Pedal and Paddle: Combine trail and river activities in these drift-free gems of the region
Outdoor enthusiast Timothy Bauer is a big fan of the phrase “Friends, don’t let friends row upstream”.
Bauer, an avowed kayak junkie and author of the book “Canoeing and Kayaking in South Central Wisconsin: 60 Paddling Adventures Within 60 Miles of Madison, paddled in Wisconsin and our neighboring states since about 2008.
“You wouldn’t do more up a hill to get back to your starting point than a skier would go up a hill without a chairlift,” he said.
So that raises this question: how do you get back to your starting position? Walking and jogging are options. Shuttle services or taxis will do the trick. Bauer’s favorite activity to combine with kayaking, canoeing or paddleboarding is cycling.
“Why?” He asked. “It’s a good exercise, to start with. After sitting on your butt in a boat and really not using your lower half of your body for a few hours, it’s a welcome change of pace to put those legs on. and your feet to work. Paddle the top half, the bottom half of the pedal. “
Preparing for this type of trip takes planning. You will need to park your bike where your river trip ends. When you get to this location, you can leave your canoe, kayak, or paddle board where you left your bike, lock it the same way you locked your bike, and then come back to where you left off. where you started your journey. Then drive to collect your river raft.
There are about 40 locations in Wisconsin that are ideal for combining canoeing and biking, he said. His favorites, however, are located primarily in the Driftless region, which spans four states, is roughly the size of West Virginia, and has not been affected by glaciers. This area alone has eight different paddle and pedal combinations in Wisconsin, Bauer said.
“What makes it so great for paddling is that the whole area is largely made up of rivers,” he said. “So all these deep cliffs and caves, chasms, it’s the moving water that formed them … It’s a place blessed and born by rivers. It’s one of the best bubblers. that you are going to find in the upper Midwest. “
From north to south, those eight are: the Red Cedar River and Trail; the Chippewa River and Trail; the Trempealeau River and the Great River Trail; the river and the La Crosse trail; the Kickapoo River and the Kickapoo Valley Preserve; the Baraboo River and 400 State Trail; the Pine River and Trail; and finally the Pecatonica River and Cheese Trail.
“Not all are equal, of course, but everyone offers something that is completely enjoyable and practical, safe, fun and beautiful,” he said.
Bauer details his experiences with his three favorites:
Baraboo River and 400 State Trail
The 400 trail: 22 miles long with four access points at Union Center, Wonewoc, LaValle and Reedsburg.
This combined pedal-paddle track system is the most comprehensive, Bauer said, and has options for beginners and experts alike. Newbies might like the short drive from Union Center to Wonewoc, which is about 5.5 miles.
“The narrow, winding Baraboo River spends its time around wetlands and under an impressive 150-foot-high sandstone cliff called Third Castle,” he said.
Those with a little more experience may choose to start at Wonewoc and travel 15.5 miles to finish at LaValle. Here you will find “unprecedented solitude and some of the best rocky outcrops and cliffs the river has to offer,” said Bauer.
Those starting in LaValle will find an easier 4 mile trip and the ability to paddle moderate rapids right from the start. This route ends in a park on the edge of Douglas Road.
Are you looking for an easy float? Take the last leg of this route starting from Douglas Road and down to Reedsburg through marshes and floodplains.
Don’t forget the $ 5 daily user fee to use the 400 State Trail. You can also purchase an annual permit for $ 25, which can be used in the winter for cross-country skiing.
The Kickapoo River and the Kickapoo Valley Preserve
The Kickapoo Valley Preserve: 6.25 miles long between Rockton and LaFarge.
Bauer likens the upper part of the Kickapoo River to a ride to Disney World, full of mini-canyons, craggy ravines, and cliffs galore with no signs of development. This land-based public space also offers many options for riverside camping.
The Kickapoo Valley Reserve is the result of a collaboration between the State Department of Natural Resources and the Ho-Chunk Nation. Your state vehicle admission stickers and passes will not work here. Instead, expect a charge of $ 5 per day or $ 20 per year for using the reserve.
There are a few different trails in the reserve, but your best bet is to take the segment from Rockton to LaFarge, 9.5 miles, which is your paddling trip along the river.
“The scenery is simply exquisite, on and off the water,” said Bauer.
Red Cedar River and Red Cedar Trail
Red Cedar Trail: 14.5 miles long with four access points at Menomonie, Downsville, Dunnville and the Chippewa River State Trail.
This one is a gem for amateurs and veterans alike, Bauer said. The trailhead begins in downtown Menomonie and stretches 14.5 miles “past wooded shores and cliffs, natural springs, exposed rock outcrops, surprisingly high sandbanks, and an assortment of sandbanks, ”Bauer said.
It works well for beginners as the current is gentle, the river is on average 150 feet wide, and the water levels remain fairly constant. Veterans will love it for the loneliness and beauty.
For a shorter trip of about 8.25 miles, plan to exit at Downsville. Heading towards Dunnville will take you approximately 14.75 miles.
“For the more adventurous, a 2-for-1 option is to paddle down to the Chippewa River and make this day trip an overnight stay camping on a sandbank island and heading out to Durand,” said Bauer. “The icing on the cake is that you can cycle the Chippewa River State Trail from Durand to the Red Cedar Trail and back up to Menomonie.”
You will need a $ 5 day pass to use the Red Cedar Trail or an annual permit.