Overnight Canoe Camping Trips
The vast, vast majority (close to 85%) of our customers choose to camp out on the river. And it's popular. Seriously. Ask anyone that's ever tried to book a last minute rental in July or August.
Whether it's just the two of you, twenty college friends, or two hundred boyscouts, we're happy to get you out on the water for your overnight camping trip.
Not entirely sure what canoe camping entails? Check out the river canoe camping page for the rundown.
Overnight options are:
- Prairie Du Sac to Spring Green - 25 miles - Liesurely 3 day/ambitious 2 day
- Mazomanie to Spring Green - 18 miles - Just right for an overnight
- Arena to Spring Green - 10 miles - More socializing than paddling
Choosing How Far to Paddle
- Average non-stop paddle speed of 3-4mph (including current)
- 3-4 hours of paddling will feel like a solid day
- Erring on the side of less instead of more is generally a good bet
- Larger groups typically prefer more sandbar socializing, less paddling
When figuring out how far you'll want to go, know that the average paddler (and including Wisconsin Canoe staff) travels downriver at 3-4 mph when paddling at a constant rate in normal conditions. That means 25 miles will take ~7 to 8 hours of nonstop paddling - no wind, no coasting, no breaks, no sandbars.
In our experience, even the most ambitous groups will not want to paddle more than 5 hours in a day (3.5-4 feels like a good, full day) and you'll want to add time for any west winds, floating with the current, and sandbar time. (West winds typically pick up in the afternoon - morning paddling is best paddling)
The best advice I can offer if you're not sure how far your group will want to go for the first time: do slightly less than you think and take your time. Better too short than too long. An extra hour on a sandbar is much more desirable (and typical) than an extra unwanted hour in a canoe. If it turns out to be too short, now you know for next time. If it turns out to be too long, there may not be a next time.
The most popular 3 day/2night (typically Fri-Sun) option that we offer is the 25 mile stretch of river from Prairie Du Sac to Spring Green. This passes through Sauk City, Ferry Bluff, and Arena. Also, Wisconsin's only nude beach is on this strip of river (no pun intended). Don't worry, the beach can be avoided, and if you weren't worried, it can be accessed.
You'll start out within sight of the last dam on the Wisconsin River and paddle down behind the Prairie Du Sac/Sauk City main streets. After passing an abandoned, half dismantled railroad bridge you'll only see a few houses for the rest of the trip. You can find a pretty sweet view of the river from the top of Ferry Bluff after a half-mile hike up from the river (this will be on the map we provide you).
In most cases, you're free to set up camp on any sandbar you come across. The few that aren't available for camping are near the nude beach and clearly marked as no camping allowed. Most of the best sandbars start to show up in large numbers at or below Arena but the best sandbars are also the first to be taken.
The Mazomanie trip bridges the gap between the (sometimes too short) Arena and (sometimes too long) Prairie Du Sac 2 day/1 night options while keeping access to the two most popular destinations on the river - the short Ferry Bluff hike to the best overlook of the river valley, and Wisconsin's only public nude beach (open on weekends only - and yes, the people are exactly what you'd expect for a nude beach in Wisconsin). This 18 mile stretch of river takes about 6 hours of nonstop paddling start to finish which is just about the perfect distance for a Saturday-Sunday canoe trip.
The 10 mile Arena to Spring Green stretch is one of the best on the river. Very little development, tons of sandbars, and an easy finish in Spring Green (you can pack up your car and leave as soon as you arrive) makes this a great option if you're looking for more of a social trip than a paddling trip. You'll be able to paddle for a few hours, float with the current, and generally take it easy and have a good time with your friends (the ones you brought and/or the ones you just shared a sandbar with).
Nabbing a sandbar early means you'll get your pick of them and have plenty of time to spend the day playing games, drinking beers, and sitting around the campfire. The relatively short distance you'll need to travel in the morning is usually a welcome relief to those that may have partied a little too hard or are ready to get back to the cars and on the way to a shower.
After you've chosen Arena, Mazomanie, or Prairie Du Sac:
- Decide on a shuttle departure - Find a departure time from Spring Green that works best for you. Shuttles to Arena, Mazomanie, and Prairie Du Sac all leave at 8am, 10am, 12pm, and 2pm. Groups of 6 or more may want to drop off passengers and gear on the way out (see: driver only shuttles).
- Reserve your boats - At this point, you're ready to rent your canoes and kayaks. We take our reservations through an automated online booking system. To reserve online, select the date your trip will begin and end. Choose 'Book Now' to adjust how many boats you will need and see pricing. We require reservations to be made about 36 hours in advance (a Saturday departure typically needs to be booked by 11:59pm Thursday) so don't wait until the last minute.
- Provide your information - When checking out, we'll ask for an email address to send trip details and confirmations. We'll also ask for a cell number that will only be used to contact you on the day of your reservation if conditions change unexpectedly. You will need to choose your trip and associated shuttle departure. If you have any questions, clarifications, or are bringing small children or pets, please leave this information in the 'notes' section. After your payment is completed, you'll receive an emailed booking confirmation with all of the details of your trip as well as another email reminder a few days before departure.
- On the day of your reservation - Plan to arrive at the Peck's Landing (Hwy 23@WI River) canoe launch at least 15 minutes before your shuttle departure. Your vehicle will remain here and everything will be loaded onto the shuttle if you haven't already dropped off gear and passengers upriver. Shuttles leave exactly when scheduled (earlier if everyone with a reservation arrives early) and will not wait for stragglers (stragglers will be put on the next available shuttle and be responsible for the $2.50/rivermile shuttle fee). After arriving at your launch point, your rentals and gear will be unloaded and you'll begin your trip downstream back to your vehicle. You've got the full length of your rental period to stop at sandbars, play in the river, etc. Because your vehicle is waiting at the end, you'll be able to pack up and leave as soon as you arrive - there is no set time you'll need to finish (though we ask that you're off the water by 6pm on the last day of your rental period). You'll leave our equipment at the landing where we come through regularly throughout the day to pick it up.
If you still have more quesitons, check our Frequently Asked Questions page.