Thursday, June 11, 2015

Blackhawk to Wyalusing State Park

It is roughly 83 miles from the Blackhawk landing to the Mississippi River, and another 3.5 miles to the Wyalusing landing.

Actually, the exact distance from Blackhawk to the Mississippi might be closer to 90 miles, only because of all the criss-crossing you have to do on the Wisconsin, paddling around islands, sandbars, and trying to stay in water deep enough to float your boat.

And, while it is possible to access the Wyalusing landing by going through a dense backwater slough area, if any of the guide signs were down, it's extremely easy to get lost and confused in these sloughs.  We just prefer the clearer route of going down the Mississippi and backtracking up along the railroad tracks to the landing.

Now, all that said, this is not a trip I would recommend to anyone that does not consider themselves a strong paddler.  We're not necessarily talking speed as much as endurance.  We've done this trip twice already, and on our next one (hopefully this summer) we're planning on 4 days and 5 nights.  That means paddling about 21 miles a day, which is really not that bad; it's about 5 hours of paddling a day.  We prefer to use fingerless bicycling gloves to pad our hands.

But here's the catch (there's always a catch, you know that):  the Wisconsin River runs basically east-west, and even on a good day, a slight westerly breeze starts to pick up mid-morning.  Even though the river flows at a steady 3 mph and even mild paddling will get you moving at 4-5 mph, you're usually bucking a breeze, and hopefully it's just a breeze.  Bucking anything like a 10 mph wind is not fun.

So, what that means is, ideally one should break camp by 7-8 AM and get going.  You don't have to pound it, but it's best if don't dally, because you're going to take at least a couple breaks along the way and you still want to pick out a good camp site before dusk.  That way, you've got plenty of time to relax and play at the end of the day, scrounge firewood, wind down, and rest.  Also, as you approach the end of the Wisconsin River, the water level comes up a bit due to meeting with the Mississippi, and there are considerably less camping spots.  Plenty of islands, yes, but they have no open sand areas and plenty of bugs and poison ivy.

And, on any kind of group trip, it's usually best if you keep the group together, just in case there are any kind of problems….and trust me, on an 80-90 mile journey, you can count on SOMETHING not going according to plan.

The good news is, we know where all the usual good camping spots are, plus all the supply stops, if anyone needs anything.

This is a great trip.  The scenery is beautiful and there's very little development along the river.  But again, I would not recommend it as a first time trip.

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