Kewaunee River – Wisconsin [September 2022]

River Paddled: Kewaunee

Trip Date: September 4, 2022

Put In

County F Bridge

The downstream left side of the bridge has a few open spots to carry in from. There is a road going alongside the river here with a couple picnic tables in the area too.

Take Out

Ahnapee State Trail

This was an improvised takeout where the Ahanpee State Trail ran alongside the river. It required stepping up onto the steep bank and hiking through some trees and brush to get back onto the trail. Better takeout options exist further downstream.

Paddle Length: 2.5 miles

Paddle Duration: 2 hours

Gradient: ~2 feet per mile to start before it became complete flatwater.

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: Gauge located off the county F bridge just west of Kewaunee, which is this trip's put in.):

USGS Stream Gage NumberDischarge RateGage HeightUSGS Link
04085200 39 CFS 8.89 Feet 04085200 Gage Info

Our Experience Paddling This Segment of the Kewaunee at These Levels

The water level was only a factor during the first portion of this section where the river was more narrow and winded, with a handful of rock bed riffles to go through. Here is where the water could have been higher for less scraping, but we managed to still get through it without having to get out and walk.

Paddling Experience

As expected the water was wide and flat after the first mile of more narrow and winding river with some light riffles and rapids. What I wasn't expecting or planning for were the strong winds making continuous paddling a slower ordeal than how quick I could float in the opposite direction of the river if I stopped paddling on the straight northeast stretches.

Natural Scenery

This short section of the Kewaunee River has a few bridges in the middle. River banks were a mixture of grass and brush, with trees less common. Houses don't occur often while it really open ups after these bridges and until the river enters Lake Michigan.

Accessibility

My put in around County F bridge was a convenient one with area to park, picnic tables available, and a few good access options. My intended takeout near the confluence with Lake Michigan is a more popular choice for motor boats, but would have worked. The Ahnapee State Trail also added a nice alternative shuttle, which I hiked.

County F - Ahnapee Trail

Planning: The Kewaunee River is a smaller river in northeastern Wisconsin that flows southwest until entering Lake Michigan in the town of Kewaunee.  Aside from looking at Google Maps, I found an experienced account of someone paddling a lengthier portion of the Kewaunee on the site Miles Paddled.  Much was shared about all the logjams to the river upstream of the dam, so I wanted to just do a short section below the dam (County F bridge) to where the river enters the lake.

Shuttle: My intended river route of County F to the confluence took a 4.4 mile shuttle that mostly existed on the Ahnapee State Trail.  The trail was convenient and open to people and bikes and helped me take a quicker take out where the trail ran alongside the river.

Paddling: The first mile or so of this section remains narrow and winds a good amount.  There are also a handful of spots of riffles to light rapids, which the water could have been higher for less scraping. After this came continuous wide and flat water.  This would have been a paddling struggle of itself, but there were strong winds blowing directly the opposite direction of the river.  If you didn’t know, you would have thought the river flowed that opposite direction with the waves and current produced in the straight northeast stretches.  I struggled through the first of these strong wind straight stretches, but didn’t get far on the second one with stops in padding resulting in quick floating the opposite direction.  Knowing that the trail went alongside the river shortly before this point, we floated back there and looked for the best possible spot to take out and get back on the trail.

Observations: A few bridges occurred in the middle of this short section, with a few more after and before the river enters Lake Michigan.  Houses were uncommon, but the surroundings became very open when the river widened out after the first bridges.  In the first mile of more narrow and winding river I did pass by a couple different small groups of people fishing in the water.  I didn’t come across any others on the water and understandably so paddling-wise with how wide and flat the water gets and how windy and unbearable it became.

Reflecting: I went into this river trip on the Kewaunee with the main motivation being to add a new river to ones I’ve paddled.  I also liked how the Ahnapee State Trail could be used for a shuttle, but I didn’t expect to experience such a grind a paddling only a few miles.  It could have been a completely different experience without the strong winds in my face while trying to paddle but much of this trip would have still been wide and flat.  So like the person from Miles Paddled stated, I wouldn’t recommend paddling this river to others.

Here are some pictures from this trip: