Sugar River Wisconsin Camping?

We’re thinking about doing the Sugar River this weekend. We’re following the Paddling Southern Wisconsin book and doing both trips continuously.

My question is about camping. It looks like there are some islands above Decatur Lake. Does anyone know if it’s OK/legal to camp around there? Or are there other places to camp on the river?

I do have a reservation at a campground but we’d prefer to rough it.


Debatable Issue…
Great choice of river, I’m sure you will enjoy yourselves. I would not suggest you try to primitive camp along the shore, or on any of the small islands without the permission of the landowner. As far as it being legal….that’s somewhat of a grey area. Some say that it is if you are below the high waterline, others may tell you that islands are okay since they are surrounded by the river, which is also sometimes debatable as being public property.

Let me know how it goes and where you end up camping, I produce paddling guide books as well, the Sugar is one of our featured rivers.

Mark Morrall

Morrall River Films

My wife and I paddle that area quite often. We were just out on Sunday 5/17. We have A favorite sandbar/island that we stop at for lunch and bask in the sun but found it mostly under water and not useable. We then went on a search for another suitable spot with no luck. The lower islands would most likely be open to camping but were all very soggy/muddy, and the high ground would almost certainly be private property. I have never come across any sign of anyone camping anywhere on the Sugar.


Recently bought your River Trails of Southern Wisconsin DVD and find it a great help in planning a paddle. Nice job!


Thanks Mark!
That was random. I just ordered your DVD last weekend. We’re excited to see it and hopefully it shows up before this weekend (Amazon-Super Saver Shipping of course)!

Anyway, thanks for the information. I’m amazed at how few opportunities there are for paddle/camp/paddle trips in southern Wisconsin. State parks & campgrounds seem to be located at the beginning or end of what I would consider, a reasonable day-trip paddle. Of course, the Wisconsin River is the huge exception to that.

I did look at the Green County GIS Map and didn’t find any owner information on those islands on Decatur Lake, but then again, we probably shouldn’t take our chances.

Thanks again!

Thanks Tom!
Great info. Looks like we’re better off at Minnihaha. Appreciate it!

Other campgrounds
Does anyone know of other campgrounds near S&S Tubing besides Minihaha and CrazyHorse? The first is a bit too lawless and the second too much like the Dells. But I like to float/paddle this river and there’s a good bike trail there also.

Trempealeau River
The Trempealeau River has two small campsites between Whitehall and Arcadia (Four Seasons Park in Independence and Pietrik Park in Arcadia).

sugar river camping
Yes you can camp on the islands of the sugar river in WI. The only stipulation I found was you cannot bring glass containers for your (beverages) or any other application. Also you may have a fire to warm yourselves and cook on. I hope this helps.

SmokedCatfish :slight_smile: