Lemonweir to Cliff House Road:
More a maze than amazing, this winding, kinky river nonetheless offers a beautiful sandy bottom and clear water, lots of sandbars, some good wildlife, a few impressive rock formations and a genuine hardwood river bottoms area you can get lost in for hours.
Rating: ☆ ☆
Trip Report Date: August 17, 2013
Skill Level: Beginner
Class Difficulty: Flatwater
Gauge Recorded on this Trip:
New Lisbon: ht/ft: 2.3 | cfs: 110
New Lisbon: ht/ft: 4.20 | cfs: 325
These levels are too low. Instead, we recommend a minimum of 170 cfs. Between 200-300 cfs is ideal.
Time: Put in at 10:40a. Out at 4:00p.
Total Time: 5h 20m
Miles Paddled: 15.25
Blue herons, turtles, clams and plovers.
A month ago someone wrote milespaddled.com asking about paddling up the Lemonweir from the mouth at the Wisconsin River. The only portion of the Lemonweir I had done was the final four miles or so, beginning at the County HH bridge and continuing towards the Dells. So the occasion struck me as a good time to check out a more prominent stretch of the Lemonweir.
A buddy of mine who describes himself as an “old fart” is a member of a sometime pickup band called Moldy Jam, whose byline is “it doesn’t get much better than this.” It’s a clever phrase with two meanings: this is so good it can’t get any better, or sorry folks but this is as good as we’re gonna do. The Lemonweir is like this. If you are looking for that quintessential summer paddle with your friends on a hot day with cold beer lazily going down an intimate river, then the Lemonweir is this and not much gets better than that. But if you are hoping that the Lemonweir offers something hidden and unordinary, some secret gem if only due to its proximity to the Dells of the Wisconsin River, then I’m sorry but it doesn’t get any better than sandbars and some wildlife.
And perhaps fittingly, the whole long day I had the song “Lemonworld” by The National in my head.
What we liked:
The water is clear and has decent current (in spite of being pretty low when I paddled it). There is sand virtually everywhere, which does make the landscape kind of cool. Sandbanks, sandbars, sandy bottom. There’s a lot to like. Clam shells are in abundance, too. There is little in the way of development during this long slog of a trip, although the noise from relatively nearby Highway 82 is distinctly present.
The put-in is at the site of a former mill. I could not detect much evidence of that but there is an odd pond right there. You can either paddle across the sandy pond, portage about three feet, then hit the river from there or you can walk down a path some 75’ or so.
If you take out at the County HH bridge (which technically is not at the bridge itself but just a spit further downstream by a snowmobile bridge but it’s very easy to see where to get out) or the Two Rivers access, both provide great access. If you use the Two Rivers access, take a moment to mark the spot in your memory. The end of the Lemonweir is a messy maze of mostly navigable options, so depending on how you traverse, you may end up well away from the actual takeout. The rule of thumb here is look for the gorgeous rock bluffs, and then you’ll see the small concrete boat ramp tucked away.
What we didn’t like:
There simply are no ways of shortening this trip. You either take out at HH or at the mouth of the Wisconsin River, that’s it. To do the latter requires a fair amount of stamina and patience. The Lemonweir is kinky to the point of perverted. Really, it should be called “Lemonweird.” Trust me, you will get lost… at least once, probably twice. So while a 15-mile paddle is a healthy jaunt in any occasion, on this crooked river of many dead-ends, sloughs, backwater blockages and who knows what else, prepare for a long day. The trick is just to allow yourself to be mislead and disoriented, laugh/shrug it off and use your commonsense. I personally am rarely known for my commonsense and I did fine. But it was a long day.
The Lemonweir is certainly interesting and not without mention. But it’s so close to what I personally consider one of the absolute best paddles in the entire state, the Wisconsin River beginning at the Two Rivers access all the way to the dam downtown. For my gas money, that’s where I’ll be paddling if I have driven that way. The Lemonweir, in my humble opinion, is exactly what I had hoped it would be more than: undramatic, a bit frustrating at times, disorienting and redundant after awhile.
If we did this trip again:
Like I said, if I’m this close to the Dells area of the river, then I’m just gonna paddle that and go whole hog, why compromise? I am glad I finally did the segment of the Lemonweir that’s been on my to-do list for years but I doubt I’d revisit it.