Cambridge to Hoopen Road:
A convenient bike-shuttle on CamRock trail and a nice little post-paddle diversion at CamRock Café & Sport makes for a great day trip on the Koshkonong if the water level is right and it’s free of deadfall.
Trip Report Date: ☆ ☆ ☆
Trip Report Date: July 15, 2013
There is no gauge for Koshkonong Creek. A decent visual gauge is the bridge in Rockdale. If the riffles there are shallow, so too is the creek. But Koshkonong Creek usually has reliable water levels.
West Water Street, Cambridge, Wisconsin
Hoopen Road, Rockdale, Wisconsin
Time: Put in at 11:20p. Out at 12:40p.
Total Time: 1h 20m
Miles Paddled: 5.5
Turtles, herons, a beaver, and a ridiculous amount of frogs.
The shuttle is really easy and one of my favorites. It’s farm country to Rockdale where you can hop on the gravel CamRock trail for a short 2-mile ride through the woods of CamRock Park where you cross the creek a couple times and you’ll exit right at the put-in in Cambridge. I enjoy shuttles like these.
What we liked:
You could call this a tale of two different paddles (or three, really) because normally, I’d heed the advice of previous reports (specifically Timothy’s first couple) and skip this whole Koshkonong thing but paddling this creek became a personal challenge after I had already attempted to paddle this creek but was rejected due to low-water levels.
Last August, I first biked to the put-in (I usually shuttle after…), jumped in my kayak and got about (I kid you not) forty-feet down the creek when I realized it was a futile endeavor. So I paddled back and then biked back, on my way, encountering this scary little creature. And anyone who knows me, knows that I must really want to do something if I’ll willingly put myself in the same environment as a snake (I know, ironic considering this chosen activity).
Anyway, I first heard about this creek from Morrall River Films who included it on their DVD River Trails of Southern Wisconsin and I’ve been wanting to check it out since it’s so close to Madison. I’m really glad I gave it another go because I had a great time.
There is no gauge on the creek but you can (kind of) use the nearby Crawfish River for an indication of whether it’s high enough. If the water is up, it’s probably a go. The Crawfish at Milford was running 3.53 ht/ft and 895 cfs. With current water levels I would reco doing this section soon (unless we get a lot of rain) because they were perfect.
One of the big differences from when Timothy paddled this a few weeks back to now, is that someone has obviously taken the time to clear the creek. There were no portages to contend with and freshly cut branches could be seen wherever there might have been a potentional issue.
The put-in off Main Street (and behind CamRock Café & Sport) is nice, with a couple of put-in options to choose from, a dock or a muddy slope to the water. The dock can be a little difficult if you’re balance-challenged.
Koshkonong Creek is narrow with a mostly sandy-bottom and the color of the water is a copper hue. There were a lots of downed trees but easily navigable (thanks again to whomever cleared it). Since it is so narrow, I can easily understand how frustrating it could be if it isn’t maintained. I encountered turtles, two herons, a beaver and about million frogs.
The most enjoyable section for me was paddling through the former Millpond. Timothy pointed this out on the map but I didn’t notice it until I was paddlng through it. The millpond is anything but “a pond” (which I was actually dreading since I don’t care much for open water) and is arguably the prettiest part of the journey. Flanked by beautiful grassy banks, you wind your way through what once was the millpond until you reach Rockdale where the only riffly section is.
The riffles continue past Rockdale for a bit and then it’s back to tree-covered sections and open farmland. I can see how it could get swamplike as mentioned in the prevous report but I think the very (bordering obscene) warm weather we’ve had, has dried up a lot of that. I found it similar to the section above Rockdale, maybe less-canopied.
The take-out, however, is suffering from extreme erosion. It’s grassy all the way to the bank but it just gave-way step after step as I tried to get out of my kayak. Once you’re up, it’s great but it’s falling apart and isn’t going to last much longer.
After the shuttle, I had to check out CamRock Café & Sport, which is more of a bike shop/café than water outfitter but they do have kayaks and paddleboards for rent to use on the creek or nearby Lake Ripley. If you’re considering lunch, I highly recommend the Smoked Turkey & Provolone on Foccaccio bread which came with some incredible pickled cucumbers (not yet pickles) and a Founders All Day IPA (no Central Waters, I asked). It’s a great café with a nice vibe and friendly people.
What we didn’t like:
Again, that snake. I didn’t see him this time but I know he’s out there.
If we did this trip again:
Sometimes all it takes is a little time and a paddle can be eons different than the paddle before and even just weeks apart.
I will, no doubt, paddle this again since it’s such a short trip from Madison. It’s a great little paddle when you don’t have to worry about blockages and the convenient shuttle between put-in and take-out make it even more appealing. Plus, I’ve also heard great things about Heather’s Rockdale Bar, which will be my next post-paddle destination.
Koshkonong Creek I: Cambridge to Rockdale
Koshkonong Creek II: Britzke Road to Hoopen Road
Koshkonong Creek IV: Busseyville to Lake Koshkonong
Map: Lost Waters Trail: Koshkonong Creek
Miles Paddled Video: