One of my favorite paddling destinations here in central Wisconsin is Castle Rock Lake. Well, not exactly Castle Rock Lake, but the Yellow River where it flows into Castle Rock Lake… AND not exactly central Wisconsin, but more north-west central Wisconsin near Mauston & Buckhorn State Park. Make Sense?
At one time the twisty, turny Yellow river flowed right into the Wisconsin through what must have been thick marsh and wetlands, then in the 1940s the Castle Rock dam was built creating a huge lake backing the Wisconsin river as well as far up into the yellow river mouth. Old stumps and tree roots such as the one pictured above, are the only signs that this waterway was not always quite so wet.
Paddling the Yellow River in this area, you’d swear you were much further north. Throughout the day we saw a variety of bird life including Great Blue Heron and Wood Ducks. We also had a few amazing encounters with Bald eagles! We’d end up just floating on the water watching the eagles soaring overhead against the amazingly blue autumn sky. The horizons are filled with twisted oaks, maple and ratty jack pines struggling to make a living on the sandy soil at their feet. At the same time, the big lake can push up some big waves on a good day making for some fun, wet playtime as well.
Yesterday was a perfect fall paddling day with calm waters, blue skies and temperatures in the low 70’s. From a boat launch near a local causeway, we paddled out into the big lake for a bit before ducking under a bridge and north-west into the Yellow River waterway. Here paddlers can head north exploring the many leads, marshes and ox-bows that make up the wetland. The trick is to not get lost, and depending on water levels you may find yourself backtracking quite a bit. We pushed north a few miles through the ox-bows before finally turning back.
After lunch on the tiny “Bozo’s Island” we paddled back to the boat landing and then went for a hike on the trails of Buckhorn State Park. Um, for what it’s worth, finding the trails at Buckhorn can be a bit of a challenge!!
I often write about finding adventures in your own back yard. Here in central Wisconsin we are blessed with many, many locations where you can do just that. One minute you’re on a highway near a city and the next you may as well be lost somewhere in the UP… Oh, did I mention we’ll be in the UP next week? Sounds like another adventure!