repeat as there was one canoe on the island unloading. A half hour earlier we passed on a sandbar where one tent occupied the middle of a huge sandbar. It turned out the one canoe was our group. We sent Dave and Dan ahead to scout and secure, and they succeeded.
Friends of the Chicago River unwind on Etiquette Island
This group of friends are volunteer guides for the Friends of the Chicago River canoe program. We work hard all year bringing out guests on to the Chicago River waterways, and this trip is our time for ourselves. We enjoy each others company, paddle, swim, drink beer, enjoy a campfire, and play guitars all night. This year the guitar playing stopped quite early for some reason.
Despite the early to bed guitars, we sat around the campfire late. I managed to be one of the last survivors although I was falling asleep in my chair at the end.
Next morning we awoke to some mist that soon dissipated as the sun gained in intensity. We had a wonderful breakfast and broke camp on Etiquette Island. Thanks again to Marv and Deb for organizing such a great trip.
Taking out in Millville
After a land GoPro group selfie and one in the canoe, we paddled for another hour plus into Millville. It ended far too soon as it always does. We were picked up by Wisconsin River Outings and brought back to Boscobel. We then got in our cars and made the return back to Chicago.
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I enjoyed it. Sounded like a great trip.
It was a beautiful trip. There was absolutely no wind, so quite a change from last year.