2020 Season Recap
That’s it for us in 2020! Certainly a weird year with Covid acting as a 3rd wrench (after weather and water) but everything generally went about as well as could be hoped for.
We struggled with water levels just about every other week as a large storm would come through the watershed just as the river was about back to normal. We made a few questionable calls on whether or not to cancel trips but in the end, we only lost three weeks to high water cancellations. Had there been even one more rainstorm in addition to our regular weekly dumping of rain, it’s quite likely we’d have lost eight more weeks of our eighteen week season (that’s how tight the water management was this summer). I think we may have gotten low enough to touch the median water level mark twice all year. Climate science has been predicting these bigger midwestern storms for more than a decade and we’ve seen it happening real time the past 3 years or so. I don’t expect this struggle to get easier but I’m hopeful that the hydraulics of higher water will lead to higher sandbars and we’ll get some kind of equilibrium. There’s some anecdotal evidence of this already happening but also maybe some wishful thinking.
The water struggles came as a surprise to a lot of people in the area since weather wise, it was about as good a year as you could ask for. We only had two good storms come through over a weekend and not a ton of big headwinds or severe weather. The trouble came from up north where water uptake isn’t as strong in the forests of northern Wisconsin and they just kept getting heavy, regular storms.
Covid, on the other hand, turned out to be a good thing for us overall. For all outdoor pursuits actually. Tons of interest from people where many of their usual options are shutdown and, similar to previous economic recessions, a lot of ‘close to home’ travel which is good for regional recreation destinations (i.e. us). After a very slow start – down 90%YOY at one point from what was already a washed out season, we ended up crushing our previous season best, mostly due to a relatively huge increase in weekday trips. I don’t know how well our Covid policies played into this but given the doubling of our usual cancellation rate (and associated refund rate) plus not getting a single report of a positive test or contact tracing request, I think we made it through pretty responsibly.
Thanks to all of you that came out with us this season! Already looking forward to 2021! (And taking reservations now)
This is why people come here. The sandbars are big, the river is wide, and you’re free to set up camp anywhere that looks good. The river has been protected from development so long that it looks much the same now as it did a hundred years ago. This is legit backcountry camping – no site numbers, no permits, no picnic tables, no nothing. Whether you’re planning the first trip or the fiftieth, our canoe camping page has all of the information you’ll need.
First time coming out? Or maybe just a little fuzzy on the details? Our frequently asked questions page has just about everything people have asked us about at least twice. Odds are, your answer is in there. That said, the number of questions has gotten a little unruly so if you’re not able to easily find what you’re looking for, just ask us!
Just want to come out and paddle a canoe or kayak for the day? We can do that. Bring your friends or family out for a leisurely day of sandbar hopping while maintaining the option to sleep in a real bed afterwards. Arena to Spring Green is our regular day trip section and for good reason – it has the highest concentration of sandbars on the river. Even on the busiest weekends, there is plenty of distance between you and anyone else on the water.
All of us at Wisconsin Canoe have dumped our collective river knowledge onto the pages of our trip planning section. If you have a question about what to do in a storm, the best way to set up the kitchen, how to find the ideal sandbar, or any of a million other things, the answer can be found here. Probably. You’ll be able to get hourly river condition updates, forecasts, packing lists, food lists, tips, tricks, and everything else you might want to know.
The graphs on this page are the result of data collected in real time by the US Geological Survey. We’ve provided the gauge height (river depth), flow rates (current), water temperature, and expected changes in water levels over the next few days or so. This should give you a better idea of what kind of river conditions to expect on your trip and provide a point of reference for anyone concerned with river conditions.
The river trail maps on this page were created and provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. They are the most up to date and detailed maps publicly available. For those of you renting through us, you will be provided with a waterproof topographic map covering your route and containing more specific information regarding your trip (rules, emergency contact info, the nearest bathroom, etc.)
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Why We’re The Best Canoe Company Ever
The Best Equipment
Our entire fleet of 150 Discovery canoes, Manitou kayaks, and Riviera kayaks are less than 4 years old. These boats are made of a heavy duty polyethylene composite that is very quiet, doesn’t heat up in the sun like the standard aluminum boats, and are essentially indestructible. We also provide everyone with comfortable, ski-style life jackets and outfitter grade paddles.
The Best Shuttle System
We transport you upriver at the beginning of your trip where you then paddle back to your car. This way, there’s no need to fast paddle back to a shuttle only to be packed into a bus full of sweaty, sandy people for a long ride back to your car. Instead, when you go with us, you’re free to canoe the river at your own pace, and because your car is already at the end when you finish, there’s no need to wait around. You just pack up and go.
The Best Communication
Your entire reservation can be completed online, we’ll send you reminder emails, give you waterproof maps to take on the river, and if something goes wrong, we have staff on the emergency line 24 hours a day. In the meantime, we are always available via phone, email, text message, and facebook – even twitter if that’s your thing (but really, please don’t use twitter). You can also check our current (literally up to the second) availability when planning your trip and get a guarantee that we’ll have every single one of your boats ready and waiting for you on the shuttle you’ve chosen for the days you’ve reserved.
The Best Atmosphere
Wisconsin Canoe is a bunch of kids living the dream and avoiding the real world. We’re out on the water having fun, same as our customers, which means we tend to be very laid back and approachable. If you have a question or you’re unsure of something, we’ll help and probably won’t even judge you.
What Our Customers Say
Behind the Scenes
Given his degree in Economics from UW-Madison, it was inevitable that Ryan would be put to use on the business side of the canoe operation. Doing fancy things with spreadsheets is a secret passion for someone that is more often found miles from civilization.
Baking extraordinaire, cancer survivor, and the nicest person you will ever meet. In between collecting life jackets and greeting customers, Amy finished her degree in Rehabilitation Psychology at UW-Madison. More importantly, she has the uncanny ability to put up with Ryan for years on end.
Norah is our first solution to the annual staffing shortage. She is uniquely talented at issuing commands in a way only toddlers can manage.
Finn is the continuation of our long term staffing strategy. While he’s got a steep learning curve ahead of him, he’s already shown progress grabbing canoe paddles and assisting Amy with check-in at the landing.
Inga is the final member of our long term staffing plan. For the moment, she’s on customer service duty as about all she can do is smile and few people can resist the charms of a smiling baby.