Illinois Fox River – Wisconsin [September 2021]

River Paddled: Illinois Fox

Trip Date: September 18, 2021

Put In

County I Bridge

Side of the road parking and a steep walk through tall grass down to the water's edge for a less than ideal put in.

Take Out

County ES Bridge

Pull off spot for parking with a landing space on the upstream left side of the bridge making for a fairly easy takeout.

Paddle Length: 7 miles

Paddle Duration: 3.5 hours

Gradient: ~1 foot per mile. There wasn't much of a current the whole way to this section.

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: located in Waukesha, WI, several miles upstream of this trip's put in.):

USGS Stream Gage NumberDischarge RateGage HeightUSGS Link
05543830 32 CFS 2.98 Feet 05543830 Gage Info

Our Experience Paddling This Segment of the Illinois Fox at These Levels

The water level was too low and was almost always in question while paddling. Not to mention a point about halfway through this section where vertical wooden stakes were visible going across the water, with ones just below the surface around the middle that we ran into.

Paddling Experience

This is a fairly flat stretch of water, so the lower than ideal water level didn't help here. Add an instance of running into vertical wood spikes (with an inflatable kayak, puncturing a hole in the floor compartment) that ran across the river in a spot about halfway through this trip and you have a grind of a paddling experience.

Natural Scenery

No bridges between this 7-mile stretch of river. Houses are a little more common, mostly farther off the water but with some possibly using the river for their farm lands or having so in the past. Beyond this the surrounding banks stay pretty open, more often than they are lined with trees.


With no bridges or access points besides the put in and takeout, it sets up for some time of solitude. Houses were farther off the water and didn't have anyone out while paddling past either.

County I - County ES

Planning: The Illinois Fox River is a fairly flat river in that starts in southeastern Wisconsin and flows south into Illinois, taking a southwest turn for a ways before entering the Illinois River in north central Illinois.  Mike Svob has three trips of the Illinois Fox and three of the Fox in Illinois in his books Paddling Southern Wisconsin and Paddling Illinois.  I chose the section just upstream of his first trip in Paddling Southern Wisconsin.  This was a seven mile section from county I to county ES bridge.

Paddling: The river had a moderate width, lacked much of any current and was pretty shallow in some areas.  Definitely too shallow for comfort, as some stretches required a good amount of effort scooting to pass on to deeper waters.  One spot about halfway through this section had wooden spikes lined up on the edges of the water, which may have been an old bridge or another structure for one of the farm land owners near by possibly.  Either way they were an issue and especially at lower than ideal water level, as each of us ran into one, with my inflatable kayak resulting in a puncture to its bottom air chamber.  So the grind of paddling basically doubled with a deflating to completely deflated floor to try and stay off of why paddling.

Observations: The river had a light brown color and not much clarity to it.  The banks were typically marshy open grass or lined with trees and fairly uninterrupted aside from the occasional houses a ways off the river.  No bridges crossed the river in this section, while the mentioned the wooden spikes of a hazard about halfway along.  We came across no other paddlers or people on land while out there, but did see some ducks, geese, hawks, and a few blue heron.

Reflecting: Low water level and a clear hazard of wooden spikes do not mix well, so stay away while water level is low.  But maybe in general too.  There isn’t much excitement or reward to this section of the Illinois Fox other than checking it off a having paddled list or it being a close choice to do with others.