Baraboo River - Wisconsin

Date: June 17, 2021; Length: 7.5 miles; Duration: 2 hours 30 min

Put In: Giese Wayside Park

A parking area with a bathroom and landing making for an easy put in.

Takeout: Highway 113 Landing

A parking area with a nice landing making for an easy takeout.

Paddling Experience = 4/5

For starters, a little higher water level would be preferred here, especially with the rapids towards the end. That might help pick the current up a bit as it was often lacking. Downed trees were never an issue though nor did I have significant scraping or the need to portage, so overall it wasn't a bad paddling experience.

Natural Scenery = 3/5

Trees were the common sight early on and to end this trip but there was a whole lot of development in the middle. The town of Baraboo was very open, with several bridges and sights of parks, buildings, and even the circus, so not the most natural of scenes.

Accessibility = 5/5

With all the development in the middle of this stretch of river in the town of Baraboo, comes the perk of increased accessibility. There are several quality options in that area, while my farther out put in and takeout were just as great with the essentials of nice landings and parking areas.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~7 feet per mile. Early on there wasn't much of a current but it picked up in the second half of this trip with riffles and light rapids in the mix.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: 
The water level was just deep enough to avoid scraping at shallow rock beds, so a little more water couldn't hurt especially for the rapids towards the end.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: located at the County X bridge, about 10 miles downstream of this trip's takeout.):

  • USGS Number = 05405000
  • Discharge Rate = 270 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 7.55 ft

Overall Experience

Planning: The Baraboo River is located in southwestern Wisconsin and flows southwest into the Wisconsin River.  Mike Svob has three trips of the Baraboo outlined in his book Paddling Southern Wisconsin totaling about 20 miles.  I used trips two and three to plan for a 7.5 mile section from Giese wayside park to highway 113, which was mostly flat water with a brief stretch of class I rapids and riffles in the town of Baraboo.

Paddling: The river remained narrow to moderate in width with mostly straight stretches and a few island in the mix.  The lack of water clarity made it hard to spot boulders just under the surface.  The slightly lower than ideal water level made this a minor issue at times, while also contributing to the lack of much of a current besides during the riffles and class I rapids. So the paddling was a bit of a grind but could be much improved at moderately higher water levels.

Observations: The river had a grayish brown color, with mud and rock bottoms.  Banks of trees were common to start and end this section, plus one rock wall, with much more development around the middle where the river went through the town of Baraboo itself.  Houses, parks, and even signs for the circus were all over the place as were several bridges in this short stretch.  As for wildlife, I spotted ducks, geese, two blue heron, an osprey, owl, muskrat and big turtle.

Reflecting: This river trip has potential if paddled at a higher water level.  That will help with the paddling and excitement in the rapids but won’t change much about the overly open and developed couple or so miles passing through the town of Baraboo.  So it’s not the greatest in terms of generating a natural feel or solitude or there, but it still was a nice trip in other ways and could be even better if you time your paddle right.