★ ★ ★

Pecatonica River III

Brownton to Winslow:
A lazy-loaf float trip down the slow muddy waters of the Pecatonica River in its last stretch in Wisconsin before dipping down into Illinois. There are no outstanding rock outcrops or riffles on this trip but there are many pleasant ridges and hills. Check out the cool artesian well and waterfall in Winslow after you’re done.

Pecatonica River

Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆
Trip Report Date: April 16, 2015

Class Difficulty:

1.3′ per mile

Gauge Recorded on this Trip:
Martintown: ht/ft: 5.92 | cfs: 700

Current Levels:
Martintown: ht/ft: 5.96 | cfs: 688

Recommended Levels:
Water levels are almost always reliable.

Highway 11 boat landing, Brownton, Wisconsin
GPS: 42.57971, -89.81006
Highway 2/Winslow Road boat landing, Winslow, Illinois
GPS: 42.49516, -89.76796

Time: Put in at 12:40p. Out at 4:45p.
Total Time: 4h 45m
Miles Paddled: 11.5

Soft shell turtle, bald eagle, turkey vulture, wood ducks and a muskrat.

Shuttle Information:
9 miles with some good hills if bicycling.


I’m either a sucker or a hopeless romantic for insisting on covering as much of the Pecatonica River as I can. Why do I do this? Because it’s a river with reliable water levels that flows through the Driftless area, for one. Plus it has secrets here-and-there, worth every effort of trying your luck. The segments between Gratiot and Browntown look excessively agricultural and divorced from their natural setting but I had more hope for Browntown downstream. It’s a pleasant trip but none too spectacular. But as far as a kick up your feet and crack open a beer-type of paddle trip is concerned, this was fun with a friend.

What we liked:
The access off Highway 11 is outstanding. Just upstream is an attractive rusty truss bridge of the Cheese Country Trail that spans both the Pecatonica River and a tributary creek as well. Due to the large width of the river, you won’t ever have to portage, duck under, scoot over, or maneuver around any serious obstacles.

The wildlife sightings were pretty good and there are few houses to pass. Instead, most of the land surrounding the river is agricultural. But there usually are tall ridges and small bluffs lining at least one of the banks of the river, so it’s rarely boring. There are some modest rock outcrops here and there but nothing as dramatic as those upstream of Calamine or downstream from Darlington. And there are some former bridge foundations and stranded pylons, too.

There are two incredibly large logjam pileups like bookends in the beginning and end of this trip. Neither obstructs the mainstream; they’re just cool to look at and appreciate the wrath of a river in flood stage. There’s quite a quirky looking bar on the right bank, half a mile upstream of the takeout, that looks like a hoot (though I wouldn’t go alone unless wearing a Confederate flag bandana or maybe a Fox Racing t-shirt).

Definitely head over to Paradise Cove in town after you take out. It’s located at the end of an alley off of Carver Street (the main street in Winslow); there are signs pointing to it. The fresh spring water is cold and delicious, plus there’s a pretty little waterfall, water wheel and covered bridge. It’s an attractive setting all around.

What we didn’t like:
The trip is simply unremarkable. It’s not ugly by any means and it does have its moments but there’s little to capture your imagination after two hours.

If we did this trip again:
I don’t think I would. For the drive and distance, there’s no compelling reason to. I’d rather explore other segments of the Pecatonica as yet experienced.

Related Information:
Pecatonica River I: Calamine to Darlington
Pecatonica River II: Darlington to Red Rock
Pecatonica River IV: Mifflin to Jones Branch Road
Pecatonica River V: Pecatonica River Nature Preserve to Trask Bridge Forest Preserve
Camp: Pecatonica River Trails Park
Good People: Friends of the Pecatonica River
Guide: Paddling Southern Wisconsin
Wikipedia: Pecatonica River

Photo Gallery:

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