SE Wisconsin kayaking help

Looking to paddle in SE WI on rivers or lakes. Live in Milwaukee, and will do only day trips until next summer. Need some suggestions for short trips. Have already kayaked on Milwaukee River, and Door County… Does anyone have a special place that you would share?

Hello neighbor!
The Fox river is the river of choice for Canoe/Kayaks in far SE WI. Popular put-in/take outs at Tichigan, Waterford, Burlington, Silver Lake, and Wilmot. Crossing the cheddar curtain brings you to the Chain-O-Lakes State Park in Illinois.

Plenty of lakes to paddle- Michigan, Silver, Paddock, Marie, etc. I paddle every 2-4 times a week in Lake Andrea or Lake Michigan, among others. There are kayak groups for the Chicago Area and the Milwaukee area. For more info, join us at

Definitely check out the lakes
Southeast Wisconsin is chock-full of glacial lakes, big and small. Any decent map will show most of them. Most of these have remarkably clear, clean water. The shorelines are often well developed, but not always, but even paddling where houses line the shore isn’t such a bad thing at times.

If you haven’t done so already, you owe it to yourself to drive west and check out the lower Wisconsin River. In autumn it is quite empty of paddlers and power boats, especially downstream of Spring Green.

Lower Wisconsin
We paddled the Lower WI from Sauk to Arena. How is the water level now?

Devil’s Lake & Mirror Lake, Upper Dells.

– Last Updated: Sep-16-05 12:13 PM EST –

Hit Central Wisconsin as well. Since I'm a local webguy I have links for you.
Nice views, small lake about 1 mile long 1/2 mile wide. Devil's Lake is about 3 miles from my house so this is my home lake. :)

Lots of sandstone cliffs, sloughs, cranes, heron. .
Upper Dells sandstone formations are world class. Now is the time to see that since the summer crowd is settling down.

I have a few more spots, clubs etc., listed on my website as well at

Devil’s Lake

I second the prior poster’s thoughts about Devil’s Lake Barboo. I have been there hiking, and the 500 foot cliff next to the lake is super for bringing a blanket, climbing thr rocks, bottle of wine, your sweetie, you get the drift.

Question: At Wisconsin Dells, the one known to all tourists, (1) where is the best place to launch a kayak, and (2)is WI license needed for out of state yak in WI (do you have license decals for yaks), and (3) can you paddle both the upper Dells, and lower Dells/Lake Delton, just like the route of the tour boats. I have taken the tours and seen fisherman but not paddlers. Thanks for info.

Another wonderful WI paddle, of course, is Mendota and… whatever that other lake is… in Madison, WI. Wife can shop while you paddle by U of W.

I 3rd Devil’s Lake!

– Last Updated: Sep-16-05 11:39 PM EST –

Just camped, paddled, and hiked there last weekend.

I'm curious about the upper Dells myself. Where to launch and if the current allows paddling back upriver without killing myself?

Oh, and there is no requirement for paddle craft registration in WI.

Wisconsin Dells
There are a variety of launch sites on the upper and lower Dells. The trick is finding them. Upper Dells launches are ususally north on Hwy 13. Just email be off the board and I can give you specific directions. The is also a new sports shop called Vertical Illusions in the dells and they can help you find some spots as well.

The current on the uppper Dells is pretty managable due to the dam. In fact you can set up a “pick up” you can paddle to a small take out right above the dam. Once you get below the dam the current gets stronger and access get’s more limited. Mostly private land.

Waukesha County Lake

Go to the above to see a nice listing of lakes in Waukesha County. Most power boaters are now gone for the year.

Pewaukee Lake is nice this time of the year. I launch right off the beach on the east end of the lake.

Living in Hartland, I’ve been on several of the lakes listed.

Helpful Derrickam

Thanks for the Dells info. As I recall, the upper dells has more “sites” like The Shield Rock, and of course the famous Standing Rock with the jumping person (now dog). I assume we can stop there on a apaddle. Again, I do not recall any paddlers thogh, and the river is narrow at times, so I assume we much watch out fo the Ducks, the tourers, and … most of all… the lightening fast jet boat tours. That is why I wish someone would post that actually tried it. From the four or five times I have been to the Dells with my wife and two kids, the river does seem paddle-able up and back stream.

I am also wondering if I paddle Lake Delton, on the lower Dells, might I get clipped by the flying Aqua the Clown from the Tommy Bartlett show – or any of the other power boats. The don;t exactly stay immediately in front of the grandstands, as I recall (A super fun show, by the way, if you;re hitting Dells with kids).


When I kayak the Upper Dells it’s right at sun up with the plan to be off the water by 11am or so. It’s really quiet then. After labor day it all slows down as well. So now through October is a good time to be on the water. The Jet Boats and 99% of the crazies are off the water.

You can’t see stand rock from the water. There is a boat landing by it but it’s owned by the Boat tours and I don’t think they would want you to use it. :frowning:

Lake Delton is also a mess during the summer. The early spring and late fall are the only times I feel safe on the lake. Last year someone got clipped by a boat. However paddling from Lake Delton to the Mirror lake dam is nice and there is little traffic even in the summer.

I’ve been up there shooting 360 IPIX images a lot recently I have a good one of Stand Rock. If you’re interested go to and then click the two pins closest to the top on the map to see Stand Rock and that area. There is another one called “riverside” that I took right near a good lauch.

Thanks for the SE - WI help
THanks to all who reponded. We are going to Door County this weekend. Se you on the water. Thanks again.


– Last Updated: Sep-20-05 6:38 AM EST –

Thanks a million for the great ideas. I looked at all the iPix and they are fun. I really love the kitschy Dells, the putty putt. The neato-est Mickey Ds in the world. The Ducks. It is like a wonderland for kids, we have stayed at the Wilderness, the Kalahari, the Treasure Island (never there again, yuck). They are super (except Treasure Island). Now I look forward to bringing my kayak up to paddle the river. Heck, I might head on up there with my babe (sweet as all get out, but not much of a paddler) and I can kayak while she plays all day, and then toasty hibbity all night.

Cool doc, you’ve nailed it.

– Last Updated: Sep-19-05 10:47 PM EST –

Your first paragraph - I couldn't have said it better myself. It sums up why we do this. Great post.
Skol, brother.

Everybody is taking my answers!!!


I’ve not tried it yet…
but the Milwaukee River Water Trail has made a lot of progress in the past couple of years.

Upper Dells
I am curious … I am heading up to paddle the Upper Dells on the weekend of 10/01 and wondered if there is any place to camp along the river like there is further south …?

-Wisconsin Dells-
If you have at least three hours the Wisconsin Dells is a beautiful place to paddle. Stop in here at Vertical Illusions and I will personally show you areas to explore. This region is full of caves, coves and canyons. Its beautiful and I guarantee that you would be impressed.

Vertical Illusions
Hi Everyone,

My name is Easton and I just opened up a Paddle shop in Wisconsin Dells. We also do kayak tours!The area is so beautiful and I wanted to promote the sport of paddling. Stop in sometime for some free coffee, look around and grab some free advice on where to paddle and put in. The area has a lot of caves, coves, canyons and rock formations that were carved out of the Cambrian sandstone 14,000 years ago. Hope to see you around-

Your paddling partner,


Phone number
of Vertical Illusions, or do you have a website. Do you rent kayaks? My ideal would be rent one of your yaks for a leisurely 1/2 day self-guided tour (after you show the “hot spots” on a map)for an out-and-back paddle. Or do you advise rent and shuttle one-way. Upper Dells, Lower Dells, Lake Delton? Please advise.