Root River - Wisconsin

Date: July 4, 2021; Length: 4.2 miles; Duration: 2 hours 30 min

Put In: Mile 7 Bridge

Side of the road parking with grass paths to the downstream right side of the river, making for a manageable put in.

Takeout: Caledonia Dog Park

Parking lot with paths leading about a quarter mile or so to the left side of the river making for a less than ideal takeout because of the trek.

Paddling Experience = 2/5

If I could do this trip again I would put in one bridge downstream because of a full on blockage about a half after 7-Mile bridge that was a rough portage. And I would wait until the water was at a higher level, as I did more scraping, scooting, and walking than paddling the rest of the way, with an early takeout occurring because of this.

Natural Scenery = 4/5

Bridges were more common than houses, with both sparse between my put in and takeout. Trees typically lined both sides of the narrow river to give it a natural feel while near an urban area.

Wildlife = 4/5

There were a variety of birds, from typical ducks and geese to blue herons, bald eagle, osprey, and two owls. I also small fish and lots of crayfish in the water as I was walking several shallow stretches.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~2 feet per mile. Besides the shallow rock bed riffles, there wasn't much of a current but I'm sure the low water level in factored in there too.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: 
The water level was much too low! Besides a short moment of relief between the second (5 Mile Rd) and third (4 Mile Rd) bridges, all it felt like I was doing was scraping and scooting to getting out and walking, with the worst of it occurring right before my improvised takeout at Caledonia Dog Park.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: located in Racine WI, about 7 miles downstream of this trips' takeout.):

  • USGS Number = 04087240
  • Discharge Rate = 25 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 2.36 ft

Overall Experience

Planning: The Root River is a smaller river located in southeastern Wisconsin and flows southeast through mostly urban areas before reaching Lake Michigan.  Bridges frequently occur, making for a variety of access points and trip possibilities.  I chose to start at Mile 7 bridge and take out at the highway 31 bridge, about a 7 mile trip, but low water level struggles ended my paddling earlier than I planned.

Paddling: This was a rough one.  I should have looked more into the water levels before attempting to paddle this section of the Root river and paid for it in paddling on a nonexistent current, scooting and getting out to walk repeatedly, and eventually cutting my losses and ending the trip short where I could.  The water level was an issue early on but become an unavoidable one after 4 Mile bridge, where a series of rock beds and riffles occurred and I’d have to do more walking than I could paddle.  Outside of the low water level, there was also a full blockage that I had to portage about a half mile after putting in at 7 Mile bridge.

Observations: I wasn’t much in the observation mode with the paddling struggles I was experiencing, but recall trees typically lining both banks, no houses but some private property signs, and three bridges about a mile or so apart.  There weren’t any other paddlers, but I did come across two blue heron, a bald eagle, some ducks, an osprey, some geese, two owls, and some small fish and lots of crayfish, which I eerily noticed while I was walking my way through the extra shallow spots of river.

Reflecting: The most obvious and impacting thing here is making sure the water level is much higher than it was for me on this trip.  If you can time it better, this could be a nice paddling experience with the narrow river often surrounded by trees and having some fun riffles to it.  But I’d also try to avoid the major blockage between 7 Mile and 6 Mile bridges, so maybe putting in at 6 Mile instead.