July 19, 2012

Canoeing the Kickapoo River {SW Wisconsin}

Did you know that the Kickpoo River is known as the crookedest river in the nation? There's a great canoeing stretch of the nearly 130 mile long river near Wildcat Mountain State Park where we camped this weekend.

The driftless area of Southwest Wisconsin is one of my favorite places to visit, yet this was my first time seeing the Kickapoo Valley. It's located in the counties of Vernon and Crawford, and was left untouched by the Ice Age glaciers.

The town of Ontario has proclaimed itself the "canoe capital of the Kickapoo" and that's where our group of seven rented canoes. We chose Drifty's Canoe Rental, only because it came up first in a google search. There are three other choices for canoe and kayak rentals in Ontario.

At Drifty's you pay a flat fee of $35 per canoe, and you can paddle as long as you'd like for the day. You just have to let them know which pickup point you'd like to stop at, and then watch for the numbered bridges so you know where to pull over.

We chose the 2.5 hour option and it was a great trip length. Their estimate was dead-on, and a bus was waiting for us when we arrived. I'd definitely recommend renting from Drifty's.

The section we canoed was very shallow (presumably from lack of rain this summer) and the current was slow but steady. There was a fun little area with a few rapids, and I was hoping we'd come across more, but unfortunately the one pictured below was the only one.

I really enjoy the peaceful nature of paddling when you can separate yourself from the groups that have cases of beer on their canoes. Saturdays in the summer are the busiest days on the Kickpoo and it is recommended that you arrive early to avoid congested river traffic.

We left at 10am and ran into quite a few kayakers and canoers along the way, but our group of three canoes were able to separate ourselves for the majority of the trip.

My favorite aspect of the scenery were the carved out towering cliffs of sandstone. It reminded me a lot of the Wisconsin Dells area.

Below is a photo of Chris and I in the red shirts. You might notice that I'm facing him, and that's because he was willing to paddle while I photographed our friends who were canoeing behind us :)

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