Indian Creek Road to The Mississippi River:
A relaxing “lake paddle” on the Platte River to the Mississippi is a great way to spend an evening enjoying nature’s creatures, the sounds of the wonderful outdoors, or enjoying a cold beverage while watching the trains at sunset. This paddle offers different experiences at any water level and is prime for those looking to just get into a boat without all the fuss.
By Scotty Wertel
Driftless Kayaker/Y-er Inventor/AV Club Member/Miles Paddler since 2018
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆
Trip Report Date: May 15, 2020 (and numerous other dates)
Skill Level: Beginner
Class Difficulty: Flatwater
Gauge Recorded on this Trip:
Clayton (Mississippi River): ht/ft: 12.5′-22.2′ | cfs: n/a
Clayton (Mississippi River): ht/ft: | cfs: 12.31
All water levels are appropriate. The area will either be a slow current river or a flood plain.
Put-In + Take-Out:
Banfield Bridge Recreation Area, Indian Creek Road, Potosi, Wisconsin
GPS: 42.63089, -90.65307
Total Time: 2-3 hours (typically)
Miles Paddled: 3 miles roundtrip upstream or down
Bald eagles, blue heron, beavers, muskrats, pelicans, sandpipers, other migrating birds like geese and ducks.
Many paddlers simply do not give enough love or attention to the absolute last stretch of the Platte River. This “lake paddle” is often mentioned in the category of “we recommend this if you have extra time” after paddling the primary river sections. For you critics in that category (yes, you know who you are), you are missing out on a unique paddling experience at nearly any water level.
As well documented on this site, the Platte is a tributary stream which feeds into the Mississippi, so the closer you get to reaching the Big Muddy, the flatter the water is and the current becomes pretty much non-existent. As such, it’s an easy there-and-back paddling from the last access on the Platte to the big river and back.
The upside of this “lake paddle” is that it’s not a lake of course, and therefore not prone to fishing boats dotting the shoreline to paddle around. On a calm evening, a few small fishing boats might slowly motor in the shallow Platte to the Mississippi or might go upstream toward the Highway 35 bridge area.
Upstream from the Banfield Bridge:
When the Mississippi is at flood levels, the entire valley downstream of the Highway 35 bridge becomes one big flood plain. Paddling upstream from the Banfield Bridge and toward the right puts you well into the flood plain and out of the main river and any current. Migrating birds, ducks, and geese absolutely love this floodplain. The sound of various frogs and ‘peepers’ fill the river valley as their chorus echoes off of the hillsides. The Mississippi water level during our last paddle in this area was over 20′ or about 8′ over ‘normal’.
Downstream from the Banfield Bridge:
We typically prefer to paddle downstream from the Banfield Bridge and into the Mississippi for a spell, refresh with a beverage, watch a few trains chug by and enjoy the sunset. During bird migration ‘season’, this area is prone to pelicans, sandpipers, geese and a variety of ducks and winged creatures. More often than not, we will also see the area eagle family (from their nest on the adjacent hillside), a lot of muskrat, cranes, heron and beavers. During our last few trips, we have seen many beavers giving us their signature slap of the tail on the water warning us to keep our distance. Seeing a beaver or eagle is still something that never gets old.
Also, almost without fail, you very likely will see a train (or 6) traveling across the mouth of the Platte along the Mississippi. At normal water levels, you can paddle below the train bridge and into the Mississippi River. I highly recommend this to anyone as long as the wind conditions are favorable. There is just something awesome about going onto such an immense river and feeling so small in your kayak or canoe; you quickly gain a new perspective once you pass below the train bridge. Additionally, there is just this kiddish feeling that you get when you watch, feel and listen to a train up close and personal.
To escalate that another notch, you can paddle right under the moving trains and feel the awesome power right over your head. From our experiences, during the evenings the trains seem to go by every 20-30 minutes. Granted, we’ve waited a long time and didn’t see any but there have been other times when we saw six within what seemed like a half an hour. If nothing else, you’ll get to look across the Mississippi and see Iowa and the water tower at John Deere Dubuque Works (here’s a shout out to the fine folks at Deere)!
What we liked:
Sometimes it’s just nice to get out in our kayaks and enjoy a quiet evening surrounded by Mother Nature while enjoying a cold drink (or two) for an hour or two. The down and back eliminates the hassle or need for a car or bike shuttle. Often, you just want to hit the water but don’t have a big chunk of time to run a river section; you won’t want to get wet from riffles/rapids; or you just want a more relaxed paddle. This section checks all of those boxes.
What we didn’t like:
As stated previously, this is a lake paddle so you need to curb your enthusiasm and expectations to such. This is also a river valley area so the geography isn’t super dynamic. The upside is that you are in the driftless and that should speak for itself. Also, as with any paddle trip, seeing wildlife is hit or miss. We’ve had some hits, we’ve had some misses. The hits are during wildlife migration season and the misses are during the summer months when the ‘locals’ (beavers, eagles, muskrat, heron) are more common. We like seeing trains but sometimes you might not see any or you might wait a spell. Also, as with any section of the Platte, the put-in can be muddy; however, the launch is typically gravel. The long and the short of it is that we do indeed paddle this section frequently so the likes outweigh the dislikes.
If we did this trip again:
We are local to southwestern Wisconsin so we do this paddle a lot, especially during the spring and fall. For complete transparency, I would say that I’d be willing to drive 45 minutes to paddle this section. For our other lake paddles, we often drive that far to get to Governor Dodge or Blackhawk Lake. If you are a paddler and bird watcher or a paddler and train fanatic, well then, you’d maybe move that range of travel up a few more notches.
While you are in the area, you might also want to check out the Potosi Recreational Area, aka The Point, and the Grant River Recreational Area. ‘The Point’ is pretty notorious for watching migrations up the Mississippi. Oh, and I’d be foolish not to mention that you might also want to check out the Potosi Brewery. Cheers!
Platte River Overview: Platte River Paddle Guide
Platte River I: County Road E to County Road A
Platte River II: County Road A to Platte Road
Platte River III: Platte Road to Big Platte Road
Platte River IV: Big Platte Road to Indian Creek Road
Good People: Friends of the Platte River
Wikipedia: Platte River
Miles Paddled/Driftless Kayaker Videos:
Upstream: April 2020 – flood plain water level (20.0′).
Featuring a ton of frog/peeper sound, ducks, geese, and paddling through the floodplain debris.
Downstream: May 2020 – normal water level (12.5′).
Many trains, going under trains, paddling into the Mississippi, pelicans and a beaver up close cleaning itself.
Downstream: April 2020 – normal water level (15.25′).
Awesome skies after a storm, sandpipers, and many beavers slapping their tails warning us to stay back.
Downstream April 2020 – flood plain water level (20.5′).
Unable to go under the train bridge due to the flood, a few trains, and the sound of frogs after sunset.
Downstream: May 2019 – flood plain water level (22.2′).
Unable to go under the train bridge due to the flood, and a great many migrating pelicans.