Date: July 31, 2020; Length: 7 miles; Duration: 2 hours
The Kickapoo is a river in southwestern Wisconsin that initially caught my eye when I came across a map of a 22.5-mile section of it. Mike Svob details this whole section in his book Paddling Southern Wisconsin as well. The majority of this section of river is surrounded by the Kickapoo Valley Reserve and Wildcat Mountain State Park. So I decided to paddle a portion of it, from Wildcat Landing to Landing 12 near Rockton, with the plan to camp at Wildcat Mountain State Park that night. Getting a late start to the day, I drove over and stopped at my tent site and parked my car there. From here it was about a mile and a half to my put in at Wildcat Landing and once I got there I realized I forgot my camera. With it already the afternoon and knowing I was limited on time, I just had to accept that there’d be no pictures this time around.
Wildcat Landing had the full hook up for plenty of parking, restrooms, and a big landing, and with that came more people than normal understandably. After some quick packraft inflating and strapping down my backpack, I was officially on the Kickapoo River. And it’s an impressive one in many ways. The first thing that comes to mind are the beautiful rock formations, that I wish I had my camera for. They are a common sight and surprisingly get pretty high up there. Otherwise surroundings stayed pretty green, with a mixture of trees and grass for banks to the river. And with it in state park and reserve boundaries, I can’t recall a single house. As for access points, bridges were well dispersed almost totaling as many as miles covered, while three specific landings came up between my put in and takeout. Each was well marked and equipped with a nice landing, parking area, and restroom. All these qualities help make it a popular place to be, as I passed two big float groups and two small kayaking or canoeing groups in the two hours I was out there. With an abundance of people came less wildlife, with only sightings of little birds just off the water. As for the river itself, it had a light brown color to it and not in the muddy look, but with nice clarity. In this 7-mile section of the Kickapoo, the river winded a lot and stayed pretty consistently narrow but clear of downed trees for the most part. It had a decent current, a couple small islands and creeks coming in, and even a few riffles.
My takeout came on river right at landing 12, which would be easy to miss if it weren’t for the sign marking it, as it’s not at one of the bigger bridge access points. It was an easy transition back to land, with the landing leading up to a parking area with a restroom. From here I packed my packraft back into my backpack and made for my campsite at the state park. It took a short walk along the old 131 trail before getting back to Hwy 131. About two hours of hiking later I was back to my car and tent site, making my last transition for the night setting up my tent. Looking back on this brief trip on the Kickapoo, I am still kicking myself for forgetting my camera and look forward to returning and paddling more sections to it in that 22.5-mile stretch and maybe further downriver yet.