Shallow sandbars on the Wisconsin River

Quintessential Canoe Camping Conditions

It only took half the season but we’re finally into the idyllic summer canoe camping conditions. Water levels have returned to seasonal norms so sandbars are out in force. Water temps are like bath water but still cool enough to escape the 90+ heat. Forecast is typical mid-summer with heat, humidity, and chance of a storm rolling through. It’s everything you imagine it is right now.

We’re currently sold out and aside from a few updates here and there, will likely stay that way. If you see something come available, grab it – it’s not gonna be there long.

Already made reservations and getting ready for you trip? Here’s what I’d recommend above and beyond the usual for this week:

  • Shade! Sun hat, umbrella, sun shade, tarp tied between sticks? Bring it all. The sun is intense and the canoes/sandbars will be cooking during the daytime hours. If you don’t have it, Walmart sells some basic 10’x10′ sun shades for under $100. Bonus if they have a screen for sunset mosquitoes. Lots of sun screen goes without saying.
  • Drinking Water – grab a couple gallon size jugs now and make room in your freezer. You’ll thank me after a full day in the sun and your friends are all drinking boiling water. Bonus points for adding dry ice to your cooler for extra cold, and if you put your grapes/oranges near it, they’ll carbonate (Hyvee sells dry ice in convenient blocks).
  • Storms – it’s always possible to have some big storms come out of nowhere when there’s so much moisture and energy in the atmosphere. They are a fact of life in the wilderness (which this technically is) so be prepared for one.
    1. Read up on how to be safe on the river and be careful of your tents. The biggest risk in a storm isn’t the lightning but the wind. The big gusts that come right before the rain can shred a tent and snap poles if it isn’t properly set up.
    2. Use those guylines (long lines attached to the tabs half way up the side of your tent), or even drop the poles temporarily while the wind is up even if it means getting a little wet. This is more important for weaker fiberglass poles than metal ones. The bonus here is that your tent won’t up and fly away like mine may or may not have done 10 years ago on a guided trip…
    3. Only have tiny tent stakes and a lot of sand? Don’t panic. I’ve had very good luck scraping away the top layer of loose sand and driving the stake into the firm wet stuff below at a significant angle away from the tent. Cover it back over with the loose sand and repeat 4 -10 times. Want to go full hurricane mode? Tie your guylines around sticks, paddles, rocks, even a canoe, and bury them to create deadman anchors. Throw the water jug in the tent for good measure.
  • Alcohol and life jackets – Last thing I’ll mention, given how hot it is and the amount of time you’re likely to spend in the water with a drink in your hand: wear your life jacket! While rare, people do drown out here. If you can muster the last of your good decision making brain cells to put on the life jacket before lounging in the water off a sandbar 7 margaritas deep, you might thank me.

With all of that out of the way, have a great trip this week! -Ryan

Shallow sandbars on the Wisconsin River