17 Miles of Wisconsin River

Blue Sky and Miles of River in Front of Me

Yesterday we got out kayaking for the first time this year.  Seems late, but with all the time we’ve been spending at the farm working on weekends, we haven’t even purchased State Park stickers.  I tried yesterday on the way to one of the boat landings, but the office at Tower Hill State Park was closed.

With a forecast proclaiming a 50% chance of thunderstorms we decided to take our chances.  We got out pretty early and arriving at the Hwy 23 Landing near Spring Green around 9 a.m. to drop off a car since we were planning to take out there, we found only one other car in the lot.  Most times I’ve been there it’s been busy.  Sometimes really crowded.   I took a couple of pictures including one of the sandbar slightly upstream from the landing.  No people.

Nobody swimming at 9 a.m. Much different at 4 p.m.

I should have snapped another one when we got off the river.  At 4 p.m. in the afternoon, with the temperature  close to 90 degrees, the sandbar beach was packed.  On the drive out to Spring Green and on the drive up to the Town of Mazomanie landing, I noticed lots of dame’s rocket blooming on the road sides.  Actually, I’ve been seeing it pretty much everywhere I drive as well as along the bike path.  I also noticed that the wild parsnips were starting to bloom.  Makes me wonder what will await us at the farm next weekend (my mind is never far from there, but this was a day for kayaking).  As we neared the Mazo landing, we passed half a dozen vehicles with roof racks but no boats going the other way, so I wasn’t surprised to see one person and a lot of boats staged to get in the water.  I wondered how far they were planning on going.  They looked like they were packed for camping.  We unloaded our stuff, paid the $2 fee for parking and we were quickly on the river.  We never saw them again.

We’d debated a 10 mile trip or a 17 mile trip, considering the landings at Mazomanie, Arena, Hwy 14, Spring Green and Lone Rock.  D. was going to have to get up at 3 a.m. to work on Sunday morning, so I wanted to be sure that he was behind the 17 mile plan, whichever part of the river he picked.  The 17 miles that we picked was the first 17 miles of the solo trips that we each did a couple of summers ago.

Still kind of cloudy as we approached Cactus and Ferry Bluffs

Soon after we were on the river, we approached some high exposed bluffs on the right side of the River.  Cactus Bluff and Ferry Bluff rise 300 feet above the river.  We’ve been up on top of both of them before enjoying the sweeping views up and down the river.  As we floated down the river, we saw a few large birds, maybe ospreys, sitting in trees, many turkey vultures soaring on thermals, a few Canada geese flying around and about three sandhill cranes flying across the river.  Not a single heron and no eagles flying.  They must all be busy with eaglets and heron chicks.

The water was cold this early in the year. The turtles were reluctant to leave the logs.

Later we came to a part of the river where there was a lot of deadfall and there were many turtles of all sizes.

Wild Blue Phlox along the shore. Note the 5 petals.

We did see a fair amount of dame’s rocket along the river, but at one point, I thought I saw some phlox.  We passed that island too quickly and the next time I thought I saw it, I made sure to get over and examine it more carefully.  Sure enough.  Wild blue phlox, a delicate and beautiful spring flower often found at the edge of woodlands and not the all too common exotic invasive that is dame’s rocket.

While they day started out cloudy and it looked like it might have been storming to the south, storms never did materialize where we were and eventually we started getting longer periods of sun and eventually saw the edge of the clouds to the west.  One time when we got out of the kayaks to take a break for a while, the sand was hot enough to burn feet, but we found a spot in some shade and set down the tarp so that we could have a snack and something to drink.

An eagle perchs on the nest, another higher in the tree

Eventually, we started to approach a stand of pine trees on one side of the river and I started to anticipate the eagle’s nest that I located a few years ago.  I think this one is in a large oak tree though many of the nests along the Wisconsin River are in cottonwood trees.  We were still too far away to see it clearly, but I noticed a dense spot below the crown of the tree.  I then started watching the tree very carefully.   There was an eagle sitting on the nest and another sitting higher in the tree.  I’m glad to see that the birds are nesting there again this year.

It would have been great to stay out overnight.  I hope to have a kayak camping trip soon.  We both talked of doing the 80+ mile trip as a solo trip again.  It won’t happen for either of us this year.  When we each did it a few years ago, D. went in July and finished the trip with three days of paddling and I think just two nights out.  That’s a grueling pace that I couldn’t have sustained.  I think if he had an extra day, he wouldn’t have to work so hard and might remember it better and enjoy it more.  I took my trip in the third week of September and expected cool weather.  Instead the temperature topped 80 every day and I took an hour off in the middle of the day.  I was out for four nights.   For me, that was the perfect number of nights out.  I’d like to try it earlier in the year when the days are longer.  Maybe we’ll work on making this possible for each of us next year.  This summer is just too full of plans already.

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This entry was posted in Biodiversity, Ecology, Invasive Weeds, Kayaking, Wisconsin River. Bookmark the permalink.

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