Paddling Wisconsin Waterways

I’ll admit, when Kyle said he wanted to buy kayaks, I wasn’t too excited. All I could remember was having to play water polo in our high school pool in kayaks, and I kept flipping over. But, I let him. They sat in our garage for months, and the following summer we planned a trip to Pattison State Park. I was doing research on things to do in the area and I came across Wisconsin Water Trails. These are like hiking trails, but for paddling.

When you look at various state park maps you can see they might have canoe trails, some of the parks along the Mississippi feature these. But back then the water trails were for rivers, mostly way up north. These maps have marked designated put in and take out locations, information on riffles, rapids, downed trees, camping sites along the trail, etc.

Now, I learned about this back in 2014, and the Wisconsin DNR has really upped their game. Check out all of the water trails through the DNR right here. There are water trails all across the state. We’ll be checking out the Kickapoo River in a few weeks and the water trails in Perrot State Park next June.

Our first trip was on the Bois Brule River in the Brule River State Forest while we were camping at Pattison State Park. It was both of our first times paddling on a river. Neither of us knew what riffles were or the difference between Class I and Class II rapids. Boy, we learned a lot. I tipped once, and it cost me my favorite, beloved Fossil sunglasses with prescription lenses. I was not happy. Kyle flipped twice. Other than that, it was the coolest experience I’ve had camping. While paddling down the river my heart just felt heavy, you could just sense something happened there. I’m a history geek, and after the trip we saw a Wisconsin State Historical Marker (I’m sucker for these) that said there was a massive Native American battle between two warring tribes. I immediately knew what I felt.

(Photos are coming…digging up the old external hard drive).

I’ve wanted to paddle more, but we just haven’t. Between camping in places where there really isn’t much of the opportunity, we just haven’t. We did go kayaking at Mirror Lake State Park, but again…can’t find the photos. I also hated kayaking that day. It was rainy and cold, and I was hungry. That’s never a good combination.

But, in all of my research for camping, I came across the most incredible Wisconsin paddling website, I swear, they have literally paddled on every body of water in the state. Kyle and I will be traveling to Wildcat Mountain State Park in a few weeks, Miles Paddled says that the Kickapoo River in that area is one of the best paddles in the state, so we will once again be dragging the kayaks along with us.

We recently dusted off the kayaks and took them up to Door County with us. I read on that paddling to Cave Point County Park was a very popular thing to do just outside of Potawatomi State Park. So, we did. I hadn’t kayaked in years, so this was interesting. And I also prefer kayaking on rivers, they give you a little momentum to work with. But, it was cool, and I recommend it to just about anyone.

But if you are interesting in kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, really any kind of paddling, check out the DNR’s water trails and, either one will have the perfect paddle for you in your area, or at your next camping destination. I know we will!

Happy paddling!


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