Oconomowoc River - Wisconsin

Date: July 10, 2021; Length: 7.5 miles; Duration: 4 hours 15 min

Put In: County K Bridge (Stonebank)

Side of the road parking with a grass path leading to the upstream right side of the bridge with a more challenging of a put in off the rocks before the water.

Takeout: Fowler Park

Parking lot with a dock and landing spot on the right side of Fowler lake, making for an easy takeout.

Paddling Experience = 4/5

Aside from some minor scraping just below the put in, the water level wasn't an issue. It helps that the majority of this stretch of the Oconomowoc is two connected lakes, which is where the grind in paddling was actually felt. Two dams also occurred, but they were both easy and established portages, so it was overall a solid paddling experience.

Natural Scenery = 4/5

There is a mixture of long grass marsh and trees in both the river and lake portions of this trip. The lakes had more development along their shores breaking up the natural feel the narrow river parts would start to create. But overall this whole stretch has nice natural scenery.

Accessibility = 5/5

With the popular connecting lakes, it not surprising that access points are frequent and well equipped. This put in was the most rustic of access possibilities in side of the road parking and no specific landing. The two dams were popular access options with parking and landing areas, just as the takeout had.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~1 foot per mile. The majority of this trip was lake paddling but the connecting river portions didn't have much of a current.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: 
The water level was lower than ideal, but it wasn't much of a factor beyond the start where there was a brief shallow rock bed before we entered the lake.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: Delafield gauge, located on the Bark River (just east of) as the Oconomowoc doesn't have a gauge):

  • USGS Number = 05426067
  • Discharge Rate = 14 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 12.34 ft

Overall Experience

Planning: The Oconomowoc River is a small river in southeastern Wisconsin that flows southwest through a handful of lakes before entering the Rock River.  Mike Svob has one trip of the Oconomowoc in his book Paddling Southern Wisconsin, which I used for a trip the year before.  This time around, I planned to paddle an upstream 7.5-mile section from county K bridge to Fowler park, which passes through two lakes and two easy to portage dams.

Paddling: The put in at the county K bridge started rough with some shallow rock beds, but that was the last of the water level issues.  The hardest aspect of paddling after that point became crossing the seemingly never ending Okauchee lake, with a wind not helping.  Following this lake came the first dam and easy portage and a much shorter partial Oconomowoc lake crossing and another dam and easy portage.  With the lakes out of the way, the remaining mile or so consisted of much less of a workout of river paddling until coming to the takeout at Fowler lake park.

Observations: The river portions of this section of the Oconomowoc and connecting lakes was very clear and showing vegetation and fish.  Other wildlife included ducks, geese, a blue heron, and beaver.  Other people were in abundance, from other paddlers and lake boaters to those on land by their homes.  Surroundings consisted of a mix of marshy long grass, trees, houses, especially on the lakes.  Several bridges also occurred on the river portions as well as two dams that were easy and labeled portages for the popular use that they get.

Reflecting: This is a cool and popular 7.5-mile section of Oconomowoc river and much more so the connecting Okauchee and Oconomowoc lakes.  It’s not for those seeking purely natural surroundings and solitude, but the waters are nice and clean, with nice natural scenery still around, and great and easy access points available.  And you can really go either direction or make whatever experience you want of these connecting lakes.