Maunesha River II
Elder Lane to Twin Lake Road
A repeat trip of this tiny stretch done after heavy rainfall and though the water was up, the deadfall was down, making for an unpleasant return.
June 13, 2013
To run the rookery section (II and IV) without scraping and walking your boat, you’ll need to catch this immediately after a hard, solid rain.
Elder Lane, Bristol, Wisconsin
Twin Lake Road
Time: Put in at 7:15p. Out at 9:30p.
Total Time: 2h 15m
Miles Paddled: 2.5
Hands down the single most humongous beaver I have ever seen swimming in the water and then of course, the beloved heron rookery.
2.5 miles. Be careful on the takeout road, however. There were a shockingly large amount of regular cars driving to and fro, all of them quite fast.
So where we talk about “If I Did This Trip Again” here is proof in the pudding. The night before we received a heavy thunderstorm and a whole lot of rain. I didn’t have the luxury of taking off work so I had to settle for a late afternoon/early evening paddle. This short segment of the Maunesha seemed like a fine candidate for such an occasion (read: seemed like a good idea at the time!). The river was much deeper than the month before when I first paddled this segment, at least a foot deeper. The upshot: I’m glad I revisited it, this time with a friend for whom this was his first occasion but it’s probably off my to-do list now.
What we liked:
The water was indeed swifter and the fascinating segment inbetween Highway 151 was a blast. Where last month I scraped and had to scoot my caboose just to get by, here I coasted along. Until you have to portage! The heron rookery (the undeniable highlight of the trip) is as breathtaking as ever but now with the added benefit of some immature birds (I think that’s the correct term, though it does sound funny) craning their necks over the nests to take in the surprising sight of two goofball kayakers floating below.
What we didn’t like:
The godforsaken downfall after the northbound bridge of Highway 151 is just awful. There’s not much in the way of getting around these beyond portaging but the portages are none too easy, with high muddy banks, thick weeds, ticks and nettles galore. My buddy and I did our best to clear out and cut down what we could (spending at least an hour all told) but it’s hard to banish the thought that all of this is for naught come the next storm…
My friend got himself in a nasty (and nearly perilous) situation. He was in the middle of a long-winded (but quite entertaining) story and wasn’t paying attention to the logjam in front of him. Reacting to it too late and with such strong current coming behind him, he got pinned against a tree and then turned over. Fortunately, he was able to forcibly exit his kayak before it took him under but the boat was submerged and then was stuck beneath the surface. Now we we’re in a situation. He was safe and able to stand up, priority #1.
Cue in the kindness of strangers. Two young guys came out from the middle of nowhere (“nowhere” in this sense being someone’s farm field) and helped our sorry asses out. I got out of my boat (hello cold water!) and led it up to the bank, wherein one of the guys pulled it out onto dry land. Eventually, after more tree-sawing, swearing and sweating (there really were blood and tears, too!), we managed to extract a gazillion-gallons from his water-filled kayak, dumping it out over a log and then relaying it back to dry land as before. We also shared a much-needed (and dare I say, deserved) beer with the boys. Thanks again guys!
When my friend and I portaged and got back in, we discovered that we were only about 100 yards from the take-out, which was met with a mix of “are you shitting me?” (all that toil when we were so close to being done) and “thank God!” (for it had been a bit much and we were done).
If we did this trip again:
I could see myself doing this again but probably only if taking someone out who’s never been there and wants to see the herons. I truly believe this little stretch is so worth doing at least once. However, if you take nothing else from this post, let it be this: take out at Branch Road just after that northbound Highway 151 bridge (there’s an access point river-left). All you will miss by taking out there is a lot of frustration, hard work and heartache because from there to the Twin Lake road bridge, is almost a half-mile of miserable portaging.
Maunesha River I: Waterloo Road to Firemen’s Park
Maunesha River III: Waterloo to Portland
Maunesha River IV: County Road TT to Canal Road
Maunesha River V: Marshall to Firemen’s Park
Good People: Capitol Water Trails
Good People: Maunesha River Alliance
Wikipedia: Maunesha River
Previous Trip Report:
May 8, 2013
☆ ☆ ☆
A small stretch for the adventurous, the highlight of which is the novelty of paddling in the median of a state highway, where much to my delighted surprise one finds a hidden urban oasis of fun riffles, peaceful scenery and a heron rookery.
