Paddle Wisconsin

I canoed forty two miles this weekend with a Sierra Club group. We launched our canoes on the Wisconsin River west of Madison. Friday’s 96 degrees nearly fried us, so we cooled off frequently in the water. People flocked to the nude beach at Mezomanie, but we paddled on the other side of the river to give them their privacy. 

After 4 or 5 hours of paddling, we found the perfect deserted island to camp –plenty of shade and no mosquitoes. We spent the evening floating in the shallow water, cooking, and playing cards. The DNR declared a fire-ban, so no campfire, and we headed for our tents early.

I heard the howls of squabbling coyotes during the night and awoke early to the cranking sounds of sandhill cranes. Perfect.

Saturday’s skies were overcast, a welcomed relief from the heat. Still, we looked forward to AC and lunch at a riverside bar. Juicy burgers and cold beers hit the spot.

We canoed 22 miles that day, passing fisherman, beer-guzzling tubers, and scout groups. No one minded the light rain in the afternoon.Tent cities sprouted up all along the river, so we stopped early to snag a good island for the night. Not much shade, but a breeze. The sun set in gorgeous reds and purple, followed by a sliver of a moon, and sandhill cranes gliding in to roost for the night, safe from predators on our island.

The rain came down during the night, but our stuff dried quickly Sunday morning. Fewer people were on the river that day. Bald eagles were a common sight. The river got so low at some points, we walked through the ankle deep water, pulling the canoes behind like a dogs on a leash. Very refreshing.

Our take-out point was at Muscoda. The shuttle driver arrived promptly at 1:00 to deliver us to our cars back in Sauk city. He pointed out potato fields, wilted corn, and fields that had been plowed under due to lack of rain. Sandhill cranes also damage the crops, so Wisconsin may permit hunting of the cranes. The birds are called “the rib-eye of the sky”.  I feel sorry for the farmers, understand the hunters, but still feel an affinity for the graceful sandhill cranes.

Even with a drought and bird damage, Wisconsin’s rolling farmland is a beautiful sight to see, especially from a canoe.

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