June 5th was a beautiful day for the first Fox Wisconsin Heritage Paddle of 2011. A group of over 30 paddlers met at the wayside across Hwy 33 from the Fort Winnebago Surgeon’s Quarters in Portage. We had a variety of kayaks, canoes, 2 stand up paddlers and even a voyager canoe joined up on this first leg of the paddle on the Fox River.
The journey from Hwy 33 to the Portage Canal was about a mile on the winding and fairly narrow Fox River. When our group reached the Portage Canal we encountered our first of 3 portages. We were also lucky enough to enjoy a historic re-enactors battle performance at the canal.
After a short break to enjoy the re-enactors camp we began the paddle in the weedy canal. The Portage Canal is only partially restored. It was very weedy for the beginning of June and became very narrow as we approached the 2nd portage. After the 2nd portage canal paddle became much easier in the restored sections. We had a long tunnel paddle under a road and traveled through an old non working lock to the final portage to the Wisconsin River. This 2nd portage had the longest carry but we had a paved trail and sidewalk right down to the sandy shores of the Wisconsin River.
The 6 mile paddle from Riverside Park in Portage to Dekorra was beautiful. We were floated and paddled with the current. Development along the river is mostly buffered by trees, creating a natural experience right on the edge of the city of Portage. We had an eagle fly right by us about 2/3 of the way on the river. The Wisconsin River is full of sand bars that shift and change with the flows of current. Wide and mostly shallow, the Wisconsin River around Portage is an easy and enjoyable paddle trip for all abilities.
Here’s an overview of the Portage paddle.
Portage celebrated its annual Canal Days Celebration June 4 and 5 this year and we’ll be kicking off our Fox Wisconsin Heritage Paddle 2011 by passing through their canal. Our trip will pick up from last year’s Fox River Heritage Paddle with a short trip down the Fox River from the Fort Winnebago Surgeon’s Quarters to the Historic Indian Agency House and then proceed through the Portage Canal with a few short portages in the City of Portage to the Wisconsin River just above Riverside Park. We’ll continue down the Lower Wisconsin River to end the trip at Dekorra. This trip totals about ten miles, but includes several minor interruptions for portages and plans for lunch at Riverside Park. Those who would rather hike the two-mile Wisconsin River Levee Trail from the Surgeon’s Quarters to the park can join us after lunch to paddle down the Wisconsin River to the end of the trip.
Why was this route chosen?
As we made plans to continue our rediscovery of the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway, it became apparent that completing the link through Portage is critical. Not only the symbolic high-point of the fur trader route through Wisconsin, it is also the true “high point” of the route! Passing from the Fox River, through Portage, and into the Lower Wisconsin River establishes the link that connects the entire Parkway!
Enjoy of Photo Gallery from the Portage Canal Days Paddle