The lightweight & compact nature to inflatable packrafts add new possibilities in shuttles, access, and routes to take.
Unless you're about paddling both down & upstream, river trips require shuttles and typically other paddlers/vehicles to do so. Using packrafts expand your options with their lightweight, compacted, & packable design. They make going on solo river trips much more possible, being able to hike or bike with your packraft for your shuttle. And you can also access non-motorized trails that run along sections of rivers, making for a nice hike/bike & paddle experience. Below are examples of trail shuttles to sections of rivers in and around Wisconsin, with shuttle & river mileage ranging from short day trips of 6 & 8 miles to multi-day trips of 42 & 53 miles that could be broken up.
IL- Des Plaines: Russell-Route 60 (T:22, R:25), Fox: St Charles-Aurora (T:11, R:11.5), Pecatonica: N Farwell-Sumner Park (T:3.5, R:7); MI- SB Au Sable: Chase-Smith bridge (T:9, R:7.5); MN- Cannon: Cannon Falls-Hay 61 (T:17.5, R:19); WI- Ahnapee: Forestville-Algoma (T:6.5, R:7.5), Baraboo: Union Center-Hwy 33 (T:4.5, R:8.5), Kewaunee: Casco Creek-Kewaunee (T:12, R:14), Red Cedar: Menomonie-Dunnville (T:14, R:15), Sugar: Sugar Trail-Decatur Rd (T:8, R:10), Yahara: Veterans Memorial Park-Windsor (T:3.8, R:5.5)
Natural surroundings and feelings of solitude are often a popular pursuit for paddlers, while also relying on roads, bridges, & other accommodations for access. So the natural scenery is typically limited or in moments & stretches. But there are still undeveloped bodies of water in places like state & national forests & parks, that may only have trail access or not even that. This is where packrafts come in. You can pack your packraft and transport it on foot or bike to bodies of water that vehicles can't reach. It's just takes some searching & preparation to know what you are in store for.
The river route & shuttle required make for a typical round trip of paddling on a river. The shuttle is just a necessity, which I hike with my packed packraft on solo river trips. With packrafts, you can branch out further from the straight forward shuttle of the same point A & B as your river access and incorporate the hiking or biking required into the overall trip route & experience. You could hop on & off the water, taking different bodies of water & roads or trails to make for a unique round trip for the day or one of several days, camping off the river or trail.
Thru hikes and lengthy river trips are very similar aside from the obvious difference of hiking & paddling. These trips require lots of planning & configuring, while keeping the packing list to the necessities which is hard when there is camping, eating & cooking, water, clothing, gear, and more to consider. And then there is the physical grind to only hiking or paddling everyday for weeks to months. But why just hike or just paddle when you could do both & switch it up along the way, which is exactly what packrafts can make possible for a thru trip.
Rivers: Spirit, Wisconsin & New Wood
Hike: Ice Age Trail & Roads
Rivers: Mississippi, Pine or Crow Wing
State Trails: Paul Bunyan & Heartland
Rivers: Manistee & Little Manistee, Bear & Pine Creek
Hike: North Country Trail & Roads