★ ★ ★ ★

Yahara River III

Murwin County Park to Janesville:
A positively wonderful paddle experience offering scenic splendor and wildlife galore. This trip can – and probably should – be shortened using any number of alternate take-outs.

Yahara RiverRating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Trip Report Date: June 6, 2012

Class Difficulty:

Fulton: ht/ft: n/a | cfs: 220

Recommended Levels:
This is the recommended minimum level. It’s best to target between 330-500 cfs on the Fulton gauge.

Murwin County Park, County Road H, Fulton, Wisconsin
North Traxler Boat Launch (Rock River), Highway 51, Janesville, Wisconsin

Time: Put in at 6:30p. Out at 9:40p.
Total Time: 3h 10m
Miles Paddled: 12.25

Ducks, turtles, fish, heron and hawks.

Shuttle Information:
Nothing much write home about, but not too shabby a bike ride either. Mostly country roads, no difficult hills (and few hills in general). One fun stretch is crossing the County Road M bridge at Indianford. A dam here on the Rock creates a rather splashy Class II-III section of whitewater that looks approachable from downstream the dam.


Licking my wounds after the recall election (loss), a good river adventure was just the tonic for my soul and furrowed brow. The trip begins immediately with steep banks, which always call out to my deep down. I could not get my camera out quickly enough to capture a picture of the barn owl I spotted within minutes of putting in, but it was thrilling. This alone would be rivaled by a snowy egret, two pairs of sandhills (more yet I heard cackling and cavorting, but could not see), some handsome wood ducks, an infinite flotilla of Canada geese, and way too may great blue heron sightings to keep track of. Add to that two separate surprises of happening upon deer in the water taking a sip before quickly skipping into the tall grass, kettles of belly-flopping fish, and a bevy of bivalves happy as clams.

Not until the confluence with the Rock River do you see any sign or sounds of settlement. I really did feel at times that I could have been on a river up north; and when the current slowed down some to that breathless, unstirred mirror-like pane of glass, I swear it made me think of Sylvania. But mostly the current flows along quite contentedly. The Rock is slower, of course, but still gets by.

What we liked:
If you have paddled the southern stretches of the Yahara River, and/or the Badfish Creek, you will appreciate the continued environs. If you are unacquainted, get ready for an almost shockingly picturesque and unspoiled trip, full of sandbars, thick woods, hillsides, clear, swift water, and spectacular wildlife. That such a getaway lies in between Madison and Janesville is both a jewel and a joy! While not precisely “crystal clear,” the water clarity here is just shy of it. (Maybe “pilsner pure” would be more apt…) I passed underneath power lines that were literally abuzz with current, which was kind of creepy. I passed a house with a “carport” for a water plane, which you don’t see everyday. And you even pass an honest-to-goodness working lighthouse. Sure, it’s a little kitschy and camp, considering it’s on private land (someone wealthy’s backyard) and a fraction of the size of a true lighthouse, but the novelty was not lost on me, especially as it was well past sundown by that point!

The take-out in Janesville lies just before the throb and business (and dams!) of downtown Janesville. If this is too rude of an awakening after the wondrous solitude of the Yahara, take advantage of the gazillion other take-out options upstream of Janesville.

What we didn’t like:
The Rock River comes with its stretches lacking in luster, it’s true. Power boats, private docks, large (and not so large) river houses, predominantly loom. But don’t toss this baby with the ballast water (so to speak). Despite its traffic and residential clustering, the Rock offers delightful surprises and wildlife galore.

Also – and this can’t be emphasized enough – the wild parsnip (see Badfish Creek III) does lurk in lots of places, and believe me: the “wrath of the rash” is nothing to take lightly. My girlfriend accidentally got it a couple summers ago, during our very first-ever paddle together. Gentlemen, a word of advice: don’t ever do this! The blisters are bad, and the guilt is even worse! (Ah, but that contretemps notwithstanding, the girl’s still with me – and still even indulges me to go paddling sometimes! What a lucky bastard am I!)

If we did this trip again:
First of all, I absolutely will! But I would shorten the length – or put in further upstream on the Yahara, since that’s the more secluded river.

Related Information:
Yahara River Overview: Yahara River Paddle Guide
Yahara River I: Stebbensville Road to Murwin County Park
Yahara River II: Stebbensville Road to County Road H
Good People: Friends of the Yahara River
Guide: Yahara Waterways Trail Guide
Wikipedia: Yahara River

Photo Gallery:

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  • Reply
    Cavinda Caldera
    July 14, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    This is a fantastic paddle. I put in at Stebbensville Road and paddled past Murwin park and took out on West Gibbs Lake Road after paddling the rock for a very short time. The total time was a little over 3 hours. The Yahara is a great little river, but it is quite shallow and slow moving. It is still a great little escape and with few paddlers, chances are high that you will have the river just to yourself. I'm not aware of any livery service around the area but you can easily cycle the distance – it will be on narrow state highways – caution advised.

  • Reply
    Miles Paddled
    July 17, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    Hey Cavinda,

    So glad to hear you had a great time on the lower Yahara! Sounds like you actually did this trip: http://www.milespaddled.com/2013/07/yahara-river-vi.html

    But anyway, we love the lower Yahara. It has a reputable gradient, so you may have caught it a lower level, which would explain it being shallow and slow. Usually, it has a pretty good current, especially at Stebbinsville and Murwin. We agree about the bike shuttling and recommend taking the less-traveled town roads. We definitely recommend Badfish Creek – Old Stage Road to Casey Road – the Yahara's smaller, narrower neighbor to the west, if you're in the area and looking to paddle somewhere different. Cheers!

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