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