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Backpacker Magazine – June 1999

Wisconsin River: Going With The Flow

The ambling Wisconsin River has only one speed: full-out relaxed.

by: James Campbell

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QUICK TAKE: Lower Wisconsin RiverWay

DRIVE TIME: Blue River is 150 miles (3 hours) due west of Milwaukee and 220 miles (4 hours) northwest of Chicago.

THE WAY: From Madison, take US 14 west to WI 60 at Gotham. Follow WI 60 west to Blue River. The landing is on the north side of the river, on WI 60 less than 1 mile east of the bridge at Blue River.

WATER TRAILS: The Lower Wisconsin Riverway, as the river is known below the dam at Prairie du Sac, divides into three sections: the Upper, the Middle, and the Lower, where you can sometimes canoe for a full day without seeing a soul. The 29-mile Lower section, between Blue River and Bridgeport, is a two-day paddle. Add the Middle section and it becomes a four-day outing. Camp on the sandbars or public islands.

CAN'T MISS: In the Middle section, downriver from Spring Green, be sure to pull over for a walk through Avoca Prairie, the largest native tallgrass prairie east of the Mississippi.

CROWD CONTROL: Weekends on the Upper section can get crowded. For solitude, the rule of thumb is the farther west of Madison you go, the better.

PIT STOP: Wisconsin's Friday night fish fry tradition lives on at the Blue River Cafe in Blue River.

WALK SOFTLY: Paddlers are required to carry waterproof sacks for their trash. Glass containers are strictly prohibited.

MAPS AND GUIDES: An excellent series of maps detailing scenic and historic highlights is available through Tower Hill State Park (see the address below).

MORE INFORMATION: Tower Hill State Park, 5808 CTHC, Spring Green, WI 53588; (608) 588-2116. For canoe rental and shuttle services, call Bob's Riverside (608-588-2826) for the Middle section, and Rent-A-Canoe (608-375-5130) for the Lower.

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