★ ★ ★ ★

Wisconsin River III

Arena to Gotham:
Just like the upper stretch, you’ll no doubt, have more company on the water due to the proximity to the Sauk/Baraboo/Madison area but this section of the Wisconsin River offers more of what we’ve come to expect with huge sandbars and swift moving water.

Wisconsin RiverRating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Trip Report Date: May 29-31, 2010

Skill Level: Intermediate
Class Difficulty: Flatwater

Gauge Recorded on this Trip:
Day 1: Muscoda: ht/ft: 1.51 | cfs: 5790
Day 2: Muscoda: ht/ft: 1.49 | cfs: 5600
Day 3: Muscoda: ht/ft: 1.51 | cfs: 5800

Current Levels:
Muscoda: ht/ft: 1.07 | cfs: 5150

Recommended Levels:
We recommend this level. Water levels are almost always reliable on the Wisconsin, however, they can change drastically change at a moments notice.

Arena Boat Landing, Arena, Wisconsin
GPS: 43.18681, -89.90099
Lone Rock Public Boat Landing, Gotham, Wisconsin
GPS: 43.20958, -90.30431

Day 1: 5.29.10
Time: Put in at 12:15p. Out at 5:30p.
Miles Paddled: 13.5

Day 2: 5.30.10
Time: Put in at 12:15a. Out at 4:30p.
Miles Paddled: 10

Day 3: 5.31.10
Time: Put in at 10:45a. Out at 11:20p.
Miles Paddled: 1.75

Total Time: 10h 5m
Total Miles: 25.5

Eagles, hawk, fish, turtles and a Northern Water Snake.

What we liked:

We continued our trip down the Lower Wisconsin Riverway in reverse order by paddling the popular Arena to Gotham section. Having previously paddled the Gotham to Boscobel and Boscobel to Wyalusing State Park sections, we knew we’d have much more company on the water due to our proximity to the Sauk/Baraboo/Madison area and the fact that it was a holiday weekend. But it never felt overly crowded (which sounds strange on a river this size, but it can) and we didn’t have a problem finding camping. In fact, we really enjoyed this section.

It was a beautiful weekend to be on the water. The skies were clear, the rain held out and surprisingly, the fish were biting this time around. We started out Saturday from the Arena boat landing. It has a separate canoe launch which is spacious and easy to access (the local canoe outfitters keep this launch very busy). It’s probably one of the best we’ve encountered on the river so far.

The first 13 miles are what we’ve come to expect from the Wisconsin River. Huge sandbars and swift moving water. The DNR was out in full which was to be expected on a major holiday weekend. We were stopped Saturday and Sunday (by the same guys) checking our fishing licenses, pfds and searching our coolers for glass containers.

Saturday was hot, (incredibly hot) and we were quite crispy by the time we found a campsite Saturday evening. We did our best to hide from the afternoon sun beating down on us with some makeshift shelters but we still came away sporting some stylish hat and sunglass tans.

Sunday was another beautiful day but this time we were blessed with a few clouds which offered brief escape from the sun. We paddled another 10 miles past a huge stretch of beautiful rock walls which start appearing just after Highway 130/133. Our goal on this day was to find shade for camp. It’s a rare find on the river (a lot of bushes and sand) but we happened upon a great little island that offered a 360 degree tree canopy with sand in the middle. It felt like camping in the woods up north. With a storm approaching (that eventually missed us), it seemed like a very wise place to setup.

Surrounded by shallow sandbars except for a 3′ deep channel that led to the bank, which made it really convenient to unload our gear, it was probably the best setup we’ve encountered on the river. It also made for the perfect wading/bathing/beach area and a unique place for a campfire.

We’ve often heard it’s good to tie your kayaks up incase the water rises. We’ve never experienced water changes until Sunday night. When we woke up, our sandbars were gone except for a tiny strip of land where we had placed the fire. When looking back at the gauge (in height, feet) the water rose from 1.27 to 1.40 which was a pretty substantial change. So that was a nice learning moment.

What we didn’t like:
Snakes. None of us are fans and until this trip we hadn’t come across any. After some research, it turns out that the Northern Water Snake is quite common on the Wisconsin. We had one persistent snake visit us multiple times on Day 2 of camping. Then we came across another dead one and two more curled up on a rock at the take-out.

If we did this trip again:
With one more section to tackle, we’re very excited to finish the 92 miles on the Lower Wisconsin. We’ve often said we’d avoid major holiday weekends when possible but this trip wasn’t bad at all. It was busy but it wasn’t a challenge to find camping like the Gotham to Boscobel trip.

Related Information:
Wisconsin River Overview: Lower Wisconsin River Paddle Guide
Wisconsin River I: Boscobel to Wyalusing
Wisconsin River II: Gotham to Boscobel
Wisconsin River IV: Prairie Du Sac to Arena
Wisconsin River VIII: Lone Rock to Muscoda
Wisconsin River XV: Spring Green to Lone Rock
Wisconsin River XIX: Prairie Du Sac to Wyalusing Landing
Miles Paddled Maps: Lower Wisconsin Riverway Mileage
Article: Lower Wisconsin River Worth Getaway
Guide: Wisconsin Trail Guide
Wikipedia: Wisconsin River

Photo Gallery:

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  • Reply
    June 10, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    What a great sport/adventure to be in be involved in!

  • Reply
    July 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Thanx for the info. Very helpful in planning our man-cation coming up in a few weeks.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Where did you leave your car?

  • Reply
    Miles Paddled
    July 10, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    No problem! Great to hear it helps! The Arena put-in has tons of parking and you can leave it there overnight. Same for the take-out in Gotham except since it hugs the bank of the Wisconsin, it's narrow and has a little less room for cars. Still, you should have no problem finding a parking spot and leaving your car there.

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