On a recent trip to Janesville, Wisconsin, I spent the last hours of the trip drifting away on a Yahara River kayaking adventure. It was a beautiful day in southeastern Wisconsin, and it was even prettier paddling a kayak alongside herons, turtles, ospreys, deer, and kingfishers. I made the last of my moments before getting back to the grind in Chicago.
Adventure begins in Gibbs Lake County Park
The day started in nearby Gibbs Lake County Park. Clark from Drift Away Paddle Company met our small group with kayaks and a few paddle boards. He fitted us with PFDs, paddles, and helped our group explore Gibbs Lake. Gibbs Lake was a great place to start. It is only partially developed and mostly enclosed with trees including some gorgeous weeping willows on one end and water lilies on the other end.
A bald eagle served as the official greeter as it soared over the southern portion of the lake upon our arrival. Later, while circumnavigating the perimeter of the lake, I flushed the eagle from a tree and it majestically soared over my head. Great blue herons stoically guarded the southern end beyond the water lilies and sandhill cranes croaked in the distance. After a couple of hours tooling around the lake, we had lunch and then myself and Michelle from Honest and Truly were able to extend our trip for three more hours on the nearby Yahara River.
Yahara River kayaking adventure
We met Clark at the takeout, which was Murwin Park in Fulton Township. He then drove us upriver with all our gear and kayaks to the put-in, which was six miles up river. We chatted about bluegrass festivals, bluegrass bands, and nearby rivers as we cruised down lightly traveled county roads.
He guided our kayaks down to the shoreline and told us to text him when we reached mile marker five. Clark helped us in at the put-in, and we were on our own from there. There were no other kayaks or boats at the access point. In fact, we did not see another canoe or kayak. It is like they reserved that stretch of river for Midwest bloggers. Thank you Janesville and Clark for arranging some solitude for our last few hours in the area.
Yahara River kayaking surprisingly green
I expected a mixture of woods and farmland, with mostly farmland, but it was completely the opposite. In fact, the six mile stretch we paddled only had one view of a cornfield. The rest of the journey was extremely green with lush forest on both banks. There is no state or county park adjacent to the river, not even a state wildlife area, but the river on this stretch was lightly developed. There were a few homes, but that was it.
First time on the Yahara River
The Yahara River is a river that has escaped my paddle. I have paddled Badfish Creek, the Sugar River in both Illinois and Wisconsin, the Kickapoo and the Wisconsin countless times. I have even paddled the Rock River, the river the Yahara empties into, this Memorial Day in Illinois. Until now, my paddle never made a ripple on the Yahara River. Thanks to Explore Janesville and Drift Away Paddle Company, that streak has now ended.
No place to get out on this stretch of the river
The one negative about this trip was there was no place to get out. I have noticed that often as a river moves towards the confluence with its larger brother, sometimes the banks become wider creating a paucity of sand and gravel bars. The Kickapoo River is like this. Upriver in Ontario and LaFarge there are bountiful places to get out and enjoy a sandbar. The last twenty miles before Wauzetka the river widens and places to get out of the boat disappear.
If you do this stretch, be prepared to stay in the boat most of the trip. It is only a three hour paddle, so it is no big deal. There are some shallow section, so you could get out and wade in the water for a bit, but just no good places to land the boat and relax. I would have done this because I was in no hurry to get back home to Chicago.
Yahara River kayaking wildlife
The only living things we shared the river with were birds, animals, and a deer. We kept scaring a fishing osprey away from dead trees along the shoreline. The same occurred with a couple of great blue herons. Eastern kingbirds and cedar waxwings lined the river banks looking for a tasty insect. A deer appeared towards the end to come down and have a drink.
We came around the bend to see the outhouse at Murwin Park, and I knew the gig was up. I could already hear the hum of the traffic on I-90 and see the wall of cars going south from Rockford. Janesville was a nice escape while it lasted, and we were thankful for a few hours of green and quiet before it was back to the big city.
Drift Away Paddle Company for your canoe and kayak rentals
Clark owns Drift Away Paddle Company, which is the major canoe, kayak, and paddle board rental in the area. They can deliver boats to Gibbs Lake, Lake Koshkonong, and he will also provide shuttles on the Yahara. He was a very helpful and personable guy, so check out his website if you need a rental or shuttle in the area.
I was hosted by the Explore Janesville Convention & Visitors Bureau in mid August. My opinions, photographs, videos, and love of adventure are mine and nobody else’s (well, maybe other people love adventure too).
In regards to the above disclosure, the three drone photos were not my own. They were taken on Gibbs Lake by Full Spectrum Photography.