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School’s Out! A Few Recommendations for Summer Paddling

Posted by Rutabaga Staff on 6/10/2013 to Where We Paddle

Hey… we don’t work all the time! and when we aren’t working, we’re probably out paddling (or thinking about it). So… Here’s some of our favorite spots we are planning to visit this summer.

Lower Wisconsin River, Arena to Spring Green


This is my family’s favorite day trip. It’s a short drive from urban Madison, but it’s a world away in terms of its wild character and natural beauty. It’s only about 10 miles—which means you can paddle at a truly leisurely pace. There are numerous islands and sandbars, which have captivated and entertained our kids as soon as they were able to hold a sand shovel. River critters of all types also have captivated our kids; give them a little net and they will stay happily busy trying to capture minnows, tadpoles, frogs and turtles. One needs to be mindful of the river currents – but with PFDs on, wading and swimming in the river is always a ball. We usually see a bald eagle or two and quickly lose track of all the painted turtles out on logs sunning themselves. We also often hear the rattling of sandhill cranes. It’s always thrilling to hear this otherworldly sound echo across the wide river valley. (Dan York, Rutabaga Outdoor Programs Instructor)

Grant River


The Grant River is in Grant County and runs into the Mississippi River near Potosi, famous for its lead mines in the 19th century and microbreweries in the 21st. The watershed is small and springs feed it as well, so the water is clear and cool despite running through numerous farm fields. The banks have been well-maintained by private land owners and it looks like Trout Unlimited has been busy in some areas. Just past Chaffee Hollow Road is a sweet outcropping with what can only be called a “waterfall.” My family likes to take turns paddling through the sprinkles. The Grant is a river made for solo canoes but we’ve had tandems and kayaks along too. And if you choose to float near Potosi, I’d highly recommend you reward yourself with a wonderful root beer, brew or even a meal at the newly restored Potosi Brewing Company, it’s a sweet spot! (Darren Bush, Paddling Evangelist)

Mirror Lake State Park


Fans of the Dells who want to avoid its summer crowds should explore Mirror Lake, a calm contrast just to the south. While motorboats are allowed, the entire lake is a slow-no-wake zone, offering paddlers peace and quiet. The narrow eastern half of the lake features sandstone bluffs up to 50 feet high and forests cover almost all of the Park. I’d recommend bringing your hiking shoes too. With about 20 miles of trails, it’s perfect to stretch out your legs after the paddle! (Jeff Noltner, Rutabaga Outdoor Programs Instructor)

Sylvania Wilderness Area


Those who may have missed out on their BWCA permit or are just looking for something a little different will love the Sylvania Tract in the Ottawa National Forest, on the east side of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s just a short drive from the summer crowds typical of Eagle River and Land O’ Lakes but it’s a world away… 30 square miles of landlocked lakes and old growth northwoods forest. We used to enjoy going up on the 4th of July. We’d share a campground with a few other good souls, more than a few deer, howling wolves and lots of loons, and participate in the Watersmeet parade – about 6 vehicles, including the pumper from the volunteer fire department and a float from the one and only bait shop. Great natural beauty and good fishing too. It’s a gem! (Nancy Moore, Rutabaga Outdoor Programs Instructor)

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