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Local Trip: Sugar River

Posted by Rutabaga Staff on 4/22/2013 to Where We Paddle

Avon Bottoms


Less than an hour south of Madison, WI, the Sugar River crosses the border into Illinois. The last few miles in Wisconsin wind through the Avon Bottoms State Wildlife Area. The river is about 30 feet wide, sandy-bottomed and swift moving for a flatland waterway (I’d guess 4 miles per hour).

What’s uncanny about the area is its wildness. No sign whatsoever of habitation. It’s easy to pull out and just sit and hear and see the natural world as you might have one hundred, two hundred, three hundred years ago. On this particular day, a lot of songbirds were moving through the area, and several waterfowl from Canadian geese to teal and canvasbacks kicked up from the banks. Good-sized fish (twenty inches long and yellow) cleared the surface regularly, jumping for flies, and Carp (big capitol “C” carp) wallowed stupidly in tributary shallows. The river is low-ground forest with a preponderence of maples (hence the name Sugar River) and, in the absence of leafy undergrowth, visibility was good.

To get there from Madison: take Hwy 14 south to Oregon and MM south to the Green County line where it becomes State 104. Continue south to Avon Townline Rd, head east to Nelson Rd. and south to the Rock County parking lot on the river. Check your Delorme atlas to confirm these directions!

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