Great trip Steve,I can be used as an example for safety classes,You may be able to bounce your boat over small downfall when it's empty add 300 pounds and it's a different craft,also wearing a rain coat on the outside is a huge mistake because you become a large water Ballon in the water,Thanks for saving me.
It was my very first river camping trip and what a great way to get introduced! For a large river, the Wisconsin, at least the parts we did, was very intimate and I loved the sandbar camping. Going out onto the Mississippi was both scary and exhilarating at the same time. My 14.5 kayak performed like a champ. Thanks Steve for a fantastic trip and look forward to next year.
Starting midafternoon on Thursday, people started arriving at Victora Park in Muscoda. Seven or eight of us had arrived and set up our tents, when the sky started to threaten. We closed up our tents and waited to see how bad it was going to be. Bad. Torrential rain dropped about two inches on us in an hour or so, and strong winds sheared off large branches. Fortunately, no tents were lost or damaged. The rain stopped by mid-evening, but nobody felt the need to forage for firewood. We sat around for a while, then went to our tents. (The usual suspects sat out the storm in a bar in town.)
The forecast for Friday was sunny and brutally hot. We met for breakfast at Vickie’s Cozy Café. Besides a nice breakfast we discussed the route. I had checked out the Kickapoo River the day before and found it to be low, slow and muddy. The eddy at the Plum Creek Rd. put-in was so small that only two or three boats at a time could be loaded. Getting a group this size on the water would take an hour or more. There was little interest in paddling a slow, muddy river that would take an hour to launch into, so by unanimous vote we decided to launch at Boscobel.
We drove to Boscobel, shifted and launched. The sky was overcast and there was a little bit of a breeze, so the heat wasn’t oppressive. The river had plenty of water in it, so we didn’t need to look for channels. We paddled past Woodman, then started to look for a spot to call home. We found a great sand bar on the upriver tip of Harris Island at the mouth of the Kickapoo River.
Just as we arrived, the sun came out and the heat soared. We hastily set up our tents to dry, then spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the river. As the afternoon wore on and shade began to develop, we gathered for conversation and whatever beverages we had brought.
After dinner, we had a low-key campfire. For those interested there was a pleasant sunset. The sky was a little hazy so we didn’t get the spectacular starry night we were hoping for, but it was nice nonetheless. As darkness deepened, people began to drift off to their tents. The dairy herd, which had been serenading us all afternoon, must have done the same. (… Not tents, but you get the idea.)
The forecast for Saturday was for two lines of thunderstorms. The first line was forecast to just be thunderstorms; the second was forecast to be accompanied by damaging winds with gusts up to 70 mph. We had agreed to launch at 9:00, but we needed to be at Bridgeport before the wind arrived, so we launched at 8:00. As soon as we were on the water the rain started. It wasn’t bad at first, but it began to build, then the lightning arrived. When the lightning got close we scrambled for shore and let it pass. After it was five or six miles away we launched again, but then a second cell arrived with more close lightning. Off the river. After a while it had passed, so we got back on the river, now paddling with a purpose to beat the wind. Then came another cell. Off the river. And so it went. Eventually we had a high ridge next to the river and the close lightning was hitting the top of the ridge. Feeling that the high wind would pose more risk than the lightning, we paddled on until we reached our destination, the US 18 bridge. (While we were unloading our boats and gear under the bridge, the bridge was struck by lightning. It didn’t cause any damage or injury, but it was close enough that we could smell the ozone it created. I’m glad those bridges have plenty of steel in them.)
The river was already high and still rising, so we knew that there would be no sand bars from here on. We loaded our boats on our cars and drove into Wyalusing State Park. As expected, the weather had caused quite a few vacancies – some at very desirable campsites overlooking the river – so we took them and settled in. As soon as we were set up, the second band of storms hit. Fortunately, however, the wind was pretty mild and caused us no problem. The rain lasted for a couple of hours, during which people napped, read, or went to the Doo Drop Inn, a roadhouse bar near the park. When the rain let up, we ate dinner and moved into the pavilion for a campfire.
When we got to the pavilion we found that the park staff had decided to provide firewood for anyone who had stayed despite the weather. We had a very pleasant campfire in the fireplace. Some people played cards, others told stories. All relived the day’s adventure.
Sunday morning we got up, ate, broke camp and went back to the US 18 bridge for the last part of our trip. We unloaded our boats and gear and shifted, but because the road to the Wyalusing State Park boat ramp had been washed out the day before, we had to shift to the Wyalusing municipal beach, a couple of miles further down the Mississippi River. We launched and paddled down, what is for me, the prettiest section of the Wisconsin River. Everything was a lush green. We had been seeing bald eagles frequently on our trip, but in this section they were everywhere you looked. It’s easy to imagine that this section hasn’t changed since Marquette and Joliet explored it some 400 years ago.
After a while we entered the Mississippi River. There isn’t much you can say about the Mississippi. It’s full of recreational motor boats, large and small, and has railroad tracks on both banks. Noise and wakes are constant. It was good to reach the entrance to the Wyalusing Canoe Trail.
The Mississippi River was somewhat high, so the Canoe Trail was high, as well. The channels, normally narrow and sometimes tight, were wide and deep. Owing to the washed out road, we had the trail to ourselves. We wound our way through the bayou and out into the lake. We paddled past our usual take-out, back onto the Mississippi River and down to the village of Wyalusing. We took out at the Wyalusing municipal beach.
The trip was eventful and at times challenging, but everyone agreed that they had had a great time. Thanks to Margaret Bartelt for the car shifts, Kevin von Bergen for help with the driver return, and to everyone for the great company. Let’s do this again next year.