About the River
An Ice Age-Old Tale. At 435 miles, the mighty Wisconsin River flows from edge to edge in the state. A tributary of the Mississippi, the Wisconsin flows out of the Lac Vieux Desert, a spring-fed lake in the north near the boarder with the UP. The river you see today was formed in several stages due to glaciation during the last ice age; the upper river was formed from glacial meltwater runoffs, which slowly carved out the river as the glaciers retreated northward. Retreating glaciers also left in their wake what was known as Glacial Lake Wisconsin: a prehistoric body of water held in place by a dam made of ice. When this damn broke due to temperature rise, a great flood that emptied the lake in two weeks carved out the Wisconsin Dells and the Lower Wisconsin River. Our stretch of the river – the 92 miles spanning from Sauk City to the Mississippi – runs through the Driftless Area: an expanse of land through Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and a small corner of Illinois that was completely free of glacial influence. This makes it the oldest formed span of the river. Because of this, our river winds through rolling sandstone hills and exposed cliff overhangs, dense wooded lowlands and wide open prairies.
A Native Name. The great Wisconsin River is the namesake of our midwestern state, and its name took a rather winding path not unlike the one that the river itself flows today. The name Wisconsin can be traced back through French explorers and even further to the Natives of the area, who referred to it as Meskousing, meaning, roughly, “river running through a red place.” The red place, of course, referring to the red sandstone bluffs of the Wisconsin Dells. From Meskousing, it became “Misconsing,” and then, through a misinterpretation of a cursive letter, became “Ouisconsing,” and occasionally “Ouriconsing,” “Ouiscousen,” or “Ouiskonche.” Eventually, the word fell into the hands of American soldiers and thus, Wisconsin was born.
A Protected River. In 1989 the last 92 miles of the Wisconsin River was protected from development by the State of Wisconsin and is now managed by the Lower Wisconsin Riverway Board. Because of this forethought, you’ll see very few houses along the tree lined shore during your trip and views of bluffs in the distance are unspoiled. The Wisconsin River is on the migratory route of many birds that fly between Canada and points south. We are lucky enough to have large populations of Bald Eagles, Sand Hill Cranes, Blue Herons, King Fishers, and many other water oriented birds make the Wisconsin River their summer home. You’ll also see turtles sunning themselves on logs along the rivers edge, raccoons, beaver, and even otters.
What are the current Scout/Nonprofit rates?
I’m planning on having a large group trip, do you have any tips to help me organize the trip?
How far can a group of 12+ aged kids get in a day at a leisurely pace?
Is camping 3 days/2 nights too much for a first time trip?
How does the reservation and payment process work?
If we paddle from noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday, is that a one day rental?
How many miles should we expect to cover? Where should we put in and take out at?
I want to fish during my trip, where can I purchase a fishing licenses and what can I catch?
TipsIn “normal” water levels in July and August, fishing in the early morning and evening should be pretty…dare we say, “easy.” Look for a sand bar drop off and work it. If you can find some structure, like a downed tree, even better. We’re big fans of Mepp’s (or single blade spinners) for small mouth and jigs for walleye and sauger – live bait is also an option. You’ll also find catfish, strippers, musky, northern, sturgeon and a whole bunch of others. Here are some additional tips. Unless you are an accomplished fisherperson, we HIGHLY recommend you bring other food options with you and if you catch any fish you
Fishing LicensesRight across the street from our shop is Tall Tails, they sell fishing/hunting licenses as well as adult beverages (no glass on the river). Remember, the person buying the license needs to be present to purchase a license which may not be the case if you drop your people off at your put in upriver. Buy online, will be the best option for most folks. it’s a simple process and you can print or keep the proof of purchase on your cellphone, if you bring it with.
What’s the interior dimensions of the canoes? What’s the largest cooler we can bring?
What’s earliest/latest we can start/finish our trip?
Do you have other gear for rent that will make our trip more comfortable?
Do you have a “packing tips” video I can watch?
Do you have any menu suggestions?
Really? We get to camp in the middle of the river, on a sandbar? Do we need a permit?
If I own my own canoe/kayak, will you transport it for me?
Will you transport my inflatable watercraft/paddle board?
How should we handle water during our trip?
How can I reduce the amount of trash I have to deal with on the river?
- PLEASE, recycle what you can!
- If you’re passing the Muscoda or Blue River landing – they still provide trash cans. Lighten your load along the way ditch what you’ve got there.
- We see it all the time, a customer shows up with their brand-new do-hickie and it’s still in the retail packaging. Recycle the packaging at home, otherwise you just added to the amount of trash you’re hauling around.
- If it came in a cardboard box…burn it. PLEASE don’t burn plastic packaging – you will be ticketed for burning trash/littering if the DNR rolls up on your campsite and they find residue in your fire.
- Water bottles – Don’t buy the 24 pack of individual water bottles, buy two 1-gallon jugs. Better yet, the ultimate recycle/reuse, buy a Jerry Can and fill it up and dispense into smaller individual bottles like a Nalgene. WRO also rents Jerry Cans.
- Food Prep
- We’re big believers in preparing meals at home and simply warming them up on the river – this will eliminate a HUGE amount of trash by not going through the prep process while on the river.
- Avoid individually wrapped food/snacks inside a box…and bringing the box on the trip. Not only does it take up space at the start of your trip, you also end up adding to your trash heap at the end of your trip.
- Adult Beverages – NOTE: we’re not advocating alcohol consumption on the river, but we’re not naïve enough to think it doesn’t happen or suggest you stop doing it – so here’s some practical suggestions.
