Valley Road to Paoli:
An otherwise pleasant river, this is not a segment of the Sugar I’d recommend. There are just too many wires to slip through, deadfall to negotiate, concrete footbridges to portage, etc.
Trip Report Date: July 22, 2011
We recommended this level. Please note that anything below 50 cfs will be extremely shallow and frustrating. We recommend a minimum of 60 cfs on the Verona gauge.
Valley Road, Verona, Wisconsin
County PB Bridge, Paoli, Wisconsin
Time: Put in at 5:30p. Out at 8:00p.
Total Time: 2h 30m
Miles Paddled: 6.75
Some herons, two mergansers and great big flopping carp.
Taking my cue from Capitol Water Trails, I was inspired to explore a couple stretches of the Sugar River not mentioned in the more official paddling books. Well, it turns out there’s a reason why they’re not mentioned, they’re hardly paddleable. I was initially excited to “escape” so close to home, however, I didn’t find its proximity consolable in the least after a number of annoying obstructions (one right after the other). The Sugar here, is narrow and windy and is not altogether unattractive but neither is it so great as to warrant putting up with its frustrations (at least in my opinion).
What we liked:
There are a couple of steep hillsides (which I always like) and there are a few more sweeping vistas of the surrounding landscape (which I like as well). Towards the very end is a one-foot drop that is splashy and fun to go down and/or surf against. There’s usually enough water to run this virtually year round and yes, it is quite close to home (if you live in Madison). Lastly, odds of spotting a heron or two are pretty good as well.
What we didn’t like:
Take your pick: the barbed wires, the deadfall, the concrete footbridges, the mud… it’s just not worth it. None of those obstructions individually or in aggregate dissuade me much, so long as the river itself is worth it (or the surroundings). Neither is the case for this section of the Sugar. I found it much more frustrating than fun.
If we did this trip again:
Very doubtful, unless all the crap is cleared out.
I ended up doing a shorter clip of this trip on 3/10/13. Perhaps infused with renewed paddle inspiration after Canoecopia, and needing to get out of the house at the time, I went out for a jaunt. Bad idea – very bad, dumb idea!
First off, it was raining/sleeting and about 35 degrees. Second, it had been raining all weekend with warmer temperatures a couple days preceding that, which meant the snow was melting very quickly. Thus the Sugar, which is otherwise painfully plain and pretty slow, was raging. This actually attracted me to it, but it was a poor judgment call on my part. Take it from me, when you see whole logs flow down the river, it ain’t safe!
There was a lot of water this day and it was moving very quickly. All of the obstructions were still there and profoundly more dangerous in high water conditions. I got pinned against one fallen tree and then before I had a second to figure out what to do or how to do it I got dragged by the current underneath the tree and took a rather undesirable swim. I was dressed for such an incident but still the whole thing pretty well spooked me out. A lesson was learned, albeit the hard or at least humiliating way.
Sugar River Overview: Sugar River Paddle Guide
Sugar River II: Paoli to Belleville
Sugar River VII: Riverside Road to Paoli
Sugar River IX: County Road A to Belleville
Sugar River X: Highway 69 to County Road A
Sugar River XII: White Crossing Road to Valley Road
Good People: Upper Sugar River Watershed Association
Good People: Lower Sugar River Watershed Association
Map: Upper Sugar River Trail
Outfitter: Sugar River Outfitters
Wikipedia: Sugar River
Miles Paddled/Driftless Kayaker Video: