Paddling the Baraboo River has been hard to do the past few years due to lack of outfitters. That has finally changed! While we started out offering trips ourselves this year, it turns out that another new company has also just started. Baraboo River Canoe and Kayak Rentals started up just a few miles upstream and to be perfectly honest, they’re doing a great job which is why we’re happy to start sending people their way! These guys are true Baraboo locals and know just about everyone and everything related to the river. By all means, we’re very happy to see them get started on the Baraboo River.
Why is the Baraboo such a great day trip?
In particular, the Baraboo Rapids are a 5 mile stretch of river through downtown Baraboo, WI where water tumbles a total of 50′ down class I rapids and riffles. To put this in perspective, the entire Baraboo River is 120 miles long and falls only 150′ in total. That makes this particular stretch exciting and very unique in southern Wisconsin. Whereas the Wisconsin River is great for long, slow, overnight canoe camping trips, the Baraboo is great for short, fast, exciting kayak trips.
In addition to a ton of riffles and class I rapids, you’ll see historic buildings, bridges, arches, and the extremely unique opportunity to paddle through an active circus museum, complete with music, wagons, and if you’re really lucky, elephants. All of this is packed into a few short miles which means the experience is rarely dull and can be completed in a few hours or less – i.e. a perfectly fun thing to do this summer and only a few minutes away from the Dells, Baraboo, or Devil’s Lake.
This is a typical river system with naturally fluctuating river levels. River levels are measured in Cubic Feet per Second and often referred to as CFS. Normal summer river levels on the Baraboo are around 300-400cfs. These are ideal conditions for paddling. In reality, you really don’t even have to paddle all that much. For the most part you won’t be running aground and the rapids aren’t overwhelming. If water levels aren’t where you’d like, check the forecast. It’s a smallish watershed so the river will drop substantially in a day or two. Likewise, if we get rain, you’ll see a rise in levels shortly afterwards.
- <250 cfs = Lots of bumping and scraping along the bottom. Still doable but less than ideal.
- 250 – 400 = Ideal conditions. Plenty of riffles and enough water to keep you off the bottom.
- 400 – 900 = Water is up 2′ above normal so you’re in for a faster ride with bigger waves.
- 900 – 1300 = Honest whitewater. If you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to get dumped out of your boat.
- >1300 = You better know what you’re doing. Water levels are now significantly above normal and moving quick.