Bark River - Wisconsin

Date: August 29, 2022; Length: 9 miles; Duration: 3 hours 15 min

Put In: County Y (Rome)

Side of the road parking with the dam just upstream of the bridge. The downstream right side of the bridge has a grass area, picnic table and open spot to the river for an easy put in.

Takeout: Highway 106 Bridge

Side of the road parking without an ideal place for access. I took out on the upstream right side of the bridge and walked through the rocks and tall grass to get back up to the road.

Paddling Experience = 4/5

The paddling was good. There were some riffles here and there, while the current was decent throughout. The river had a moderate width and winded a good amount. Downed trees were pretty common in the 2nd half of this section but all were cleared enough to paddle on through. I had some brief moments of scraping on shallow rock beds, but ended up making good time overall.

Natural Scenery = 4/5

There are pockets of houses early on and in the middle of this section, with a few campground areas as well. Otherwise the surroundings are all natural with grass and tree banks the sights from the river. The water is also pretty clear, while bridges are uncommon after a few early on.

Wildlife = 4/5

In three hours on the river, I came across an osprey and egret, some ducks, and at least 3 different blue herons. A couple painted turtles were spotted on logs and one deer that I spooked. Unknown animal disruptions in the water also occurred a handful of times, with the largest one happening up close.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~3 feet per mile.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: 
The water level could have been a little higher. I had some occasional brief scraping around shallow rock beds at this level.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: Gauge located off Cushman road bridge, which is about the halfway point of this section of the Bark.):

  • USGS Number = 05426250
  • Discharge Rate = 55 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 1.92 ft

Overall Experience

Planning: The Bark River is a smaller river located in southeastern Wisconsin. It flows southwest and connects several lakes before entering the Rock River. Mike Svob has two trips of the Bark River in his book Paddling Southern Wisconsin. These two trips cover the last sections of the river before it enters the Rock. The past few years I have paddled on two different sections of the Bark River farther upstream. This year I decided to paddle the Rome Dam – Hwy 106 section.

Shuttle: The shortest shuttle option was 6 miles, but I opted to take another route of 6.8 miles due to the construction happening on highway 106. I hiked this shuttle with my packed packraft & gear. The route consisted of county and back roads and only had light traffic most of the time. After two hours I arrived at my intended put in just below the Rome dam off Main street in Rome.

Paddling: Paddling on this section of the Bark River went well. The river had some riffles to start and a decent current the rest of the way, while it winded a good amount. A handful of shallow rock bed areas made for brief scraping or maneuvering around, so a little higher water level couldn’t hurt. Downed trees were also fairly common especially in the 2nd half of this section after Cushman bridge, but all were cleared enough to easily paddle on through. And for a 10-mile section I ended up making good time with just over 3 hours of paddling.

Observations: This 10-mile section of the Bark River has clusters of houses early on and towards the middle near Cushman bridge. A few campgrounds and bridges also exist between Rome and Cushman. Otherwise the scenery is predominantly natural. The banks of the river are typically a mixture of tall grass and trees and the water itself is pretty clear with sand, vegetation, rocks, and boulders in view. While I was on the water I didn’t come across any other paddlers or people off the water. Wildlife sightings included an osprey, egret, some ducks, and at least three different blue herons, as well as two painted turtles, a deer that ran off, and some unknown animal disruptions in the water.

Reflecting: This is a great section of the Bark River if you’re up for the whole 10 miles. The alternate shortened access of Cushman bridge isn’t ideal due to it being on private property and needing permission to park there. My takeout at highway 106 bridge wasn’t much better in terms of accessibility but you can make it work taking out at the rocks under the bridge. Access while on the water is solid with any downed trees cleared enough to avoid any portages, but make sure to wait for water levels of this level or higher if possible. There is also a nice mix of development and completely natural areas. So overall, I would recommend this section of the Bark River and I plan to continue to paddle new sections of the Bark in the near future.