Yahara River - Wisconsin

Date: May 15, 2022; Length: 5.5 miles; Duration: 2 hours 15 min

Put In: La Follette Park

Parking area and landing space on the right side below the Lake Kegonsa dam making for easy access.

Takeout: Riverside Park (Stoughton)

Parking spaces and low grass banks on right side before the S 4th Street dam in Stoughton making for an easy takeout.

Paddling Experience = 3/5

This was a long paddling experience for such a short stretch of river. The water is fairly flat and widens out a good amount, making it feel more like a long lake paddle.

Natural Scenery = 3/5

The middle of this section of river maintained the most natural of surroundings with trees common and open marshy areas. Houses are also prevalent early on and especially in the final mile or so entering Stoughton.

Accessibility = 5/5

The put in and takeout were easy access points, with a few other good options in the middle of this section of river. Each had parking and landing spaces, while the flatness of the river makes it possible to paddle either direction.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~1 foot per mile. Very flat stretch of water between two dams that widens out at times.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: 
The water level was high enough to never bottom out. Some stretches or areas of the river were on the edge of being too low though, especially right after the put in on the right side.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: Forton street bridge gauge, located in Stoughton and a mile before this trip's takeout.):

  • USGS Number = 05429700
  • Discharge Rate = 210 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 6.64 ft

Overall Experience

Planning: The Yahara River is known for its connecting lakes around Madison, WI, but has short stretches of river both upstream and downstream of the lakes. A couple years ago I paddled an 11.5 mile section of the Yahara that ended just before its confluence with the Rock River. So my options this time around were two different 5.5 mile sections, one upstream of the lakes and the other a section just downstream of Lake Kegonsa. The upstream section is almost always too low to paddle, so I went with this 5.5 mile section from LaFollette Park to Stoughton.

Shuttle: The shuttle is about 4 miles of roads with some trail options early on while passing through Stoughton. The more popular roads had sidewalks and bicycle lanes making for an easy shuttle, that I hiked without issue.

Paddling: There isn’t much of a current if any, with intermittent stretches of widened out water, so you have to make your own paddling momentum. It was a long two plus hours of paddling, but without any portages or getting out to walk on a positive note.

Observations: The water is pretty clear, especially in the beginning and end stretches of this section, while the banks are a mixture of trees and open marshy areas. Houses are common in the first half mile and very prevalent in the final mile or so once entering Stoughton. One bridge occurs before reaching the Stoughton area, where there are a handful more. A handful of small groups of kayakers, a canoe and fishing boat were passed by while paddling, with others off the water at the bridges or parks fishing or hanging out. Several dogs were out running around and jumping in the water, while wildlife consisted of some large fish spotted early on, several ducks and geese, a few sandhill cranes, and some painted turtles.

Reflections: This section of the Yahara River is much like a long lake, which can be convenient for access and where you want to go, but not so much for the experience of paddling from dam to dam, which I did. So it must be nice body of water to use if you live around there. I for one and content with having this be my only time paddling this section of the Yahara, but will return to other sections of the river I haven’t checked out yet in the near future.