The summer is almost over and so is the canoeing season; however, fall is still a great chance to get out on the water before winter. Fall foliage from a canoe is a great way to view the yearly autumnal phenomenon. Four southwest Wisconsin canoe rentals can help that possible adventure become reality.
Wisconsin is a great spot to get away no matter what season. It also has some of the best canoeing streams in the country. Here is a list of four of the best in southwest Wisconsin paired with a canoe rental location to get you started. All four of these outfitters provide some of the best canoes and kayaks you can find on the market, but if you’d like to do a little more research, please visit https://www.globosurfer.com/best-canoes/.
Sugar River Outfitters is enjoying its second year in existence. The outfitter covers the Sugar River from Verona, Wisconsin to Albany, Wisconsin. Verona is just south of Madison and Albany is close to the Illinois border. This is the closest outfitter in the list to Chicago. It is only a two-hour drive.
The Sugar River is a picturesque river that flows through fields, farm areas, and forested areas. If you do the upper stretch, you have the added benefit of taking out at a beer garden. Paoli, Wisconsin is home to an amazing outdoor beer garden if you paddle Thursday through Sunday.
I paddled two days with this outfitter last year and had a great time. They added a camping option this year with a camping spot halfway between Belleville and Albany.
Read my travel blog: Sugar River kayaking to a beer garden
Moving farther north and crossing the Wisconsin River, we end up in the Driftless Region and the small town of Richland Center. This town has revitalized itself and the river in order to welcome paddlers on this relatively unknown gem.
The Pine River is similar to the Sugar River in nature; however, the one big difference is a section of beautiful bluffs south of Rockbridge. The Pine River also offers canoe camping at several parks down the river.
I paddled with Pine River Paddle and Tube in early June this year. The scenery between Rockbridge and County AA really surprised me. It was the first time I have paddled the Pine River despite visiting the area many times. I definitely recommend and will return.
Read my travel blog about my adventure: Driftless Pine River deserves your respect
Wisconsin River Outings offers the best canoe camping experience in the country as far as I am concerned. I have been canoe camping the Wisconsin River since I was ten and multiple weekend camping trips are always on my summer itinerary.
The Lower Wisconsin River Valley is a 92-mile stretch of river between Sauk City, Wisconsin and the confluence of the Wisconsin River with the Mississippi River near Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin. The river is completely sand bottom between this stretch and it is possible to camp on the sandbars when the water level is right—usually best between June and August—but it is always necessary to check beforehand. Severe flooding a couple of weeks ago in Madison has swelled the river to water levels making it impossible to camp, which is unusual this late in the season.
Wisconsin River Outings is based in both Boscobel and Sauk City and covers the whole 92-mile stretch of river. This is an experience you must try, and the river is only three to four hours away from Chicago.
Read my travel blog for more information: Wisconsin River canoe camping
Traveling farther north in the Driftless Region is the Kickapoo River. The stream meanders from Ontario, Wisconsin all the way into the Wisconsin River at Wauzetka. The premier section of the river is between Ontario and LaFarge. This is the farthest adventure from Chicago in this list. It is about a four-hour drive to Ontario.
In Ontario, there are five canoe rentals lined up along the river. I used Titanic Canoe Rental and was pleased with their operation. I pulled up without a reservation and was in my canoe paddling down the river in less than 15 minutes. They also provide a free shuttle back to your car with a canoe rental.
The Kickapoo River is a delightful river. It is similar to the Pine River, but even has more scenic bluffs and is wilder. There are no farm fields on the upper stretch at least close to the river. There are several bridges, but other than car noise, the river is beautiful, wild, and scenic. It’s also very popular, so I would recommend paddling during the week. All five rental companies sell out on the weekends, making the river a highway of canoe and kayak traffic.
Read my adventure on the river on my travel blog: Kickapoo River canoe poling adventure
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