Sheboygan River - Wisconsin

Date: August 6, 2020; Length: 11 miles; Duration: 2 hours 45 min

Put In: County JM Bridge (Johnsonville)

Side of the road parking with a clear route down to the river's edge. Once there, you can put in off some rocks in calm and shallow water.

Takeout: County TT Bridge

Takeout at a low grassy bank just before the TT bridge on river right. This leads to an easy walk back up to the bridge with side of the road parking.

Paddling Experience = 4/5

I was surprised at the experience I had paddling on this section of the Sheboygan. It had a nice established current early on and occasional riffles and a couple class I rapids. The river was clear enough to spot boulders just under the water surface and was mostly clear of downed trees.

Natural Scenery = 3/5

Deciduous trees and grass typically lined the banks. There were only a handful of houses off the water, but also a golf course close by at one point. Overall, I couldn't complain scenery-wise but it's not something I'd paddle this section of River for.

Accessibility = 3/5

Between the put in and takeout of this 11-mile section of river there were six bridges and possible access points. Some were better options than others, with actual landing areas, but you have options at least.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~5 feet per mile. Good current with some riffles.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: 
Paddling at this water level was good. There weren't any concerns of scraping nor any signs of flooding at this level. It had a solid current to it early on and still decent towards the end, with the occasional riffles and a few class I rapids. The river was mostly cleared of downed trees as well.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: Sheboygan gauge, located about 15 downriver of the takeout to this section):

  • USGS Number = 04086000
  • Discharge Rate = 345 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 4.05 ft

Overall Experience

The Sheboygan is a river that I already knew of but not one that I thought I’d ever paddle. That changed when I got Mike Svob’s book Paddling Southern Wisconsin. Here he has roughly the last 40 miles of the river mapped out and detailed for possible trips. Looking to find a decent day trip between dams, I settled on paddling about an 11-mile section from county road JM in Johnsonville to county road TT just north of Sheboygan Falls. When the day came I drove to the put in and parked there just off the road, deciding I’d paddle first then hike back.
After inflating my inflatable kayak and packing everything into it, I walked down to the river and had an easy put in off some flat rocks. Once on the Sheboygan, I noticed the reddish-brown color of the water, which had enough clarity to spot boulders and small rocks on the sandy river bottom. There was also a good amount of aquatic life or weeds scattered and throughout some sections, while it remained mostly clear of downed trees, with only a couple resulting tight squeezes. It winded a decent amount, while a couple islands occurred and at least one creek came into the river. The current was nice and established early on, with occasional riffles and a few possible class I rapids in there at this water level. At times the river widened out and slowed down and once passed by a golf course on river right. It had banks of grass and deciduous trees and only a handful of houses off the river. Bridges were aplenty though, with six occurring between my put in and takeout. Most had just side of the road parking and improvised carry in access. As for people, I spotted early one person at the J bridge either putting in or taking out, and later on passed two kayakers around the O bridge. Wildlife spottings were limited to only some small birds, a couple frogs, and a blue heron though.
So after less than three hours I reached my takeout at TT bridge, where there was a low grass bank on river right that made for an easy transition back onto land. After deflating my Sea Eagle 330 and packing it into my dry bag of a backpack, I started walking back to the put in. About 1.5 hours later I was back to my car in Johnsonville and officially ended my Sheboygan River trip. Looking back on it, the water surprised me for its color and clarity, not to mention its current and riffles to light rapids. It makes me wonder if more of this river is like this and I plan to find out, most likely paddling the section just upriver of this one in the near future.