Our first trip down the Wisconsin River began with a rendezvous point the night before our journey was to begin. Friday night after work we met my brother & his girlfriend at Castle Rock County Park on Castle Rock Lake; put our tents up, and kicked back as the sun went down.
The park is definitely a family car camping place...but we weren't expecting anything more than a place to sleep before we set out. To minimize our tear down time Sat. morning, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner out that night. I definitely recommend the Port-O-Call restaurant: it's within walking distance of the park, and has a killer Walleye dinner. We felt guilty about not camp cooking, but, heck, we got over it. The park only charges $10 / site, and we were able to walk in on a Friday afternoon and get one of the last sites.
We launched our canoes right at the base of the Castle Rock Dam. The launch is downstream-left. Our first time camping this way, we were a little cautious at first of the gear weight and balance. But, within mere minutes we realized all was well. Another couple, friends of ours, joined us for the first leg of the trip.
Lots of fishermen at the put in, and as we went down the river, lots and lots of innertubes. Most of the tubes came from the Point Bluff Resort, and that's where their trips would end.
Several large sandbars made for great lunch stops, fishing spots, and general achy breaky butt rests. The weather was predicted to be clear all weekend, we took our sweet ol' time: we were stylin'.
We stopped in at the beach by Castle Rock Resort & Campground, and hiked up to see Castle Rock. Nice rock, but I was hearing thunder... Not cool... We paddled on down another half mile or so before the storm front started in on us. Why didn't we stay at the resort?! They had a bar,... I think....!
We pulled over to wait it out. Let's see... standing 3 feet from a large body of water, and there are tall trees all around us.... great. Just great. There were innertubers pulled over 200 ft. downstream, and some across the river too. The storm lasted about an hour. The rain fell, but not too hard. We did some fishing, traded jokes with the tubers, and before too long, we were confident enough to get back in the canoes and continue down river. Then.... CRACK! I look up to see a monstrous lightning bolt scream across the sky. Being a Wisconsinite, all I could say was, "Uff-dah!" We paddled hard, and got to Pt. Bluff Resort. This time, we went into the bar to wait till the lightning was done. .... an hour and a half later, with cheeseburgers, lots of water, and a drink in us... we pressed on.
After going under the Hwy 82 bridge, we started seeing islands that looked more camper friendly than the ones up the river. We lost the innertubers, and were the only canoes on the water. There were a few small fishing boats, but nothing big, as the river's sandy bottom is unpredictably shallow in some areas. We came upon a beautiful bluff downstream right -- this marked the mouth of the Lemonweir River - where our day tripper friends and the bathtub they were paddling ended their trip. The canoe launch there (called Two Rivers Boat Landing) was a great launch, with a nice parking area.
We went less than a half-mile past that point and found our camp site. Beautiful scenery, a great big sandy island with plenty of high ground, woods, and, eww..... some previous visitors who were less than PC with their toiletry issues. I'm one to pick up bottles and cans left by inconsiderate bozos along the way... but I refuse to bury other people's doody. Plain and simple.
That being said, our campsite was great; wooded bluffs around us, interesting rock formations and lots of birds. My brother caught a 25" channel catfish around 10pm that night, the stars were shining brightly, and the beer tasted sooooo good. We tuned my little am/fm radio to an oldies station and heard Ike & Tina singin' Proud Mary. Life was good.
When we woke up Sunday morning there was a Blue Heron standing near a smaller island across the river, we saw a White Egret, and a small fishing boat was floating near the far shore, quietly casting. It looked like a Grampa and grandson had their lines in.
As we paddled on, we saw more frequent signs of development along the shores. We started looking for the take out on the downstream left shore. I'd heard it was hard to find; boy was it ever! We paddled into a couple of inlets and creeks that we thought might have contained our stopping point, but no. So we fished, and goofed off.
We had left the cars at the "Dell Prairie Boat Landing" as described in Mike Svob's Paddling Southern Wisconsin. I asked several fishermen where this was, and they had no idea. When we finally located it (mind you, we weren't worried, we didn't really want the trip to end!), we realized why the fishermen didn't know where it was: the water was so low there, we had to get out of the canoes and walk them in, past about 15 or 20 houses before we found it.
As a first camping trip - I highly recommend this one. Yes there are signs of civilization all around, but for a first time canoe camper, that's a nice safety feature. The trip was definitely kid-friendly, the water was calm, the scenery was beautiful, and there are several optional take outs to shorten the trip. Now we're ready to head up north and leave the civilized world behind on our next camping adventure!
Sandy, beachy, wooded, great. Juneau County's Castle Rock Campground, for lodging the night before: 608-847-7089. Point Bluff Resort (also has riverside campsites and canoe rentals): 608-253-6181
Wenonah Spirit II, and an ancient fiberglass something or other canoe. And, for one day a Rogue River 14 (renters can't be choosers).
From Hwy 82 (north of the Wisconsin Dells, and east of Mauston), head north on Cty Hwy Z and drive up for about 7 miles. Where Z starts to curve right, take a "left" turn onto Edgewood Drive. Follow it up to the dam. Canoe launch is to the left of the motor boat launch.
The take out is at Hwy 13 and Cty Hwy K (Plainville). This is a few miles north of the Dells.
Paddling Southern Wisconsin by Mike Svob.