Kickapoo River - Wisconsin

Date: May 22, 2021; Length: 12 miles; Duration: 4 hours 15 min

Put In: Banker Park (Viola)

Parking area with a restroom. No landing but a steep grass bank (at this level) to put in off of.

Takeout: Tourist Park (Readstown)

Parking area with a restroom a short walk away. And another grass bank to work your way at taking out.

Paddling Experience = 3/5

The river had a decent current, with some riffles, and winded a good amount making for enjoyable paddling. The main issue was all the downed trees to squeeze pass, with a handful needing scooting and hoisting and one full on portage.

Natural Scenery = 4/5

Houses and bridges were uncommon. The immediate natural surroundings consisted of high grass banks with trees on and off, along with bluffs in the background at times.

Accessibility = 2/5

Amongst the parks for access points and bridges in between, there were no landings. Combined with all of the downed trees to avoid, hoist over, or portage around made for a low accessibility rating.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~2 feet per mile. Decent current with a few riffles.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: 
The water was a good depth, with no issues aside from a plethora of downed trees to squeeze around, scoot & hoist over, branches or logs to move, and one full on portage.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: Gauge located in La Farge, WI, about 11 miles up river from this trip's put in.):

  • USGS Number = 05408000
  • Discharge Rate = 220 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 3.4 ft

Overall Experience

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.