North Freedom to Highway 113:
A tale of two Baraboos, the first stretch is muddy, brown and unexciting. The second part, however, is much more interesting and exciting as it riffles and waves its way through downtown Baraboo.
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ (North Freedom to Haskins Park: ☆ | Haskins Park to Highway 113: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆)
Trip Report Date: September 20, 2008
Skill Level: Intermediate
Class Difficulty: Riffles + Class I
Gauge Recorded on this Trip:
Baraboo: ht/ft: n/a | cfs: 370
Baraboo: ht/ft: 8.66 | cfs: 483
This is the recommended minimum level.
Time: Put in at 12:15p. Out at 5:15p.
Total Time: 5h 0m
Miles Paddled: 15
What we liked:
Our curiosity (and unseasoned-paddler status) of what class I rapids actually looked and felt like lead us to this section of the Baraboo River.
The section between Haskins Park and Highway 113 (where the rapids and riffles are) is relatively short so we decided to start in North Freedom since we were already making the journey from Madison and wanted to make it a full day trip.
It’s was really a tale of two paddles.
North Freedom to Haskins park is completely uneventful.
The put-in at North Freedom was about the nicest thing about this section. It’s a small town throwback kind of park with a baseball diamond, gazebo and a certain kind of charm you only find in towns this size.
The river was open and we didn’t have to contend with any trees but it’s a long 10.5 miles with very little to get excited about. The water is muddy brown and so were the banks, leaving little opportunity to get out and break.
The fun really starts at Haskins Park. Before approaching the Shaw Street bridge, you’ll be greeted by the sounds of riffles and rapids making their way around a large horseshoe bend. It’s a nice hello to the more interesting part of this paddle. After the rapids, you’ll come across riffles here and there as you make your way through this short section winding its way through downtown Baraboo.
A highlight for me was paddling between Circus World Museum. Having seen it from the bridge many times as a kid, I was interested in a different perspective. And fittingly, we knew we were approaching it when we heard the sound of calliope music. Seeing the train cars and buildings from the water is pretty cool site.
As a kid, I remember hearing stories of circus performers falling in the river and dying while performing on the tight rope. I also heard that they once bathed the elephants in the river. Neither story can we confirm but true or not, it was something memorable and only adds to the lore of the circus and river.
The take-out at Highway 113 isn’t too far past the museum and is easily accessible with plenty of parking.
What we didn’t like:
The unpleasant smell of the river or more specifically, the smell of farm run-off which makes for a very dark and mucky river. And because of the muddy banks, there are very few places to stop and relax.
If we did this trip again:
We definitely would but we’d put in at Haskins Park in Baraboo and do the class I rapids a couple times to make it a worthwhile day trip since it is only 4.25 miles long.
Baraboo River Overview: Baraboo River Paddle Guide
Baraboo River II: Haskins Park to Highway 113
Baraboo River IV: Haskins Park to Highway 33
General: American Whitewater
Guide: Paddling Southern Wisconsin
Video: Tom Lindblade
Wikipedia: Baraboo River
Miles Paddled Video: