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Wisconsin Canoe and Kayak Rivers
Click the river's name on the map above, or use the text links below.
Canoe and Kayak Trip Outfitters
See Canoeing Events across the state
See Kayaking Events across the state
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- Apple River
- Outfitters in and around Somerset provide rentals and transportation for this popular tubing river. The first half of the trip offers relaxed family floating. The last half features a wild rapids area with a walkway on the side for the less adventurous.
- Baraboo River
- Offers a relaxing outing with no rapids or falls. It flows 100 miles from its headwaters near Hillsboro to its confluence with the Wisconsin River south of Portage. The lower stretches flow through two wildlife areas. Access is available at road crossings.
- Bear River
- Tranquil and unspoiled, with good opportunities to see wildlife. Much of the 25-mile course passes through the Lac du Flambeau Chippewa Reservation. Upper portions narrow with steady current through pine forests; lower stretch passes through Powell Marsh narrowing again before joining the Manitowish River as it enters the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage. Low hazard riffles. Several access points off town roads.
- Black River
- While the upper portions are considered too rocky for navigation, canoeing is popular on the central stretch through Jackson and Clark counties. From Hall's Creek Landing, 13.5 miles north of Black River Falls, the river flows through quiet forests to a landing above the dam at Black River Falls. Below the dam, put in at the landing on First Street and enjoy a gorgeous 30-mile ride to New Amsterdam. Canoe rentals are readily available along the route. The current is slow and access is available at road crossings.
- Bois Brule River
- World-famous for trout fishing, scenery and exciting rapids. Trips can start at Stone's Bridge (Hwy S) and proceed upstream or downstream. Upstream, there are no rapids. Downstream trips can end at landings near Hwy B, the ranger station, or at Hwy 2. The rapids between Hwy B and Hwy 2 are more difficult than those found above Hwy B. Trips beyond Hwy 2 require another day to reach the river's mouth on Lake Superior. Note: A section below the Hwy 2 bridge contains dangerous rapids which no party should attempt unless accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. There are two state forest campgrounds located along the river.
- Brule River
- A boundary river between Wisconsin and Michigan with long stretches of slow water and low hazard rapids. Numerous streams flow into the river, and access is available at county and forest service roads. Below Brule River Dam and at the junction where the Michigamme joins the Brule to become the Menominee, the rapid increase in current combined with huge waves can potentially swamp an open craft.
- Chippewa River
- Rich in history and scenic beauty, the river is navigable for most of its length to its mouth on the Mississippi. Water levels fluctuate and should be checked locally. Access is available at road crossings. Note: Some rather long portages may be necessary.
- Flambeau River
- One of the best whitewater trips in the Midwest. The north fork provides the most stable water flow. Its upper reaches are slower and easier to paddle; the southern sections provide the challenge of rapids and whitewater. The most traveled stretch is from Nine Mile Creek to Ladysmith. Nine Mile Creek is near Hwy 70 where the North Fork flows into the Flambeau River State Forest. There are campsites and landings along the way, so a trip can last a few hours or a week. The Upper Flambeau above Nine Mile Creek and the stretch below Ladysmith to its junction with the Chippewa are also canoeable. Access is available at road crossings, impoundments, and old logging roads.
- Fox River
- Flows across central and east-central Wisconsin to Green Bay. The current is slow with large areas of lake and marsh paddling above Lake Butte des Morts. Access is available at many parks along the river. The Fox is navigable below Lake Winnebago, but recreational boat traffic is heavy.
- Grant River
- Winds through deep valleys bounded by rocky ledges and high bluffs. One-hour to three-day trips available. Frequent rapids (class I), but minimal portaging. Wide variety of wildlife and timber. Sixteen access points.
- Kickapoo River
- Known as "the crookedest river in the world," the Kickapoo is navigable its entire length from just north of Ontario to the Wisconsin River at Wauzeka. This popular river offers access at numerous road crossings. Rentals are available locally. The current is relaxing, but be prepared to make difficult portages around several dams and some dangerous log jams.
- La Crosse River
- Meandering through natural wetlands and native prairies on its way to the Mississippi River, the La Crosse River provides the canoe and kayak enthusiast with 15-1/2 miles of scenic beauty from Sparta to Rockland. This spring-fed river allows for ample water supply year 'round. The presence of an abundance of wildlife contributes to this enjoyable two-hour excursion. The official canoe landing in Sparta is located across from Fisherman's Park and a county landing is located east of Rockland at Sixth Drive. Further west, the thirteen miles from the West Salem Dam to Riverside Park in La Crosse travels through tall pine stands, small rapids and the La Crosse River Marsh. Access sites include two county landings and Veterans Memorial Park. Rental canoes are available in the area.
- Lemonweir River
- Navigable from western Juneau County (Hwy H) to it's mouth on the Wisconsin River. The current is generally moderate to slow, and portages are necessary at two dams. A number of sloughs near the mouth make it difficult to keep on the main channel.
- Little Fox River
- This slow-current waterway meanders from southeastern Wisconsin into Illinois. Access is available at county and state highway crossings. Several dams must be portaged.
- Lower Wisconsin River
- The Wisconsin River flows 430 miles across the state from Lac Vieux Desert in northern Wisconsin to its junction with the Mississippi River ar Wyalusing State Park in southwestern Wisconsin. Known as "the nation's hardest working river," it has many power dams and resevoirs, mainly on its upper and middle portions along the lower stretch with beautiful scenery and numerous islands. The southern 92 miles of the river are attractive for family outings as there are no dams to portage. Access and canoe rentals are available at many towns along the way.
- Lower Wolf River
- Although it has a steady current and wild appearance, the lower Wolf lacks the rough water characteristics of its upper stretches. Public landings are located in Shawano, Shioton and New London. In the New London area, beginners can rent fiberglass canoes and tubes for family fun on both the Wolf and Little Wolf rivers. A trip down the lower Wolf can be continued through Lakes Poygan and Butte des Morts to Lake Winnebago. The river is well-known for spring walleye and white bass fishing.
- Manitowish River
- A river for variety and fun. Flowing from Presque Isle in Vilas County, through Boulder Junction and Manitowish Waters, to the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage in Iron County. The upper portion connects 25 lakes including the famous Manitowish Chain of Lakes. With numerous access points and boat landings, and more than fifty campsites, paddlers can design trips of any length. Downstream the lower portion is steady current flowing through beautiful north country into the flowage. Great opportunities for wildlife viewing, especially eagles. Low to medium-hazard rapids and riffles. Canoe rentals and access maps available locally.
- Menominee River
- A boundary river separating Wisconsin and Michigan. The upper stretch offers fast water and difficult rapids. Many rapids and dams must be portaged. Portions of the upper river are extremely dangerous and should only be run by experts in decked boats. The lower river has a slower current with some low-hazard rapids.
- Milwaukee River
- Flows along a scenic route into the City of Milwaukee. It features a number of low-level rapids. Several dams must be portaged, During low water, travel can be difficult due to exposed boulders and bars. Access is available at parks and dams. In the city, the adventurous may canoe or kayak from below North Avenue to the mouth of the harbor, but access points are few for small craft (none from the new Riverwalk system).
- Mississippi River
- Though not traditionally a canoeing river due to its varied currents and heavy commercial traffic, the river includes two canoe/kayak trails in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, La Crosse District. Maps to the Long Lake Canoe Trail near Trempealau and the Goose Island Canoe Trail near La Crosse are available by calling the La Crosse District headquarters at 608-783-8405.
- Montreal River, West Branch
- One of the Midwest's most challenging whitewater rivers under high water conditions. Site of the 1994 ICF Junior World Championships. Water levels fluctuate greatly by season. Class II to Class V rapids and numerous falls. Lower portion flows through 300-foot-deep Montreal River Canyon. Take out at Hwy 122 near Lake Superior. Note: This river has not been officially surveyed. For expert paddlers only. Low water conditions make water impassable.
- Namekagon River
- Known for camping and fishing, the Namekagon provides lake and river paddling with some low hazard rapids. Low water is the chief obstacle, and levels should be checked locally. Access is available at towns (Cable, Seeley, Hayward, and Trego) and road crossings.
- Oconto River
- Can be paddled its entire length. The northernmost section above Chute Pond (south of Mountain) features 15 rated rapids. Water levels must be medium high or above and should be checked locally. Because of difficult whitewater and obstacles, this section should not be attempted by a novice. The river below Chute Pond continues moderately to its mouth in Green Bay.
- Pecatonica River
- The Pecatonica River and the west branch of the Pecatonica both offer a mild current and picturesque scenery including farmland, wood lots and marsh. There is no rough water, but it may be necessary to skirt an occasional fallen tree. The current slows below the junction of the rivers near Browntown.
- Peshtigo River
- The upper portion flows through beautiful Nicolet National Forest and has some of the most difficult whitewater in the midwest. The river above Caldron Falls Reservoir (Hwy C) has long and difficult rapids that require a high degree of skill. Water levels should be medium high or above. Below Crivitz, the river slows and widens in sharp contrast to its previous character. Reservoirs on the central river provide lake paddling.
- Pine River (NE Wisconsin)
- A state-designated wild river, the Pine courses through some of the most primitive areas in the Nicolet National Forest. Spring and early summer are the best times to plunge in as water levels drop significantly in the summer. Several rapids challenge the paddler and a few require portaging. For more information, contact the Nicolet National Forest at 715-362-1300.
- Pine River (SW Wisconsin)
- Popular for a relaxing trip. The upper river meanders through farmland while the lower stretch flows through a wildlife area to its mouth on the Wisconsin River. Access is available at Richland Center and a number of county roads.
- Platte River
- Navigable from Ellenboro to the Mississippi River. Frequent changes from quiet water to rapids (Class I). One-hour to two-day trips available. Eleven access points.
- Popple River
- A state designated wild river, the Popple is a river of contrasts as it flows through the Nicolet National Forest. Long stretches of still waters are interrupted by short, exciting rapids. Best water levels occur in the spring and early summer. For more information, contact the Nicolet National Forest at 715-362-1300.
- Red Cedar River
- The Red Cedar runs approximately 85 miles from Lake Chetac to the Chippewa River below Menomonie. The upper 20 miles are relatively shallow and wide with a brisk current and lots of islands -- an ideal float trip for novices and families. The lower 15 miles parallel the Red Cedar State Bike Trail. Fishing is good all along the river. Access is available at numerous county parks. Canoe rentals are offered at many towns along the river.
- Rock River
- Meanders through massive wetlands and shallow lakes amidst the rich farmland and picturesque glacial terrain of Dodge, Jefferson and Rock Counties. The east and west branches of the Rock River meet in the famous Horicon Marsh. The river then flows through both Lakes Sinissippi and Koshkonong on its way to the Mississippi River. Access points at many road crossings and in Horicon, Watertown, Fort Atkinson, Janesville, and Beloit. The current is relaxing, but be prepared to portage several dams and an occasional fallen tree.
- Sheboygan River
- The river flows from the Sheboygan Broughton Marsh to Lake Michigan. Navigable waters begin at the Marsh and flow well over 25 miles to Lake Michigan. It is necessary to portage several dams and falls. The Pigeon, Mullet and Onion Rivers (all tributaries of the Sheboygan) can be paddled at high water.
- St. Croix River
- Designated a "National Scenic River," it combines smooth water and low to medium-hazard rapids and is navigable from its source at Solon Springs to its mouth on the Mississippi River. There is, however, a dam and portage at St. Croix Falls. The lower portion (below St. Croix Falls) is open to commercial traffic.
- Sugar River
- Flows gently through forested riverbanks in the rich farmlands of southern Wisconsin. Enjoy three wildlife areas enroute. Two dams must be portaged on the upper river; the Albany Dam has a stairway, while the Decatur Dam can be by-passed to Broadhead by using the mill race waterway. The upper river is open with clearance around log jams. The lower river from the Highway 11 bridge to the state line is navigable, but be prepared to portage fallen trees.
- Tomahawk River
- Offers a medium to fast current including two difficult rapids on the lower stretches of the river. Access is available at dams and road crossings.
- Turtle River
- A relatively unknown and unspoiled river flowing 27 miles through Iron County lakes and wilderness into the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage at Lake of the Falls. Some Class II to III rapids that may require portaging depending on water levels. Portage at Shay's Dam Falls is required. Numerous public access points and state and county campsites.
- Upper Wisconsin River
- The Headwaters of the Wisconsin River flows south from Lac Vieux Desert to Eagle River where it joins the Eagle River chain of lakes and eventually, 430 miles from its source, joins the Mississippi near Prairie du Chien. The Wisconsin drains a third of the state and is interrupted 26 times by hydroelectric dams, the last of which is at Prairie du Sac. Much of the Upper Wisconsin involves flowage paddling, particularly between Wausau and Castle Rock Lake. The river supports abundant wildlife as it winds through forested shores, marshes and productive farmlands. For more information, contact the Wisconsin DNR Service Center in Rhinelander at 715-365-8900.
- Waupaca Chain O' Lakes
- A popular area for beginners. Lake paddling is available on any of the 23 connecting lakes in the Chain. For family fun, rent a canoe from area outfitters and enyoy a meandering ride down the Crystal River. The nearby Waupaca River flows gently past farms to its junction with the Wolf River.
- Wolf River
- Offers variety, with relatively calm upper stretches to exciting whitewater below Lily. The stretch below Lily is recommended for experienced paddlers and is also popular for whitewater rafting. Area outfitters provide canoe and raft rentals. Access is available at road crossings with possible take-out near Markton and Hwy M before entering the Menominee Indian Reservation. Note: Regulations on paddling beyond Markton should be checked locally.
- Yahara River
- Flows from Madison's lakes to the Rock River. Access is available on either Lake Mendoata or Lake Monona, and along the river are road crossings. Locks lead through the series of lakes, and some dams need portaging. The current is slow and additional portages may be necessary during low water.
- Yellow River
- Stream and lake paddling with a slow to moderate current and a few gentle rapids. Access is available at numerous road crossings and public landings. Note: Aquatic growth may hinder navigation in mid-summer.