Turtle Creek - Wisconsin

Date: July 2, 2021; Length: 9.5 miles; Duration: 3 hours 45 min

Put In: Spooner Park

Parking lot with a bathroom and an open grassy landing area on the left side of the water making for an easy put in.

Takeout: Highway 140 Landing

Parking lot with a path leading to an open landing area on the upstream right side of the bridge making for an easy takeout.

Paddling Experience = 4/5

With the pretty flat gradient and creek label, I was't expecting the most thrilling paddling experience going in. The current was decent at times and otherwise lacking. And the water level could have been a little higher as I had some minor scraping issues at times. But overall not a bad time paddling.

Natural Scenery = 5/5

There were about a handful of bridges between my put in and takeout and about the same amount of houses scattered. The river banks were a mix of tall grass marsh and trees, while the water itself had plenty of vegetation adding to the natural scenery.

Accessibility = 5/5

My put in and takeout were ideal with parking areas and big open landings. But you aren't limited to these two, as there are four other access options in between. There is a good mix in quantity and quality for accessibility.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~1 foot per mile. It had a decent current that dropped off at times, while a little higher water level could pick things up further.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: 
The water level was on the edge of being too low. Shallow rock beds had to be avoided at times, while momentary scraping and one instance of full on scooting occurred.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: located at the Carvers Rock Rd bridge, about two miles before this trip's takeout.):

  • USGS Number = 05431486
  • Discharge Rate = 76 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 3.61 ft

Overall Experience

Planning: Turtle Creek is located in southeastern Wisconsin and flows southwest a ways before entering the Rock River just south of the Wisconsin-Illinois border.  Even though it’s a creek, there are plenty of paddling options with enough width and depth and recurring parks for access.  I chose to plan for about a 9.5-mile section from Spooner Park to the highway 140 landing.

Paddling: Turtle Creek surprised me with its decent current most of the way, dropping off at times.  The creek started narrow and winded a good amount but gradually widened, with other creeks coming in.  Rock beds became more common as well, while the water level could have been a bit higher for comfort with some scraping occurring.  Besides the low water, one tight pass around a downed branch as required.

Observations: The creek had very clear water, showing sand, vegetation, and rock bottoms throughout.  There were also a handful of islands, often linked with shallow rock beds and some unavoidable scraping at this level.  The banks of the creek were a mix of marshy tall grass and trees.  Houses were few and scattered in the second half of this section, with about as many bridges.  Other paddlers were more the common occurrence, as I came by four other small groups.  As for wildlife, I spotted three blue heron, some ducks, a turtle (rightly so with the name), several fish (one rather large), clams, and a deer that crossed the creek a ways downstream of me only to bolt right back across as I neared and spooked it.

Reflecting: I didn’t have high expectations going into paddling this section of Turtle Creek but left having a solid time on the water.  I figured to have no current, lots of issues with too low of water level and improvised access points, while each of these areas were positives.  I would recommend this section of Turtle Creek to other paddlers just looking for a fun relaxing time, while I may check out another section of it myself further downstream at some point.