County Road J to Huckleberry Road:
A monotonous trip through a marshy wetlands that empties into the Fox River between Princeton and Berlin. There are far too many obstructions and really not much “there there” to recommend doing this.
Rating: ☆ ☆
Trip Report Date: April 19, 2015
Skill Level: Beginner
Class Difficulty: Riffles
1.3′ per mile
There is no official gage and correlating with another nearby is speculative (there used to be a gage right in Green Lake but lack of funding so to its retirement in 2012). You can try comparing the Silver Creek at Spalding Road gauge immediately east of the Puchyan River in Green Lake just to see recent activity compared to the historical average.
County Road J, St. Marie Township, Green Lake County, Wisconsin
GPS: 43.87317, -88.99248
GPS: 43.90635, -89.05233
Time: Put in at 2:55p. Out at 6:00p.
Total Time: 3h 5m
Miles Paddled: 8.25
Wood ducks, sandhill cranes, Canada geese, softshell and snapping turtles, muskrats and beaver evidence.
5.2 miles (and a pretty ride actually).
I first read about this trip in a long out-of-print paddling guidebook a year or two ago, which might account for the lack of updated info on this small river. As in, this trip is a pointless waste of your efforts, for there are 3-4 portages minimum, and the surrounding landscape is just a flat boring marsh without anything spicing it up. And unless you already live nearby, it’s a bit of a drive to get there. Not even the charm of the Puchyan Prairie State Natural Area held my interest all that long.
What we liked:
The trip begins with an exciting and totally unexpected premise of a rocky streambed and riffles past a tall bank on the left. There’s an impressive rapid drop at a bend to the left that you can’t see from the put-in. The water was too shallow to run this without scraping the hell out of my boat but in higher water this could be a lot of fun.
The water is clear and the bottom sandy the whole way through. There’s little to no development but for the occasional farm off in the distance and lots of hunting blinds (one of which bore a “Men’s” placard on the front door the likes of which you see on bathroom stalls, which made me giggle). The river meanders through the cattail and sedge meadow marsh but not obnoxiously or laboriously. The wildlife sightings were pretty good.
The shuttle route is scenic (more so than the river itself) but you know you’re getting desperate when the shuttle, which is nothing more than a means to an end, offers more variety than the reason why you come to a place initially: to paddle.
What we didn’t like:
OK, first that rocky rapid drop in the beginning. The current was too strong to head to the left, where it would have been the easiest and safest portage. And the right bank is lined with brush and trees. Instead, I purposely ran aground, got out and walked over and down the slippery rocks, tugging my boat behind me. And then there are two more deadfall obstructions about 25 yards apart requiring you to schlep your boat up the tall bank and portage around the two (I noticed, after it was too late, that there’s a right channel next to the rocky drop that looks like it’s clear of obstructions.) Some way to start! I still had over 8 miles to go and it was 3 pm on a Sunday.
There will be at least two more portages (thankfully spaced out this time). For a marsh, I was expecting there to be like, zero portages, due to the relative lack of trees. Not so much. But it sure is a lot of marsh. Marsh and little else but marsh. There’s one hill off in the distance you’ll occasionally spot just to give some sense of topographical relief but that’s it (and for me that’s nowhere near enough).
For such marshy barrens at this time of the year, I had been anticipating a raucous cacophony of birds. Nope. Hundreds of thunderous wings migrating hither and yon? Negative. Lots of turtles kerplunking in the water and then poking out their little periscopic heads to see where I was but that was it.
This is a long drive from Madison for so little payoff. Worse still, there is nowhere to take-out while on the Puchyan River. No, instead one must paddle half a mile upstream on the Fox to a very inconspicuous spit of land about 10 feet wide. Paddling upstream for a river that isn’t worth it in the end? This is a tough sell.
Upon reflection, I don’t mean to be so critical of this trip, but frankly, I had been hoping for more. I had even slipped into shorts and sandals for this trip, since the late afternoon weather took a bright and warm turn. Maybe it was better back in the day, but I can’t for the life of me imagine why anyone would actually include this in a guidebook.
And maybe I wasn’t being totally objective. I had already paddled an arduous short trip for three hours earlier in the day, so perhaps I was tired and impatient. I had had no beer until putting-in for this trip either, so that could account for something too I suppose. And I don’t care much for marshes in the first place. So take this review with a grain or two of salt. But for what it’s worth, if you happen to be out in this part of the state, check out the nearby White River instead. It’s much prettier, more varied and has none of the dumb obstructions here.
If we did this trip again:
Hell to the no. It’s too monotonous and has too many pointless logjams and deadfall. If anything, I’d be curious to check out the upstream segment from Green Lake to County Road J, which looks less marshy and has a couple hills.
Wikipedia: Green Lake
AnonymousJune 5, 2015 at 9:41 pm
Thanks for your honest review on kayaking our Puchyan River. We've taken your thoughts to a team of local conservationists, city and county officials, and the Berlin and Green Lake Area Chambers of Commerce to see what we can do to make the kayaker's experience better. Stay tuned for updates!
And let us know the next time you come up. That well deserved "end of the paddle beer" will be on us!
Green Lake Country Visitors Bureau