Argyle to Blackhawk Memorial County Park:
Another tranquil, slow-paced trip past oak trees, a couple gentle bluffs and tallgrass in southwestern Wisconsin, this section of the East Branch isn’t dramatic but it’s very pleasant.
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆
Trip Report Date: April 11, 2014
Skill Level: Beginner
Class Difficulty: Riffles
Gauge Recorded on this Trip:
Blanchardville: ht/ft: 4.6 | cfs: 152
Blanchardville: ht/ft: 4.16 | cfs: 110
Water levels are almost always reliable.
Time: Put in at 1:10p. Out at 3:45p.
Total Time: 2h 35m
Miles Paddled: 7.75
A bald eagle, sandhill cranes, lots of muskrats, a couple turtles, many handsome wood ducks, unidentifiable fish flopping about (probably carp) and one intrepid pheasant.
This is one of those rare occasions when the shuttle distance is almost exactly the same as the river mileage. The primary reason for this is that you’ll not pass under or even see a single road during this entire trip.
The next in the seemingly endless series of east branch Pecatonica daytrips, this actually was my first exposure to the Pec about four years ago. I wanted to do it again because I didn’t have a camera with me at the time.
What we liked:
About two miles downstream from the put-in a very lovely gentle bluff slopes to the water and the river then curves around this bluff for a good mile or so. It’s nothing terribly dramatic but it’s quite nice. We spotted very probably the biggest eagle’s nest I ever saw. I couldn’t see if anyone was roosting with my naked eye but I took a couple pictures anyway, since its size alone was impressive (yes, I know – that’s what she said.) But upon uploading the pics onto my computer I discerned an adult eagle in the nest, there the whole time. All the wildlife (listed above) was quite pleasant, up to and including a totally fearless pheasant just loitering around the put-in as if nothing could be more normal than this gorgeous bird all by its lonesome so close to downtown.
Also, special mention must go to Blackhawk Memorial County Park. It’s a lovely little park nestled in the gentle hills and one of the better kept “secrets” for inexpensive and secluded campsites. The name of the park is telling, too, for it is on these grounds where a “battle” in the Black Hawk “War” was fought (really just a skirmish amongst a dozen or so such skirmishes that last two-and-a-half months long in 1832). Led by Col. Henry Dodge (who would later become governor and have lots of places named after him), the U.S. militia outnumbered Chief Black Hawk’s men by a 3:1 ratio. All eleven Kickapoo warriors were killed and then scalped, because that’s what white men did to prove that Indians were savages. It’s no coincidence that the oxbow pond in the park is named “Bloody Lake.” Sorry for the historical tangent but the story of Black Hawk and the so-called war is endlessly fascinating for me and so close to home.
What we didn’t like:
As I said above, there’s nothing terribly dramatic on this trip, unlike some of the more memorable segments upstream. The accesses are pretty good but as with everywhere on the Pecatonica River, they’re muddy.
Then there was another wierd encounter. Toward the end of the trip lay a pretty recent bull-cow carcass in the middle of the river kind of hung up on a downed tree. I’d never really seen anything quite like that and wondered just how on earth that happened. Did the poor animal die upstream but floated down and got snagged? Did it commit a bovine kind of hara-kiri on the tree? Just weird.
If we did this trip again:
I’d go an additional mile further downstream to a well-marked take-out off County Road M in Woodford.
Pecatonica River East Branch I: Highway 78 to Argyle
Pecatonica River East Branch II: Hollandale to Blanchardville
Pecatonica River East Branch III: Highway HK to Hollandale
Pecatonica River East Branch V: Woodford to Highway 11
Camp: Pecatonica River Trails Park
Good People: Friends of the Pecatonica River
Map: Pecatonica River
Wikipedia: Pecatonica River