Crawfish River I

Milford to Jefferson:
The Crawfish is as slow and uneventful of a paddle as they come, so if you’re looking for excitement, look elsewhere. The highlight of this paddle is actually not on the water itself but at Aztalan State Park where the curiosities reside.

Crawfish RiverRating: ☆
Trip Report Date: September 16, 2011

Class Difficulty:

Gauge Recorded on this Trip:
Milford: ht/ft: 1.80 | cfs: 63

Current Levels:
Milford: ht/ft: 1.82 | cfs: 78.1

Recommended Levels:
This was far too low of a level. Seek a minimum of 2.0 ht/ft, if not more.

County A Bridge, Milford, Wisconsin
GPS: 43.09982, -88.84916
Riverview Drive, Jefferson, Wisconsin
GPS: 43.00064, -88.81238

Time: Put in at 11:30a. Out at 2:30p.
Total Time: 3h
Miles Paddled: 9.75

What we liked:

Aztalan State Park is a fascinating piece of history and worth a visit if you’re in the area (or happening to be traveling between Madison and Milwaukee). The reconstructed stockades are a stunning and unique landmark on the landscape.

What we didn’t like:
The Crawfish River is the kind of river we dislike paddling. It’s slow, muddy, there’s no place to stop and nothing to really look at. For beginner paddlers, it’s safe and easy going. For nature-lovers, it’s generally peaceful but you will be interrupted by the sound of vehicles as you paddle through the entanglement of highways. It also offers up many easily-startled fish, a whole lot of cranes, some turtles but I can’t confirm any actual crawfish.

The water was exceptionally low and I don’t think it would be passable if it were any lower. In fact, I thought about calling it off just a 1/4 mile into the journey but it got easier once I was past the shallows near the put-in (a canoe might have found it more difficult). Luckily, there was enough current to grab my kayak and pull me to free passage throughout but I was always concerned when I saw cranes standing downriver because I knew I was heading for shallower water. There was one definite portage right before the Glacial Drumlin Trail bridge.

The main attraction on the Crawfish is its proximity to Aztalan but in reality you only see a fragment of the stockades from the river so you’ll need to stop and explore it to fully appreciate the beauty of the park. Aztalan appears about 2.5 miles after the put-in, river-right (which is also an alternate put-in for a shorter trip). Or just stop while you travel between put-in to take-out.

What the Crawfish has going in its favor is that it’s very close to Madison. Beyond that, it’s a rather mundane, muddy paddle on a river about the width of the Yahara (about 90 feet). But sometimes, that’s the perfect kind of paddle.

If we did this trip again:
A day of paddling is always better than a day not paddling but we’re completely content in having checked this one off the list.

Related Information:
Crawfish River II: Olson Road to Aztalan State Park
Crawfish River III: County Road I to County Road G
Crawfish River IV: Columbus to Astico Park
General: Glacial Heritage Area
Guide: Paddling Southern Wisconsin
Video: Wisconsin Paddles
Wikipedia: Crawfish River

Miles Paddled Video:

Photo Gallery:

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