Bell School Road to County Road DD:
Honey Creek is a delightful stream with attractively clear water, a sandy bottom (occasionally gravelly), many riffles, a couple light rapids and a view or two of pleasant hills. Alas, you’ll also encounter some deadfall to portage and increasing development along the banks towards the take-out.
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆
Trip Report Date: April 16, 2016
Skill Level: Beginner
Class Difficulty: Class I
5′ per mile
There is no gauge for Honey Creek and correlating would be purely speculative. It’s best to visually scout at either the Hill Valley Road or Highway 20 bridge to determine the height. The creek was relatively low when we paddled it, making for a few scraping moments but still totally paddleable. Higher levels would have made the riffles and light rapids even more fun.
Bell School Road, north of Honey Creek, Wisconsin
GPS: 42.79525, -88.32128
County Road DD/Academy Road
GPS: 42.71946, -88.30952
Time: Put in at 12:10p. Out at 3:30p.
Total Time: 3h 20m
Miles Paddled: 8.75
At least 30 soft-shell turtles, many painted turtles, frogs, songbirds and a muskrat.
Quietly meandering between the Mukwonago and White Rivers in southeastern Wisconsin is the charming Honey Creek. We’d heard about this stream before but had never put it on the to-do list. That is, until a fan of the site recently recommended it to us. (Thanks again Matt! We love exploring new places but trip suggestions from readers make the experience extra special. Psst… anyone is welcome to send us suggestions or recommendations – we’re always eager to explore the obscure).
Based on the tip, plus what we could surmise from the satellite map, this trip is probably the best section of Honey Creek. Upstream from Bell Section Road are a couple small dams and downstream from Academy Road, the creek runs parallel to a lake in a skinny canal-like ditch then goes through an extended marsh/wetlands complex before emptying into the White River in Burlington.
That said, the first two-thirds of this trip are great: the water is clear as a bell, lusciously sandy, with little development (except “temporary development” – the near-constant presence of the trains sitting idle on the tracks which flanked the left-bank for a couple miles) and the riffles are frequent and fun.
Wildlife was outstanding and every once in a while, a picturesque hill came into view, reminding us that all things considered, the creek is pretty close to sections of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. Downstream from County Road D you’ll encounter the town of Honey Creek, where houses dot the shoreline. Interestingly, it’s between here and the takeout where we encountered the only obstructions of the day.
The three miles from County Road D to the takeout are less pretty and more monotonous than upstream and the water is less riffly. Neither the put-in nor the takeout is developed but both are easy and pretty convenient.
What we liked:
Honey Creek has a steady current, terrifically clear water, a luscious sandy bottom, a number of fun riffles (plus a few minor but fun ledges and drops below Highway 20 and some private bridges), attractive surroundings and outstanding wildlife (by far, we saw the most soft-shell turtles on this trip than anywhere). It’s a very pleasant experience all around and we were delighted (and a little surprised) by it. We were actually expecting a slog of a paddle but that wasn’t the case. This is a solid trip to paddle. We didn’t think to check whether County Road D has a decent access point but taking-out there would make for a great little 6-mile trip.
What we didn’t like:
OK, before you book the next ticket to the Honey Creek express, bear in mind that it’s not an extraordinary or spectacular trip; it’s just very nice all around. It’s never terribly dramatic or all that isolated (which is notable, considering on how long of a drive you’re looking at to get to the creek).
The segment from County Road D to the takeout is admittedly, less spectacular. While upstream there was abundant evidence of sawed off tree limbs, (thank you volunteers!) the lower section beholds all sorts of crap in the water. Some of the obstructions we could negotiate, some we sawed off and cleared out ourselves (well, Timothy did – to his credit) and some we just had to portage around. None of these were all that bad but after preparing to encounter obstructions yet finding none in the first six miles, this was an unwelcome outcome. Not really a deal-breaker in and of itself but given that up to this point you’ll have paddled the best there is on this trip, there’s little redeeming in this segment.
If we did this trip again:
If we lived in the area, or were nearby on another adventure and the water were a bit higher, we’d revisit this section. But considering it’s a 90-minute drive from Madison, it’s doubtful we’d return just to paddle this trip again. But we’re very glad to have learned about and paddled this creek. It actually exceeded our initial inclinations. It’s definitely worth checking out!
General: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Miles Paddled Video:
Linda ReinholtzMay 30, 2016 at 8:25 pm
Did this trip from Bell School Rd to Cty D on Memorial Day. It had rained two days ago, so a little muddy, but maybe a little higher? Nice trip with just enough interesting features, rocks, trees down that were okay to navigate and some class I riffles. Saw some huge turtles (not snappers) a merganser family, a deer and a large muskrat-type mammal. Nice time- your review helped us decide whether to try it!
Miles PaddledJune 1, 2016 at 1:53 am
Hey Linda,So glad we could help! Glad you got out there and had a fun time! Thanks for dropping us a line and hope you have an awesome paddling summer!
Jason FaySeptember 4, 2017 at 4:13 pm
Just got back from paddling from Bell School to Hwy D / Washington Ave. Water was flowing good, some riffles and some scraping bottom. One spot of deadfall just after the put in on Bell School that we had to portage the rest had been cut and a path made. Saw a momma and baby deer a little past Hwy 20 bridge.
Miles PaddledSeptember 5, 2017 at 3:04 pm
Thanks for the update Jason! Sounds like it’s in pretty decent condition!