Rock River - Wisconsin

Date: July 7, 2019; Length: 21.3 miles; Duration: 6 hours

Put In: County CW (Kaul Park)

Small parking area off CW with easy access to the river.

Takeout: Willow St (Watertown)

Small ramp on river right just before the dam for an easy takeout. Side of the road parking.

Paddling Experience = 2/5

The river was slightly flooded out in some sections and lacked much of a current most of the way. The paddling felt similar from start to finish, with it being more of a workout than anything.

Natural Scenery = 3/5

Deciduous trees usually lined the banks of the river, but beyond that was open area. There were several bridges and stretches of houses along the way.

Accessibility = 3/5

In this 21-mile section of river there are a few parks early on, then a handful of bridges. The parks have parking and landing areas while the bridges are more rustic access points.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: Less than 1 foot per mile. Mostly flatwater.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: This was a good water level to paddle at. There weren't any instances of needing to portage as it wasn't too shallow. And it wasn't too flooded, as this river gets, with no confusion over where to paddle.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: Watertown gauge, located at the end of this stretch of river):

  • USGS Number = 05425500
  • Discharge Rate = 1600 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 3.5 ft

Overall Experience

This marked my first solo river trip with my Sea Eagle 330 inflatable kayak.  So going into this Rock River outing, my main concern was over how my inflatable kayak would fair on a river when it came to unseen downed trees or rocks.  But what I ended up overlooking instead were my specific put ins and takeouts and general river navigating.  I got on the river a little before noon after some uncertainty of the exact put in location to Harnischfeger county park.  My first mistake here was thinking Harnischfeger and Kaul parks were connected, based on how it looked on Google maps.  I put in at signs for Kaul park, which I didn’t realize was about 4-5 miles down river of Harnischfeger.  With the initial intention of paddling from Harnischfeger to Kanow park, about 10-11 miles, I arrived at Kanow park way earlier than made sense to me at the time (not factoring in the closer put in).  Not thinking it actually was Kanow park my takeout, I continued paddling on passing a handful of bridges but no sign of my takeout, which I unknowingly already passed.  As the time was passing I was becoming convinced that I must have passed it and what finally confirmed this hunch was a water tower labeled Watertown, the next town over.  So realizing my takeout mistake (I realized my put in mistake later when looking at Google maps again), I took out at a small landing in Watertown just shortly before a dam.  It was a much longer walk back with my heavy deflated kayak bag uncomfortably carried back to my place, where I then biked back up to my car to complete a triathlon of sorts for a river trip’s logistics, all while racing the setting sun.

As for the river itself, it was a good one to start with.  A local to me river without serious hazards to maneuver, with calm waters to make for easy handling while paddling.  It winded a decent amount, especially in the second half of this stretch, and often passed through undeveloped areas making for some solitude with opportunities to spot some wildlife in the often wooded banks of the river.