With another year in the (dry) bag, we’re officially calling it on 2022 in a very short year-end review. For us, it was a relatively quiet – but very good year of paddling new miles. We posted 16 trip reports covering 160 miles of water, which included a few re-runs but mostly new territory.
The best part of 2022? Thanks to all of you, we made enough from t-shirt sales and ads to keep the site running another year and we were able to once again donate the rest to causes we care about. This year, we donated to the River Alliance of Wisconsin, American Whitewater, and Big City Mountaineers.
For me, nothing tops that, well, except for paddling with old friends on some old streams throughout the year. Those were special paddles. Before chasing new miles of rivers and creeks in the new year, here’s a look back at our Top 5 Paddles of 2022.
And, of course, here’s to many wonderful moments and escapes for you and yours in 2023. Happy New Year, y’all!
Top 5 Paddles of 2022
Our Best Paddles lists have been a yearly staple of the site for quite awhile. This year, we give you five more trips that are all well worth consideration in the new year.
1: Crystal River
Rural to Shadow Lake Road
The Crystal River is just that, crystal clear and as charming as the town of Rural that it flows through. It’s never very deep and you’re never far from civilization, so it’s about as family-friendly of a paddle as you can get. And… if you enjoy a little excitement on the water, there’s a lot to love because I’m not convinced there’s another 4.75 miles of any river in Wisconsin that packs as much diversity from beginning to end for beginner and/or rapid-curious paddlers. It’s no surprise that it’s a very popular paddling destination. Read the full trip report here.
2: Turkey River
Elkader to Garber
With wooded ridges and robust bluffs lined down the river one after another, together with limestone rock outcrops, enormous boulders, frisky riffles, a dedicated Class I-II rapid at the put-in, a gorgeous historic mill building midway, and a general feeling of wild and wonderful isolation – yes, even in Iowa – this trip on the Turkey River is all gravy. Read the full trip report here.
3: South Fork of the Eau Claire River (Eau Claire County)
Dickinson Road to County Highway H
A diamond in the rough if ever there was one, a wily and beguiling stream coursing through undeveloped thickets of gorgeous county forest, the South Fork of the Eau Claire will reward patient and intrepid paddlers with spectacular scenery in a near-wilderness setting, an extraordinary array of wildlife, and engaging conditions ranging from quietwater to Class III whitewater. The only caveats are low water levels will make this gem impassable and the likelihood of downed trees to contend with in the first mile or so from Dickinson Road. Read the full trip report here.
4: Big Rib River
County Road A to Rib Falls
There’s something unassuming and subtle, but really engaging about this somewhat-secluded section of the Big Rib River. With many modest outcrops and plenty of gentle riffles, it makes for a scenic and fun day trip that’s perfect for novice paddlers. Read the full trip report here.
5: Lake Superior’s Sand Island
Touring The Apostle Island’s Sand Island
Truly a stunning and scenically spectacular paddle unlike anything I’ve had the good fortune to experience, the trip out to and back from Sand Island (originally named Waabaabikaa-minis in Ojibwe) – part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore – is a unique jewel richly lavishing kayakers to innumerable caves, turrets, arches and portals, each as luscious and lustrous as the next in brick-red sandstone, creamy streaks and green moss. A feast for the eyes as much as the ears – waves going in and out of the tunnels and caves, making that thick-throated gulch! sound like a rocky esophagus, this trip also treats paddlers to a lovely hike across the island through wetlands and swales to the stately lighthouse at its north-facing brow. Read the full trip report here.