Thursday, December 28, 2006

Canoeing and Camping on the Lower Wisconsin River

Only 3 to 3 1/2 hours from Chicago, 4 hours from the Twin Cities, and 2 hours from Milwaukee by car, the Wisconsin River meanders south through the center of Wisconsin. Thirty miles north of Madison at Sauk City, the river veers more towards the west on it’s way tojoining the Mississippi near Prairie du Chien. South of Sauk City the river is very wide in most places and in the summer is dotted with many islands. The river has many shifting sandbars and shallow spots as well as deep drop-offs. The down river shores on most of the islands contain long sandbars. The sandbars offer nice places to stop and swim on a hot day, picnic, fish, or camp for the evening. The State River System extends 95 miles from Sauk City to the confluence with the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien and encompasses 79,275 acres of Southwestern Wisconsin. In the heart of this area is beautiful Spring Green. The river corridor protects bluffs, bottomland forests, backwaters, and 98 of Wisconsin’s 147 fish species.

At Prairie du Sac and Sauk City the hydroelectric dam built in 1914 holds back the natural flow of the Wisconsin River and creates Lake Wisconsin. Below that point, the river breaks from man-made barriers and winds its way uninhibited for 95 miles to the Mississippi. The natural beauty of islands, sandbars, woods, and bluffs gives an impression of unspoiled nature to the uncritical eye, and for the history-minded calls up thoughts of Marquette and Joliet. Remarkably free from commercial and residential use, the river attracts an estimated 400,000 people a year who find it a recreational paradise. Thousands of people visit the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway each year for the expressed purpose of canoeing. The river is broad and relatively shallow with numerous sand bars and islands available for breaks from paddling. The sand bars also are used as overnight camp sites. There are recreational use restrictions in the Riverway which are strictly enforced. Glass containers are prohibited on the river and all state owned lands. Each canoe or boat must have a waterproof refuse container for garbage. This may be a plastic garbage bag, cooler or other similar device. All garbage carried in must be carried out.

Some canoe routes are as follows- Sauk City to Arena (about 15 miles) 5-7 hours of paddling; Sauk City to Spring Green (about 25 miles) 10-12 hours paddling; Spring Green to Lone Rock (about 8 miles) 3 hours of paddling; Arena to Lone Rock (about 20 miles) 8-10 hours of paddling, andArena to Muscoda (about 32 miles)2 day trip. Actual times may vary according to river conditions and how fast you canoe, as well as how many stops you make.

Animals that live in this habitat are great blue heron, bald and golden eagles, sand hill cranes, deer, and an abundance of small river mammals including otter and beaver. There are also numerous turtles which are usually sitting on logs sticking out of the water catching some sun. Plant life that can be found in this area varies. The forest in the River Valley is largely a deciduous type, with occasional pine trees dotting some of the bluffs. Islands can have grasses, shrubs and woodland plant growth. Sandbars are normally largely clear of any significant growth. The majority of the river is sand bottom as well.

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