The town of Ontario is a popular spot for exploring the Kickapoo River by canoe or kayak. The river is well known for being a relaxed and safe river for paddling. Great for families and first time paddlers. It’s meandering path will twist and turn through Wildcat Mountain State Park and the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. This is a beautiful and highly accessible river, where tipping the canoe isn’t a bad thing, as you’re often in knee deep water. In fact on a hot day, it’s recommended.
Where to begin? There are several outfitters in Ontario including Drifty’s Canoe Rental and Titanic Canoe Rental, both with convenient shuttle services. Saturdays can be busy, you may want to arrive early.
Boscobel is a good place to put your kayak into the Wisconsin River. For the adventurous spirits, bring along your camping gear and pick one of the many large sandbars in the river for an overnight under the stars. WI River Outings can help you plan the trip. No dams, no rapids, just flat water and one of the longest stretches of navigable water in Wisconsin makes this a popular river for paddling. The lower 92 miles to the confluence of the Mississippi, are protected for recreation and wildlife habitat.
Where to begin? If you choose to camp the sandbars, it’s free, but there is a 3 night maximum. There is also free overnight parking at numerous landings. Be sure to keep an eye on the weather, as the river levels can change pretty dramatically.
Paddling the Mississippi River may seem daunting. It is a fast moving river for commerce, where barges and pleasure craft abound. But outside of the main channel, the Mississippi can be a delightful and beautiful place to paddle. Luckily for us, the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge has created maps of canoe trails and canoe areas in the backwaters and sloughs of the Mississippi. The trails are marked for difficulty, so you can easily choose the path that’s best for you.
Where to begin? Ambro Slough Canoe Area is easy paddling near Prairie du Chien where only electric motors are allowed, keeping the area serene. Or if you would like a bit more of a challenge, the Goose Island Trail is moderate paddling where you’re working against the current for a portion of the trip.
You’ll appreciate having some basic gear with you when you hit the river. Of course life jackets must be on the list, but having some other basics on hand may make your trip more comfortable. Dry bags for your phone and camera can be your best friend on the water. Sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and bug spray should be brought along as well a small first aid kit to take care of any cuts or scrapes that happen on the trip. Don’t forget any prescription medication. Wear appropriate clothing, just assume you’re going to get wet. Bringing along some extra clothes to change into if you do get soaked, might be helpful and keep you from getting chilled.
Bring a snack or a picnic lunch and remember to pack a little extra food in case you’re delayed, it won’t take up too much of your space, and you may be glad you have it. Remember, crackers, bread – those go in the dry bag. And of course, the map, so you can easily find your take out point. A compass might not be amiss either.
Always remember to take out what you bring in. Help keep the rivers beautiful and don’t leave your litter behind. Plus, glass is not welcome on the rivers, be sure your beverages are in cans or reusable bottles.