15 Best Paddles of 2015

15 Best Paddle of 20152015 was another big year for milespaddled.com. We reported on 49 waterways and logged over 400 miles throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota (this is in addition to the many miles that were paddled for an upcoming book that we’re very excited about). We revisited old favorites, discovered new favorites, took some whitewater classes (where we learned a thing-or-two about not knowing a thing-or-two about whitewater) and made many new friends on our travels along the way. It was indeed an eventful year.

So with that as the backdrop, (and in no particular order) here are Miles Paddled’s 15 favorite paddles from 2015. Consider it a to-do list for the coming year.

1: Morrison Creek

Cemetery Road to Morrison Landing
Black River Falls, Wisconsin
September 19, 2015

On clear water in a near-wilderness environment with zero development, an endless array of light rapids as well as one challenging Class II+ pitch, approximately one gazillion boulders, stunning rock walls with weeping seeps and then a 180° turnabout to a bottomlands finish, Morrison Creek is a paddler’s delight.

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Morrison Creek. . . . .

2: Wolf River

Lily to Hollister
Lily, Wisconsin
September 6, 2015

A magnificent trip that offers the best of northwoods paddling: virtually zero development, pristine water, lots of pines, a rugged landscape and lots of rapids. This is the beginning of the Wolf River’s best.

It’s exciting but not overly-complicated. With near constant riffles and Class Is, a few exhilarating (but manageable) drops, natural springs that trickle down the banks into beautifully cut sandbars and pools and endless, sometimes jaw-dropping, rock formations in a canyon-like setting, it has everything you’d ever want but are unlikely to expect from a creek. It’s a thing of beauty.

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Wolf River. . . . .

3: Cannon River (Minnesota)

Faribault to Dundas
Faribault, Minnesota
May 31, 2015

A visit to one of the staples of Bluff Country, the Cannon River offers a variety of beautiful sights, including limestone cliffs, outcrops and a stunning old gristmill to end the trip.

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Cannon River

. . . . .

4: Waupaca River

Amherst to Durrant Road
Amherst, Wisconsin
October 24, 2015

A trip from hell (for me personally) but a real treasure for most paddlers featuring sparkling clear water, countless swift riffles, plus a couple of rapids, stupendously big boulder gardens, steep hillside banks and decent access points to tailor your put-in and take-out.

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Waupaca River

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5: Milwaukee River East Branch

New Prospect to New Fane
New Prospect, Wisconsin
June 3, 2015

A smorgasbord of a paddle featuring a variety of landscapes in less than eight miles. Ranging from woods to meadows to lake to swamp to rugged hills and rapids, this outstanding trip does have a few obstructions and thus is recommended only for intermediate paddlers or beginners who don’t mind a nuisance or two – for the payoff is totally worth it.

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Milwaukee River East Branch

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6: Pine River (Lincoln County)

Center Road to County Road W
Lincoln County, Wisconsin
September 7, 2015

Hands down, this was the single most fun and exhilarating run of whitewater we’ve ever experienced. This brief but beautiful and exhilarating segment of the Pine River is an absolute must. Non-stop Class I-II standing waves two-feet high (and even taller in higher water) rollicking down a narrow, bluffed-corridor lined with tall banks of pines are the signifying feature, with the highlight being one S-curved series of three ledges. Excellent accesses at both ends make this an almost indulgent experience.

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Pine River (Lincoln)

. . . . .

7: Namekagon River

County Road K to Riverside
Trego, Wisconsin
July 16-19, 2015

Crystal clear water, good current, great wildlife, dozens of free campsites along the way to provide for fun multi-day trips, and all set in a very wild-feeling environment because of minimal development, the Namekagon is a paddling staple in Wisconsin.

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Namekagon River

. . . . .

8: Wedges Creek

Middle Road to Riviera Avenue
Black River Falls, Wisconsin
September 20, 2015

Wedges is yet another Black River Falls creek that you’ll want to add to your bucket list. This brief 4.25-mile run makes for a great half-day adventure or add another few miles of Black River paddling for the additional payoff of outstanding whitewater, beautiful boulder gardens and rock outcrops.

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Wedges Creek

. . . . .

9: Crystal River

Marl Lake to Shadow Lake Road
Rural, Wisconsin
April 11, 2015

If you haven’t paddled the Crystal in a few years or never navigated the lakes leading to the headwaters, you now have every reason to reintroduce yourself. With the added miles of some pleasant lake paddling, coupled with the removal of the Little Hope millpond dam, there’s just more to love about the Crystal.

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Crystal River

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10: Milwaukee River

Grafton to County Highway T
Grafton, Wisconsin
June 20, 2015

Simply an exhilarating ride down the rapids of the Milwaukee River surrounded by beautiful limestone and dolomite dells and multiple islands that braid the main channel, this is a great trip for light whitewater enthusiasts with at least one white-knuckle drop that’s definitely worth the drive.

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Milwaukee River

. . . . .

11: Turtle Creek

School Section Road to O’Riley Road
Darien, Wisconsin
June 21, 2015

A truly outstanding trip that will win the hearts of newbies and seasoned paddlers alike due to the surrounding scenery and river environment itself, with numerous access points to shorten or lengthen the time on the water – after experiencing this section of the beloved Turtle Creek, you’ll be coming back for more.

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Turtle Creek

. . . . .

12: Zumbro River (Minnesota)

Zumbro Falls to Millville
Zumbro Falls, Minnesota
June 1, 2015

The Zumbro River is a fun, occasionally riffly and easy-going paddle that cuts through the distant wooded bluffs of the beautiful Zumbro River Valley.

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Zumbro River

. . . . .

13: Wisconsin River

River Bay Road to Norway Drive
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
October 11, 2015

Divided perfectly to highlight the best of the upper and lower dells, these 11.5 miles are full of breathtaking formations, bluffs, overhangs, nooks, crannies, inlets and outlets to discover. You haven’t experienced the dells until you’ve given yourself the time to explore the dells.

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Wisconsin River

. . . . .

14: Pigeon River

County Road J to Lake Michigan
Sheboygan, Wisconsin
December 5, 2015

A true gem of a stream, the highlight of which is its endless riffles and playful current. Add to that a pretty environment with lovely moraine hills, numerous public parks and one of the most breathtaking scenes you’ll experience while paddling: the delta of the Pigeon River entering Lake Michigan. Notoriously low water levels, quick drainage, some development and no fewer than four necessary portages do diminish some of this trip’s charm but that aside, the Pigeon will have you cooing with delight.

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Pigeon River

. . . . .

15: Black River

Hatfield to Black River Falls
Black River Falls, Wisconsin
August 8, 2015

Combining two trip types into one full day of paddling – the first a couple fists of adrenaline-inducing rapids through rugged granite rock outcrops, the second a calm palm of relaxed water but no less beautiful – here you get the best of the Black River’s boast.

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Black River

Related Reading:
Milespaddled.com’s 13 Best Paddles of 2013
Milespaddled.com’s 14 Best Paddles of 2014
Milespaddled.com’s 16 Best Paddles of 2016
Milespaddled.com’s 17 Best Paddles of 2017
Milespaddled.com’s 10 Best Paddles of 2018
Milespaddled.com’s 19 Best Paddles of 2019
Milespaddled.com’s 20 Best Paddles of 2020

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