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Canoe - Kayak

The Kickapoo River has been a favorite among canoeists for many years. The word "Kickapoo" is from the Native American Algonquian language, meaning "he who goes here, then there". Translated locally as the "crooked river", it certainly lives up to its name, meandering its way along a 125-mile course that covers only 65 miles "as the crow flies." The shallow, gently flowing river is tame enough for the beginner but scenic enough for the advanced paddler as well. The upper stretch of the river from Ontario to La Farge is arguably the most beautiful, if not the most accessible for the public to enjoy.


The Kickapoo River is well known for rapidly changing water levels. The river will rise quickly during and after heavy rain; flooding is a common occurrence. During high water, passing under tree branches and some bridges may become difficult, and at times, impossible. Debris dams or log jams can develop, thus blocking the river channel and causing extremely dangerous conditions. At the first sign of threatening weather, begin to consider seeking higher ground. The "normal" summer gauge height at La Farge ranges between 3 to 5 feet (at Bridge 20). Water levels above 5 feet are not recommended for leisure paddling. Bridge 8 is not passable at about 7.5 feet on the La Farge gauge. Normal summer levels at the Ontario gauge height is about 8.5 feet. 

Check the USGS gauging station at La Farge, USGS gauging station at Ontario or contact the Reserve office for current river conditions.



A view down the Kickapoo River from a Kayak

River Knowledge

The river is a textbook example of an entrenched dendritic river system. It is the longest river completely within the Driftless portion of the upper Midwest and has been suggested by some geologists to be the oldest river system in the world outside of Antarctica. Over a period of millions of years, the river has carved a valley that varies from just less than a mile wide at its greatest to a narrow gap at other places.

The river is fed by a number of smaller streams and tributaries, many of which offer excellent trout fishing opportunities. Springs and free-flowing wells contribute to keeping the river cool year-round.

Log jams are a natural occurrence along the Kickapoo. Be careful when swimming or portaging. The cool water temperature, deep pools with surprisingly strong currents, and hidden logs can be hazardous.






Kickapoo Valley Reserve | S3661 State Highway 131 | La Farge, Wisconsin 54639 
Phone: 608-625-2960 | FAX: 608-625-2962

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