Date: May 22, 2021; Length: 12 miles; Duration: 4 hours 15 min
Planning: The Kickapoo River is located in southwestern Wisconsin and flows southwest into the Wisconsin River. Mike Svob has four trips of the Kickapoo River in his book Paddling Southern Wisconsin, which I used to plan for the 12-mile section from the towns of Viola to Readstown (he had it at 11.6 miles). Both access points occur at parks, with highway 131 running alongside the river making for an easy shuttle and transitions.
Paddling: This trip started with a steep put in from the grass banks at Banker park in Viola. The river was narrow with decent clarity, current, and enough depth to avoid scraping. Riffles occurred here and there, along with some islands and creeks coming in. This would have made for easy and pleasant paddling if it wasn’t for all the downed trees. There were plenty of tight squeezes requiring quick maneuvering and a handful of occasions of necessary scooting, hoisting, and branch or log moving to continue on by. If that weren’t enough, there was one full on portage that occurred about an hour of paddling in, with a rough improvising portage around.
Observations: This section of the Kickapoo river is fairly undeveloped with the few houses around, a ways off the river, and only a few bridges in the mix. The river was typically lined with high grass banks and deciduous trees on and off. But the big highlight here were the bluffs in the background. Wildlife spotting were also often and brought a variety, with deer, turtles, squirrels, a weasel, and some cows on the banks (though not quite wild). Various birds were also common, with swarms of small birds by the bridges, as well as groups of geese, a hawk, a couple bald eagles and ospreys as well.
Reflecting: The one negative experience to this trip on the Kickapoo river was all the downed trees to avoid, work through or portage around. And I guess the access points are kind of a challenge to get in and out of the water, with the lack of landings. But, otherwise it was a solid paddling experience from the water itself to the solitude, surroundings, and wildlife possible. If someone is up for some improvised put ins and takeouts and downed tree dodging, then this section would be worth checking out.