BWCA Lower Wisconsin River camping Boundary Waters Group Forum: Other Canoe Camping Locations
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      Lower Wisconsin River camping     

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plexmidwest
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06/22/2020 06:42AM  
I've always wanted to camp on a sand bar on the lower Wisconsin River and am going to try in a couple of weeks. I am thinking of putting in around Sauk City and take out near Spring Green, but am looking for advice from those of you who have done this route.

I will be camping for one or two nights and I think I have my wife talked in to it. Taking a Pescador 100 fishing kayak and a Wenonah Fisherman canoe for the gear. This will be a leisure trip with some fishing and maybe swimming.

Thank you in advance for your input!
 
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06/22/2020 09:31AM  
I have done that trip many times, although not recently. We would spend a night at the campground in Sauk City, Veterans Memorial Park, on Friday night, spend Saturday night on a sand bar and take out the next day at Spring Green at the boat landing across from the Frank Lloyd Wright estate. Always had a good time, but never spent two nights.

It's a leisurely trip and the only real hazard (and it's not much) is at the very beginning passing under the Rt. 60 bridge at Sauk City. It's pretty swift current right at that spot.
 
deerfoot
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06/22/2020 08:10PM  
Many years since I have traveled that area of the river, But I do recall arising early to paddle downstream (west) before the westerly winds started. By early afternoon we often found them to be almost too hard to paddle into. Perhaps they are less of a problem during the summer, but during the spring and fall they seemed to come up every afternoon. The river valley funneled them upstream right into our faces.
 
plexmidwest
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06/23/2020 11:38AM  
I was wondering about a shuttle for my truck only. Anyone used an outfitter to move your vehicle, or arrange for a pick up? I would think I'd like to have my truck parked near Spring Green. And are camp fires permitted?
 
06/23/2020 06:41PM  
plexmidwest: "I was wondering about a shuttle for my truck only. Anyone used an outfitter to move your vehicle, or arrange for a pick up? I would think I'd like to have my truck parked near Spring Green. And are camp fires permitted?"

We always shuttled our own vehicle from Veterans Park in Sauk City to the boat landing parking lot at Spring Green the morning of the put in.

You can have campfires but not by using driftwood. No glass bottles and 3 day maximum at any given campsite. That's about all the rules.

The current can be strong and there can be sudden drop offs if you wade out from a sandbar, so if you have little kids make sure they have a pfd on any time they get close to the water.

There also used to be a "clothing optional" beach along the route, at Mazomanie (sp?) but I think that has been closed since 2016.
 
plexmidwest
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06/24/2020 06:27AM  
We will only have one vehicle so we won't be shuttling ourselves, but I see there are a few outfitters in the area that I'm sure I could get a shuttle with.
Thanks for the tip about the drift wood...I'm sure there's a good reason, but I wonder why you can't burn it?
Nude beach? I'll surely waive in passing.
I was going to bring a tarp and 2 poles for shade.
 
OldFingers57
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06/24/2020 01:17PM  
My wife and I have done the Lower Wisconsin River numerous times. I have never heard any rule about drift wood although we usually don’t see too much of it lying around. Bring your own water as the Wisconsin has lots of sand to it and filtering is impossible. We usually buy a couple bundles of firewood. There are usually some nice sandbars just upstream a ways from Arena. There are several outfitters in the area. I know there used to be one at Spring Green that can help with a shuttle.
 
06/25/2020 10:15AM  
OldFingers57: " My wife and I have done the Lower Wisconsin River numerous times. I have never heard any rule about drift wood although we usually don’t see too much of it lying around. "

Collecting driftwood along a public waterway in Wisconsin is illegal.
 
plexmidwest
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06/25/2020 08:01PM  
Thanks for the help folks
 
plexmidwest
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06/26/2020 06:32AM  
Doug - you mention a few sandbars upstream from Arena. Would the current keep me from going upstream very far, or is the current a non issue if you navigate well? If it's easy to get to the sandbars, I may just park near Arena, move upstream for a couple of days, and return the same way without a shuttle. I'm not so interested in paddling the river as I am in camping on a sandbar. I'll explore more of the river in the future.
I think this trip turned into a solo.
John
 
06/26/2020 09:30AM  
plexmidwest: "Doug - you mention a few sandbars upstream from Arena. Would the current keep me from going upstream very far, or is the current a non issue if you navigate well? If it's easy to get to the sandbars, I may just park near Arena, move upstream for a couple of days, and return the same way without a shuttle. I'm not so interested in paddling the river as I am in camping on a sandbar. I'll explore more of the river in the future.
I think this trip turned into a solo.
John"


The current is pretty swift. I've never tried paddling upstream on the Wisconsin because it is so much fun going downstream.
 
06/30/2020 04:52PM  
The time I took our Scout troop on the WI we started at the town campground in Muscoda and another Scout group that was there said they send their older Scouts upriver from the campground to find a sandbar for a night while they keep the younger Scouts in camp to do Scout skill type work. So, I think it can be done you'll just travel closer to 1-2 mph.
 
plexmidwest
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07/01/2020 06:22AM  
I checked out some YouTube videos on sandbar camping in this area and there were quite a few. I noticed that the water in most of the videos looks like it could be paddled upstream, reduced speed as noted, but it could also be higher water next week. I also noticed campfires were all made from driftwood, even an outfitter's tutorial video for fire making showed using driftwood. I do not doubt it's a law, but I doesn't seems to be enforced.
There's a river conditions site where you can check the discharge rates at the Prairie Du Sac Dam, and it looks just above 10,000cfs.
According to Wisconsin Canoe Co: 3,000-10,000cfs (1?- 3? deep) | Typical summer conditions, plenty of sandbars and easy navigating. Sandbars are still quite large and can comfortably fit as many as 100 people.
I just need a sandbar for 1 person, not 100, but hopefully the conditions will be prime. Going to be 88 degrees with 40% chance for rain last I checked.
 
07/01/2020 04:52PM  
One of the outfitters has a page where they aggregate the various usgs river gauges and then gives a river forecast. Father's day 2 years ago me & some friends camped on the WI. It was hot as blazes out that weekend. We had a huge sandbar, and we set up camp on the downstream side where the river forked to make a perfect swimming spot for the kids.
Saturday we woke to realizing that the river had gone up a little & put a stick at the edge. We then watched the river slowly creep up from the stick all day while we sat in the stream and drank & relaxed. Late afternoon a big group of younger adults set up camp on the upriver side of the sandbar, at least 100 yards away from us.
That night it pours rain again, upstream and on top of us. 5AM the upstream group is up and hollering because the river is now passing through their campsite. When we left at 9 the next morning the river had risen to less than a foot below the downstream edge of the sandbar and the bar was now bisected into sand islands.

I guess my point is, check in once or twice with the upstream gauges just so you know what's coming (literally).
 
plexmidwest
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07/02/2020 06:42AM  
That's the thing I'm most concerned with waking up to quickly rising water. I don't mind some rain and heat at all, but it looks like they will be getting rain up there frequently in the next 7-9 days. I will keep an eye on that gauge I've been checking a couple times a day.
 
07/06/2020 02:53PM  
Found the site we were using. How could I forget this URL?
https://thebestcanoecompanyever.com/conditions/
 
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