★ ★ ★ ★

Platte River II

Ellenboro to Platte Road:
Rife with fun riffles, an intimate river meandering around unglaciated bluffs and beautiful rock formations – not as stunning as the Grant or Kickapoo but quite wonderful in its own right and too often overlooked.

Platte RiverRating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Trip Report Date: September 22, 2012

Class Difficulty:

Rockville: ht/ft: 3.27 | cfs: n/a

Recommended Levels:
This is the recommended minimum level.

Airport Road Bridge, Ellenboro, Wisconsin
Platte Road Bridge

Time: Put in at 4:00p. Out at 5:30p.
Total Time: 1h 30m
Miles Paddled: 4.25

Bald eagles, blue herons, tons of kingfishers, woodpeckers, a turtle or two and a handful of hawks. Oh yes, and the bulls.

Shuttle Information:
2.8 miles but at least half of that is a very steep climb up a seemingly never-ending hill. The Highway 81 segment is fun because it’s all downhill but the road is narrow, the shoulder even skinnier and it’s not uncommon for semis to pass you at a fast clip which all but blows you off the road. If all that’s not your cup of tea, you might want to use a car instead.


Say you have only a short window of time to play outside and you want to explore something new but don’t have the whole day to do it. Dilemmas… Let’s also say you’re in the mood for fun riffly water, a softly sloping surrounding and a glimpse of fall foliage. Or like me, you had to get the hell out of your girlfriend’s family reunion, obligations bedamned (even or especially if it was held in the rec hall of a Lutheran Church in Platteville). Then let me heartily recommend the Platte River as a necessary tonic to all life’s ails!

What we liked:
Lying in between the Grant and Pecatonica rivers, the Platte offers the best of both: swift, riffly current, undulating bluffs and tall banks occasionally flanking farmland. While not as stunningly picturesque as the Grant, it’s definitely prettier than the Pecatonica (in my opinion). It is, however, more accessible than the Grant (fewer private property landings) and can easily be done in a daytrip from Madison if your time is limited (the Grant, still further west and even more remote, is too pretty and special a place not to spend a weekend at. It has adorable nearby hamlets the likes of Beetown and Potosi, home of the International Beer Museum and is close to spectacular state parks that parallel the mighty Mississip. The Platte has Cuba City and New Diggings, which are cute in name only).

Also, the color of the water is pretty cool. Calling to my mind a lichen-green and clayish gray, Meister Mike Svob alludes to the Ozarks, to which environs I personally cannot attest… yet. Nonetheless, it’s neither crystal clear nor black nor root beer-hued nor muddied, which makes for a pleasant distinction in southern Wisconsin.

What we didn’t like:
Yeah, the barbed wire definitely puts a damper on the trip, especially if you did this in a canoe. Farmers can really do this? (I’m from New Jersey but don’t let the “garden state” moniker fool you; if the state even has farms, they must be clandestine vegetable factories in undisclosed locations operating only and always at midnight under the cover of darkness, for the sole purpose and usufruct of supplying Philadelphians and New Yorkers.) You will be able to lift up the wire, it’s plenty pliable but a) it is barbed and b) the river current is swift, so be careful! It’s certainly doable, just don’t be drunk.

That and the gigantic black bulls. As noted in Platte River I, the bulls are apparently always present. I too happened upon them after a curve, so our meeting was rather spontaneous. Such an encounter is not without precedent in my paddling tenure but any time you find yourself staring at an animal many hundreds of pounds heavier than you, make that, several large animals profoundly bigger than you (for they’re in cahoots, you know) it’s a little alarming and cause for pause. I sat back, snapped a couple pictures and did my best to distance not only myself from the hulking blackness only a few hooves’ saunter away but no less the mental arithmetic that the effluence streaming out of said animal into the river is one and the same with the occasional splash-back that finesses my face.

I had enough time to rationalize that the surrounding bulls, high on the banks but looking down at me, would probably break their legs if they jumped into the river to do whatever a hornless bull would do with a floating trespasser like me (head-butt me? Step on the stern and puncture the rotomolded plastic due to its insane weight?). Eventually the one bull in the river got bored or intimidated, or postured long enough to prove his maleness to the herd (let that be a lesson to you, oh ruminating human!) and clambered up on the banks, away from me. For another fifty yards or so a bevy of bulls would follow me, monitoring my doings (and no doubt delighting in the schadenfreude of when I got stuck in a shallows in the middle of the river. I was mindfully keeping a wide berth of the banks, where there was more water, but also bulls).

But which am I likelier to remember years from now: a placid float-trip with do danger punctuating the experience or the little adrenaline rush of dodging goring barbed wire and the charge of large bulls? Definitely the latter, making me a paddling matador.

If we did this trip again:
I will, absolutely but next time I’ll skip the church shindig with the famn damily and have at the river the whole day!

Related Information:
Platte River Overview: Platte River Paddle Guide
Platte River I: Ellenboro to County Road B
Platte River III: Platte Road to Big Platte Road
Platte River IV: Big Platte Road to Indian Creek Road
Platte River V: County Road A to Platte Road
Platte River VI: County Road E to County Road A
Platte River VII: Coon Hollow Road to Ellenboro
Platte River VIII: Indian Creek Road to The Mississippi River
Good People: Friends of the Platte River
Wikipedia: Platte River

Miles Paddled/Driftless Kayaker Video:

Photo Gallery:

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