With hundreds of rivers and more lakes than Minnesota (yes, it’s true!), Wisconsin boasts an impressive amount of opportunities to enjoy a float or paddle and get back to nature. Check out the top Wisconsin rivers and lakes for canoeing, kayaking and tubing. And always remember safety first – make sure to have a personal floatation device with you.
There are endless options available on the Lower Wisconsin River, starting at Sauk City to Wyalusing State Park near the Iowa/Wisconsin border with trips spanning anywhere from 8 to 92 miles. For those looking to rent equipment, WI River Outings offers a great interactive online map where you can choose the length of trip (day trips to four-plus days), portage point and experience level, and the site will generate various suggestions on river trips. Whether you are new to canoeing and looking to get your feet wet or have been traversing the Wisconsin River for years, there are options for every level with gorgeous scenery along the way. When river levels are ideal, overnight paddlers have endless choices for sandbar tent camping and can enjoy a beautiful sunset as the river floats on by. WI River Outings will take care of everything including coordination of drop-off and pick-up points, transportation to your vehicles and life jackets. For more information on Wisconsin River paddling options, visit milespaddled.com.
Madison Area Lakes
Book your fun with Madison Boats and enjoy a day on the water at any of three lakes to choose from in Madison. Madison Boats has rental options on Lake Mendota with Brittingham Boats, downtown with Wingra Boats and the Edgewater area with Marshall Boats. The business offer a myriad of vessels including row boats, kayaks (single and tandem), canoes, standup paddle boards and even duck and swan paddle boats. The company also hosts events like a full moon paddle or burgers on the bay which entails a trip to the burger barge and live music on Monona Bay. A full list of events can be found at madisonboats.com.
Looking for some urban spelunking? Milwaukee River offers the perfect city day paddle. Brew City Kayak offers fun and unique tours including a Milwaukee city skyline tour, sunset and full moon paddles, a Good Morning Milwaukee sunrise tour as well as the very Wisconsin cheese curd tour, making savory stops at restaurants along the river. Tours typically run 1.5 to 2 hours, and private tours and general kayak rentals are also available. Tours fill up quickly; reservations are highly recommended. For more information, visit BrewCityKayak.com.
Known as the “crookedest river in the world,” Kickapoo is a stunning and scenic paddle featuring sandstone bluffs and beautiful out cuts made by glaciers of years gone by. Flowing 125 miles from Wilton to Wauzeka, there are plenty of options along the way. We love the section from Ontario to LaFarge, winding through Kickapoo Valley Reserve’s 3,000 acres of wildlife and beauty. Outfitter Mr. Duck’s Canoe Rental offers canoe, kayak and leisurely tubing options ranging from 1.5 to 6.5 hours. Camping options include Mr. Duck’s private campground located riverside of their property, select primitive sites on a first come, first served basis along the river or plan a stay just down the road at Wildcat Mountain State Park.
Look no further for easy, lazy river fun than a tubing trip down the Apple River, a tributary of the St. Croix River located in the Northwestern part of the state. Check out River’s Edge Apple River Campground in New Richmond providing trips down the Apple River since the early 1970’s. Trips are perfect for the entire family ages 5 and up and include a private landing area, river tubes and transportation. Day trips of approximately 3 miles are popular, but River’s Edge also provides tent and RV camping as well as tiny houses and cabins for rent.
Head north to the Bayfield area and explore the wonderment of Apostle Islands. Outfitter Rustic Makwa Den offers guided kayak tours exploring everything from Lake Superior caves to old shipwrecks. There are various options available for everyone from expert kayakers to general nature lovers. Check out Meyers Beach Sea Caves guided by a professional geologist and naturalist meandering through sandstone sea arches, caves and secret nooks or the after-dark paddle under the starry skies. Rest assured that all guides are certified for leading trips in large open water. Check out available tours at Rustic Makwa Den.