Paddle Through Fall Color on Wisconsin's Scenic Waterways
Wisconsin is famous for its fiery fall foliage. This year, instead of taking just a drive or a hike with your crew, why not experience fall color from a different angle? Hop in a kayak, canoe or raft and gain a fresh perspective of the season’s oranges, golds and reds.
Take advantage of the Travel Wisconsin Fall Color Report to track the best fall color throughout Wisconsin’s 72 counties. And when the hues hit their peak, view an explosive autumn from a whole new vantage point: the water.
Peninsula State Park – Fish Creek
Peninsula State Park, the third-largest state park in Wisconsin, boasts eight miles of shoreline in beloved Door County. From Lake Michigan, visitors can set their sights on fall color lining the shore, as well as other popular sites like the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse, Horseshoe Island and Chambers Island. Launch your kayak or canoe from Tennison Bay, which has a shallow draft perfect for take off. For those looking to sit back and enjoy the ride, take a sunset boat tour with live music from Fish Creek Scenic Boat Tours or Sister Bay Scenic Boat Tours and relax with loved ones in the refreshing autumn air.
Apostle Islands – Bayfield
The Apostle Islands, a group of 21 islands off the Bayfield Peninsula in Northern Wisconsin, provide some of the best blue water paddling in the country. Hit the waves and maneuver around the islands on your own, or book a guided tour through sandstone sea caves formed by the powerful tides and storms of the Great Lakes. Many of the directed tours escort kayakers by powerboat to the most impressive cliffs, arches, and overhangs whose red sandstone echoes the deep reds of the fall forests. Reserve enough boats for everyone ahead of time and experience one of Wisconsin’s best gems.
Peshtigo River State Forest – Crivitz
Fly-fishers and other adventurers take note—Wisconsin’s newest state forest (established in 2001) offers more than 9,000 acres of recreational opportunities, including 25 miles of rolling river. The area is home to the Midwest’s longest continuous white-water rapids, where the water flows fast and clear through pine hardwood forests that come alive with color during autumn. Boat Landing No. 12 (out of 15!) provides ample parking and an easy place to take off for your adventure, whether you’re floating for a day or staying at one of the secluded boat-in campsites. For a steadier stay, pitch a tent, trailer, or rent a family cabin at Peshtigo River Campground and cozy up to the fire with friends and family after a long day of fresh fall air.
Kickapoo River – La Farge
Known as the crookedest river in the world (named for the Algonquian word meaning "one who goes here, then there”), the full 126 miles of the Kickapoo is navigable from just north of Ontario to where it flows into the Wisconsin River at Wauzeka. Feel the history all around you while floating between vertical sandstone cliffs blanketed by moss and warm shades of fall foliage.
Traveling by water is a great way to get up close and personal with the more than 300 species of plants, over 100 species of birds and a variety of other mammals like beavers that populate the river’s ecosystem, so make sure everyone brings their cameras. Many kayakers and canoers will hop on the water at Bridge 1 in Ontario and travel the river south to Bridge 12 in Rockton you’ll be talking about for years to come.
Namekagon River – Trego
The Namekagon River (pronounced NAM-uh-Kah-gun), a tributary of the St. Croix River, is a 95-mile river offering everything from wide, quiet flowages to exciting rapids for experienced kayakers. In most places, no development has been allowed in sight of the river, providing miles of unsurpassed pristine beauty. Paddlers can launch into the water at the Namekagon Dam Landing and travel as far south as the Riverside Landing, or choose one of the many segments in between depending on how adventurous you and your crew are feeling. No matter how long you paddle, this is sure to be one autumn adventure you won’t soon forget.
Looking for more ways to get out and enjoy a Wisconsin autumn? We've got you covered with these Top Ten Things To Do This Fall!