- Create a recycling bag of JUST aluminum – there are several organizations within Boscobel that would love to have them.
- Reduce the volume you bring on the river in the first place – your objective should not be about getting PLOWED, it’s unsafe. Our opinion, it should be about a wee buzz, not getting tanked.
- Consider liquor instead of the volume of space needed for beer (this will save cooler space as well as trash). Remember – NO GLASS!
- Final tip – bring a high-quality trash bag! Generally, an inexpensive trash bag means thin plastic that can easily be punctured. A punctured bag is a leaky bag! If you can, go with a heavy-duty contractor 3 mil bag and you won’t be dripping all over the place.
How does transportation work? How do we get back to our car?
- 2 or more canoes in your group
- Or, you’re paddling with a dog on the weekend
- Go directly to your put in (boat landing, launch, starting point), directions are in your email confirmation or click here for access to website directions pdf.
- Drop off ALL people and gear – be sure not to miss anything.
- ONLY the driver (this helps us move as many canoes as possible with as few people) will continue downriver to Boscobel (715 Wisconsin Ave, Boscobel, WI 53805, 608.375.5300) – included in directions.
- We’ll get you checked in at the shop and get you up river as shuttles become available.
- We’ll drop your car at the boat landing in Boscobel on our way upriver so it will be waiting for you at the end of your trip.
- Come directly to our shop at 715 Wisconsin Ave, Boscobel, WI 53805.
- We’ll get you checked in.
- We’ll move your gear to our vehicle and get you on the next available shuttle.
- We’ll drop your car at the boat landing in Boscobel on our way upriver, so it will be waiting for you at the end of your trip.
- Arriving at our shop at 9 AM will get you on the first shuttle up river up river at 9:30 AM.
- Having ONLY the driver arrive, saving space in our vehicle, will get people up river faster.
- This can change from one Saturday to the next but be aware – arrival between 10:30 and noon will cause delays in getting you upriver because that’s the time that the bulk of our customers tend to arrive (and we’ve already got vehicles that are upriver and need to wait for their return).
- Arrive at the shop ready to go…trips to the store, bait shop, etc. will delay you and possibly a vehicle ready to leave the shop.
- Double check your car…a lot of people forget their tents or other small gear.
- PLEASE, carpool. Again, it will help in getting you on the water faster…and saves fuel.
What are your Top 5 Tips if I’m a new canoe-camper?
- If you’ve never canoe camped before, choose a shorter trip than you might otherwise. Especially if you’re planning for a group, you’d rather finish the trip wishing you’d done more than thinking it would never end.
- Don’t over pack! Take some time to plan the packing for your trip and watch our Packing Video and see our Packing List.
- Bring jugs of water (1-7 gallons) rather than a bunch of small plastic bottles. Water jugs:
- reduce the amount of trash you produce
- can act as ballast in your canoe
- it’s the right thing for the environment
- Remember, the Wisconsin River is a Pack In, Pack Out river. You will need to take your trash with you at the end of your trip as there are no trash cans at the boat landings – get some tips.
- Be sure to understand our transportation process. We’ll be able to get you on the water more efficiently if you follow our process.
- It will be quiet except for the birds chirping
- Little to no wind first thing in the morning
- The colors can be amazing in the morning sun
- Beat the heat!
Do you have a packing list available for overnight trips?
- Sunscreen and lip balm w/ SPF
- Sunglasses, polarized
- Insect repellant and itch relief
- Book, cards, game
- Toiletries – toothpaste and brush, deodorant, etc
- Head lamp, flashlight
- Fire starter
- Toilet paper
- Baby wipes
- First aid kit and prescription meds
- Water bottle
- Hand sanitizer
- Saw – PLEASE leave the hatchet at home
- Ball, frisbee, whiffle ball/bat, sand toys
- Camera, binoculars
- Fishing gear, license
- Trowel or shovel
- Rain gear
- Wide brim hat
- Swim suit
- 2 t-shirts
- Something dry to wear to sleep
- Long sleeve lightweight shirt and pants to keep the sun off you
- Lightweight jacket and stocking cap
- Sandals or wet shoes
- Tent w/ drop cloth (if it’s dry when you put up your tent we recommend you NOT put a drop cloth down also, insure you have your rainfly and stakes)
- Sleeping bag & pillow – if possible a 32 degree plus bag
- Sleeping mat
- Camp chair/Crazy Creek stadium chair
- Shade fly – tarp, canopy
- Rope or line
- Stove and fuel
- Matches or lighter
- Water jugs
- Pots and pans
- Cooking utensils, can opener
- Eating utensils
- Plates, bowls, insulated mugs
- Coffee pot or French Press
- Bowls and strainer
- Cutting board
- Trash bags
- Biodegradable soap
- Paper towels
- Collapsible table
- Hot pad(s)
- Trail mix
- Granola bars
- Dried and fresh fruit
- Beef jerky
We want to stage a car along our trip, can you help us with that?
What’s the deal with firewood, do you have it available for sale?
- We sell firewood for $7 per bundle – a bundle will last 45-60 minutes. Most customers purchase 2 bundles per night on the river. Pyromaniacs…buy more:-)
- Gather wood from sandbars as you see it – staying out of the trees. The further into the season you get, the less of an option this is.
- Harvest firewood from the islands – why this isn’t a great idea:
A TripAdvisor Member
September 7, 2017
Overnight canoe trip on the WI River
“We have used WI River Outings for 3 different trips on the WI River and they have been an excellent partner and resource every time. Highly recommend both the outfitter and the canoe trips on this river. ”
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