With rivers like the Mississippi, Kickapoo, and Wisconsin only minutes away, it’s no wonder that Wisconsin canoeing and kayaking are popular outdoor activities in the Driftless region. Whether you are an avid outdoor enthusiast looking for a week’s adventure or a family seeking a short paddle on a sunny afternoon, you’ll find it.
Though much of the Mississippi is not suited to canoeing because of currents and commercial river traffic, the river has a canoe/kayak trail in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge near La Crosse. It’s also pleasant to ply its more gentle backwaters.
The Wisconsin River works hard on its upper reaches, with its power dams and reservoirs, but the lower Wisconsin is great for family outings because it is free of any need to portage. The sandbars and numerous islands make for great scenery and wildlife spotting.
And speaking of scenery, the Kickapoo River offers some of the best scenery around, from the forested sandstone cliffs at its northern end to the pastoral farm country at its southern flow. It’s considered one of the best canoeing rivers in the Midwest and certainly one of the most photogenic. Be prepared to negotiate a logjam or two.
What to Know About Wisconsin Canoeing & Kayaking in the Driftless Area
Canoe and boat landings are available on all of the rivers.
- On the Mississippi, boat landings can be found near Stoddard, Genoa, Victory, De Soto, Ferryville, Lynxville, Gordon’s Bay, Wyalusing State Park, and several locations in Prairie du Chien.
- On the Wisconsin, boat and canoe landings are found at Bridgeport and Wauzeka
- On the 22-mile upper portion of the Kickapoo from Ontario to La Farge, there are 20 landings, mostly at bridge locations. Landing 5 is within Wildcat Mountain State Park, Landing 10 at Rockton, and Landing 20 near the Kickapoo Valley Reserve Visitor Center. On the lower Kickapoo, there are landings at Soldiers Grove, Gays Mills, Steuben, and Wauzeka.
Bring your own canoe or kayak, or rent one from one of several canoe liveries, who also offer shuttle service. There are liveries in Ontario, Rockton, La Farge, Readstown, Prairie du Chien, and at Wyalusing State Park.