Sunday, June 24, 2012

Paddling the Wisconsin River

A midsummer float from Sauk City to Arena with kayaks, paddleboard and canoe

Father's Day 2012, my three daughters are all big enough, the little dog can swim, and my wife is interested. Finally, I get to take my family down the Wisconsin River, something I have done, but they never have.
We started out unloading our four boats at the public landing across the street from the picture of kid and sign for the Sauk City public boat landingthe Kwik Trip, which you'll see as soon as you cross the bridge and arrive in Sauk City (coming from Madison). With the boats unloaded, then the shuttle, a necessary evil when doing rivers. My oldest daughter and I recrossed the bridge and boogied down Hwy. 78 to Arena, found the backroad to the Arena landing, parked the van and trailer and made it back to Sauk City in less than an hour, which was good because the natives were restless sitting there waiting for us to get back.
picture of a SUP on the Wisconsin River Middle kid took the paddleboard, big kid took the Native Watercraft boat, little one was with me in the canoe and my wife took the speed boat, a rec kayak (Cayuga from Old Town). She loves that boat and soon left us all in the dust. Four boats, five people and a dog. Water, sun, some food, and about twelve miles of downstream floating. Water level was at about 4900 cfs, pretty low, but this level also ensures lots of sandbars. I made the standup paddleboard and the paddle. Two of my favorite projects ever. All the boats are pure pleasure though and we switch off all day long.
Lunch is a great sandbar across the river from the base of Ferry Bluff.picture of a sandbar lunch on the Wisconsin River Beautiful. The water is clear brown and moving along at ~3mph maybe? The wind kind of cancels out a chunk of that, but it still carries us along.
On we floated. picture of youngest kid kayaking on the Wisconsin RIver The day got a little long. I did not account for how easily an upstream wind can negate the current. A 12 mile float downstream, I thought would be largely done by the current. Instead it was a 50/50 thing with us paddling more than I had planned/hoped for.
We left Sauk City ~10:30ish and got to the Arena landing ~3:30ish, with a decent lunch stop at the Ferry Bluff sandbar.
Would do it again in a minute, although I will probably put in at the next downstream landing, which was ~four miles downstream from Sauk on the river left (Madison) side.
This is a perfect family float. At 5,000 cfs there were no rapids, lots of shallow places to walk, lots of sandbars. A great stretch of river to enjoy!