Paddling the Wisconsin River

The first time I ever went on a pack-out canoe trip was probably when I was 15. My siblings, dad, and I rented out some canoes with some friends and did a 3 day paddle on the Au Sable River. It was so much fun, and I was hooked! I’m not a hardcore outdoor adventure person, but give me a river, canoe, and camping gear, and I’m ready for a good time! Since that first trip, I’ve done 2 more, the last one in Wisconsin in 2018.

My brother, three close friends, and I planned a 2 1/2 day, 2 night, trip down the Wisconsin River in August. At the time, my brother was working at a summer camp that specialized in trips like this for Youth Groups, so we were able to use equipment from them. He was also very familiar with the river from all the guided trips he did that summer which was a huge help.

The night before we hit the river, there was a big thunderstorm that came through, but once we were out on the river, it was perfect. The Wisconsin River is fairly slow moving and wide, so navigation is easy, and it’s a great beginner river. The scenery was mostly trees and sandstone, and you felt like you were in another world. Until you paddled under an overpass, and then you realized you weren’t that far away from civilization. We explored inlets and stopped at sandbars for meals, and just relaxed. The sunsets were beautiful and the river water was warm enough that you could use it to cool off when we got too warm. The weather was some of the best you could ask for in August! All in all, it is still one of my favorite vacations.


One of the things I really love about canoe trips is that you aren’t as limited in what you can pack compared to backpacking. You can bring way more food, full size tents, and other fun things along and not have to worry about the weight (as long as you’re not portaging). You also don’t need much special equipment minus a canoe, which you can rent from numerous places. If you are interested in doing a canoe trip, I suggest going on an easy river and with people who are more experienced paddlers so you can learn to navigate well and hopefully not tip over. You will also want some dry bags or containers that are fairly water tight to pack items in, but really, the necessities for doing a trip like this are pretty inexpensive and you can usually rent equipment from a number of places that cater to these kinds of trips. has some great tips and resources to help you out, if you want to give it a try!


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