Time: Put in at 7:15p. Out at 8:40p.
Total Time: 1h 35m
Wildlife: Um, need I say anything more than a heron rookery?
A little context first. One of my pals, whose (self-appointed) nomme de guerre is “the paddling guru,” tipped me off to this stretch of the Maunesha a few weeks ago when he and I ventured out on the Marshall to Waterloo stretch (frankly, I myself had never even noticed that a wee blip of Highway 151 bulges out, north of Sun Prairie). A little shy of a half-mile length of the Maunesha River flows through the median of Highway 151, which was all the novelty of a caper I needed to check it out.
It was a beautiful day and I was itching to carpe my diem with a little early evening paddle. I had no idea what to expect, though I was prepared for low water and logjams. I was about half-right but I would never have anticipated how truly pleasant and pretty this short stetch is or how riffly or that I would paddle beneath a heron rookery. Serendipity becomes such curious explorations!
What we liked:
The novelty of such a counterintuitive trip alone is enough to jazz the spirit. How often do you get to paddle through a highway? (Almost made me homesick for New Jersey. Almost.) Check out the “satellite” option on the map (below). See all that surprising greenery? I would never have guessed that there would be a hidden oasis so close to A) Sun Prairie, B) Hwy 151 or C) a Diesel Driving School. But there is and it’s actually worth checking out.
Along with that, most of this short trip consisted of really fun riffles. To be fair, the water for this upper stretch of the Maunesha was low, often frustratingly so. At its regular (i.e., not riffly) levels it was about 10-inches deep (I dipped my paddle blade in). Anything lower than that will be impassable at the riffly sections. The median segment inbetween the north and southbound lanes of Highway 151 are where the majority of the riffles are found.
The gradient for this roughly half-mile stretch was surprisingly notable. In higher water, especially after a lot of rain, this would be a very fun Class I whitewater run (in my opinion, more interesting, varied and challenging than what lies in downtown Baraboo). That said, there’s a fair amount of low-clearance trees in this section too. I am skinny, stupid and stubborn enough to be able to bend over enough to pass through but in higher water you would have to portage.
Often no more than 20-feet wide, this was hands-down the narrowest, most intimate creek I have ever been on. Had I heard a banjo nearby, I would have lost my shit. But by the same token, the smallness made the experience seem like even more of a caper than it already was.
The serendipitous highlight of the trip, without question, was paddling underneath a great blue heron rookery, smack dab in the middle of Highway 151! I counted at least 20 big old nests towering above me in the trees, most of them with watchful herons like palace gate sentinels eyeing me suspiciously. I just sat there in my boat in utter amazement, quietly humbled by my good fortune. Many flew away, circled back around and gently lit back on the nests. It was simply spectacular.
What we didn’t like:
Lest I romance too swooningly for this trip, allow me to make the following unequivocally clear:
1: There are lots of logjams, most of them impassable. After six portages in a half-mile segment my patience began to wane. Most of these were the “sidle up to the tree, clamber on top of it, drag the boat over and get back in on the other side” kind of portage. A couple required portaging around, onto the muddy, steep banks, which quickly got old.
2: The water was low enough at the flatwater sections, with just enough clearance to flow. During the riffly sections I scraped a whole heck of a lot, often requiring “wheelchairing” (scooting forward and using the paddle as a kind of pole vault). I never had to get out and walk but it got close to that. And each time you find flatwater ahead, breathe a sigh of relief and relax a little, there are more riffles ahead.
3: During the last mile, aka “Logjam City,” it got pretty buggy. No mosquitoes (thank God) but I can imagine that this will change soon enough, marking this section quite a nuisance (on top of all the portages).
If we did this trip again:
I definitely will! It’s only a 20-minute drive from my house and those herons were incredible. I especially look forward to doing it again with more water (of course right now, a day later, it’s been raining all day).