Sugar River – Wisconsin [August 2022]

River Paddled: Sugar River

Trip Date: August 26, 2022

Put In

Community Park (Belleville)

Park with parking and open areas on both upstream sides of the bridge for an easy put in.

Take Out

Exeter Park (Dayton)

Park with parking, a porta potty, and two nice carry in areas for an easy takeout.

Paddle Length: 4.5 miles

Paddle Duration: 1.5 hours

Gradient: ~2 feet per mile.

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: This gauge is located in Verona, upstream of this section with at least one dam in between.):

USGS Stream Gage NumberDischarge RateGage HeightUSGS Link
05435950 55 CFS 3.1 Feet 05435950 Gage Info

Our Experience Paddling This Segment of the Sugar River at These Levels

The water level was just deep enough to allow for continuous paddling but there were recurring shallow areas to avoid. A little higher levels would be preferable.

Paddling Experience

The river had some riffles to start and a decent current throughout. The water remained clear enough of downed trees but could have been a little higher for less scraping concerns.

Natural Scenery

The start and end of this section has some bridges with nearly uninterrupted natural surroundings in between. Trees are the most common sight from the water with some tall grass and corn fields not far off.


This short section of river has a handful of bridges but they are close together, with a much longer stretch without them or other development. I didn't come across anyone else on the water and just saw a few kids fishing by one of the bridges.

Belleville - Exeter Park

Planning: The Sugar River is located in Southcentral Wisconsin and flows southwest into Illinois before entering the Rock River.  Mike Svob haas three different trips of this river in his books Paddling Southern Wisconsin and Paddling Illinois.  This section of the Sugar River is farther upstream than any of his trips, so I looked to other paddling websites of Miles Paddled and Wisconsin River Trips for insights on it.

Shuttle: The shuttle is 3.8 miles of highway 92 connecting the towns of Dayton and Belleville.  Traffic wasn’t terrible in the hour I was hiking along the side of the highway for it.

Paddling: This section of the Sugar River starts just downstream of the dam with a swift current and some riffles.  The current the rest of the way is decent while the water is plenty open enough.  The only area that could have been better is the water level.  I only had a few brief moments of scraping but I was often on the lookout for the shallow areas of water to avoid especially whenever small islands formed.

Observations: A handful of bridges occurred with all near the start or end of this section, while houses were less common yet.  No one else was on the water, but a few kids were fishing by one of the bridges early on.  Wildlife consisted of a blue heron, osprey, and four turtles.

Reflecting: The main motivations for paddling this section of the Sugar were that it was a quick trip that I haven’t done yet and that I could add to the other sections of this river I have paddled.  It was definitely a quick and nice experience that I would recommend for others to paddle and at higher levels if possible.

Here are some pictures from this trip: