★ ★ ★ ★

Wisconsin River VI

Dekorra to Whalen Bay:
A random curiosity trip on a stretch of the river in between Portage and Prairie du Sac that features a surprising array of beautiful scenery. The only catches are sharing the river with a lot of motorboats, the noise of the interstate highway, and the beginning of huge Lake Wisconsin.

Wisconsin RiverRating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Trip Report Date: August 15, 2011

Skill Level: Intermediate
Class Difficulty: Flatwater

Gauge Recorded on this Trip:
Wisconsin Dells: n/a

Current Levels:
Wisconsin Dells: ht/ft: 2.63 | cfs: 3890

Recommended Levels:
We recommend this level. Water levels are almost always reliable on the Wisconsin.

Dekorra Boat Landing, County Highway V
GPS: 43.45893, -89.46703
Whalen Grade Public Boat Landing, County Highway V
GPS: 43.39145, -89.52364

Time: Put in at 5:00p. Out at 7:00p.
Total Time: 2h
Miles Paddled: 7.75


Shuttle Information:
6.5 miles all along County V. Only one notable but not too difficult hill towards the end, but once at the top you start heading down; gravity will take you the whole way back to your car at the landing without having to pedal once – a great way to finish. Very little car traffic to worry about, too.

What we liked:

The section from Dekorra to Whalen Bay is an easy, absolutely delightful last stretch of the Wisconsin River before it bulges out into Lake Wisconsin, with tons of sandbar islands for camping or picnicking, rolling bluffs, rock outcroppings.

Seldom paddled is the section of the Wisconsin in between Portage and Sauk City – and not without good reason: the bluffs are few and far between, as are the sandbars and islands, but there is a huge power plant and there are a lot of residential houses. Most notably, though, the river effectively becomes a lake – so-called Lake Wisconsin, a 15-mile impoundment thanks to the dam in Prairie du Sac (happily, the last dam on the entire river) – where power boats and jet skis rule, even a free ferry boomerangs back and forth connecting the loose ends of Hwy 113. So unless you like little current, being splashed if not outright swamped by engine- or wind-made waves, this sections’ best left to motors.

Except for the short but delightful stretch mentioned here!

The accesses are excellent. There are charming wooded bluffs, rolling hills, and a surprisingly impressive exposed rock outcropping “wall” towards the end of the trip. From the put-in, the bridge for the interstates is only 1.5 miles away, so depending on the wind you’ll begin hearing it sooner than later. But it’s worth it. This is a perfect late afternoon paddle when you don’t have a lot of time but really want to be on the water for an hour or two. The scenery is every bit as splendid as the lower Wisconsin, just more condensed. In fact, I thought this segment made a neat transition and an uncanny mix of the Wisconsin closer to the Dells and that down by Boscobel: a smorgasbord of woods and sandbars, rolling bluffs and rock formations.

What we didn’t like:
While this segment avoids the worst of the “lake bulge” and the choppy waves, you still have to cut a 45-degree angle turn and paddle a good mile through the slack water of Whalen Bay. Not a big deal at all, but a nuisance.

If we did this trip again:
First of all, I absolutely will! I might start further upstream a bit and put in at the confluence with the Baraboo River (see Baraboo River) just to tack a couple more miles.

Related Information:
Wisconsin River V: Lyndon Station to Wisconsin Dells
Wisconsin River VII: Downtown Dells to Norway Drive
Wisconsin River X: Portage to Dekorra
Wisconsin River XII: Pine Island to Portage
Wisconsin River XIII: River Bay Road to Norway Drive
Wisconsin River XIV: Castle Rock Dam to Lyndon Station
Wikipedia: Wisconsin River

Photo Gallery:

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  • Reply
    May 15, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • Reply
    Miles Paddled
    May 16, 2016 at 1:03 am

    Sorry for deleting your great question about other launch sites – the long link was causing havoc… Anyway… there are oodles of boat launch options along that Tipperary Rd peninsula, but many of them are private. Many can be found via the DNR or Google Maps. Have fun!

  • Reply
    July 31, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    I think the link you want for water level is here.I just did this at 8000 cfs/5 feet. My favorite part was right at the beginning, where I spotted an opening in the trees across the river. Turned out the river had spilled over into a forest and turned it into basically a swamp where you could paddle any direction between all the logs and trees.I saw a big group of blue cranes on the trip (not "blue cranes", but blue birds with long legs), walking far out on the sandbar.That last slack water bit does suck. It looks like the bay is 1/4 mile wide but it does turn out to be a whole mile across.Thanks for your review, I went based on it and it was an interesting paddle for such a large river! Navigating between all the sandbars had surprising current and depth changes.

  • Reply
    Miles Paddled
    August 1, 2016 at 2:42 am

    Hey Noumenon,Thanks for the correct link. We know exactly where you're talking about. It sounds like a unique excursion! We're really glad you did this "dark horse" section of the Wisconsin River! It's a pretty gem in its own right. The first – and alas, only – time Timothy has been propositioned to while paddling was during this trip. Nothing transpired, we swear! But it was certainly flattering. The slack water is a drag, but at least it's in a pretty area. The surprising current and depth changes in the sandbars are precisely why so many individuals have tragically drowned on the Wisconsin River (and others of its size). It's why one always has to be careful, either by knowing how to swim and/or wearing a life jacket. Anyway, thanks for reaching out to us, and we're really glad this trip worked for you! Cheers!

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