Accessing the Lower Yahara River in Rock County & Dane County, Wisconsin
The Lower Yahara River is accessible for public use from several points throughout rural Rock and Dane County. These location are scattered throughout the country side and are not marked or addressed. Scouting drop-ins and take-outs definitely involves some guess work as far as parking and avoiding any trespassing issues. In most cases you are allowed to park along side any country road and you are allowed to enter a water way within 30' of a bridge. When parking road side always make sure your vehicle and trailer is completely off the pavement.
1. Dunkirk Dam at 619 Co Rd N
About 40 yards south of the the Dunkirk Dam at 619 Co Rd N over the guard rail on the river side there is a beating path down to a decent landing. There is some ditch parking off of the hwy opposite the river. You can unload over the guard rail then find a spot across the street.
2. 286 County Hwy N
Across the street from 286 County Hwy N there is a gravel pull through and grassy parking area with river access. With no sign or address this spot is easy to miss when cruising down the hwy. The river is barely visible from the road when everything is in full bloom.
3. The Old Stebbinsville Dam
The old Stebbinsville Dam site is a popular access point for the Lower Yahara River. The most visible shorelines are chained off and posted with no trespassing signs but just before the bridge across the road from the small gravel lot is a steep path down to a decent flat landing. Unload at the bridge and park in the gravel lot or on the roadside. Its easy to slid your craft down to the landing but taking out here will be a challenge. The shoreline and descent to the landing can be slippery so use caution.
4. The Hwy 59 Bridge
The Hwy 59 bridge is another well used access point but is come with some challenges. First off, the parking is down a very steep and bumpy decent. Don't even try it without 4 wheel drive capability and watch out for oncoming traffic when attempting to pull back onto the road. Secondly, there is at least a 4' drop off from shore to the river and venturing up the shoreline to find a less steep access will most likely result in a very muddy situation.
5. The Caledonia Rd Culvert River Access
The Caledonia Rd Culvert River Access is located in between raymond rd and casy rd. at the bottom of the hill on w caledonia rd there's a culvert and a gard rail. A rocky uneven path to the river works as a spot to drop in or take out. Not much of a landing though so if you're hauling any amount of gear or a heavier craft this spot might not be a good option.
6. Murwin Park
One of the more well known access points is Murwin park in Fulton. This park has three lots in all, each with at least 2 drop in/take outs. The back lot off of Caledonia Rd is not visible from the other two lots and is typically empty. The river access from the back lot typically goes unnoticed. Although this shoreline is a bit muddy this access is the first option to get out in Fulton before the river picks up speed. The next lot down river is where most of the action happens.
At Murwin Park, the west lot is usually full and the launch area tends to get congested with groups of paddlers entering an exiting. Upon first arrival you will notice the river is moving along pretty fast. It's common to see paddlers bouncing off one another at the launch, stuck on a gravel bar in the middle of the river or struggling to make the exit before the bridge.
Some people attempt to jump out of their kayak or canoe to battle the current on foot only to roll an ankle and end up sitting in 2' of rushing water completely immobile and unable to retrieve there belongs that quickly float away.
This can all be avoided by putting some distance between yourselves and sending a more experienced member of the group ahead to catch and make room for the next person approaching.
As you come around the final bend where the restroom becomes visible secure all loose belongings. If the launch is occupied pull over to the left. There is a steep opening on the shoreline just passed some boulders where the current churns up river just enough to stop and wait. You can take out here but the river is deep and the ledge can get slippery. Make your approach while staying about 10' off the shoreline and as you reach the orange (6) sign back paddle on the left then once your pointed toward the exit forward paddle kind of swooping or drifting up to the landing.
If you do end up passing the bridge just pull over to the left.
There's a landing and path 30' down river up to the east lot . Just make sure you pull over on solid ground. A mud hole in between the bridge and the shoreline path will rob you of your sandals and pride.
The east lot off of hwy H has a cement platform and a paved path to the river. Unfortunately, this is seldomly useful. It was installed in a hurry and without any understanding of how this section of the Yahara river flows. Unless the river is higher than normal this launch is inaccessible as it is landlocked by a sand bar. To make matters worse there is a deep mud pit at the end of the launch platform that traps unsuspecting paddlers who have been lured in by the convenience of a paved path. To say the lest rock co is lacking when it comes to public access to it's waterways.
If you don't have your own kayak or prefer not to transport one, Drift Away Paddle Co is a fantastic local rental option. We offer a variety of kayaks and paddleboards for rent and provide drop-off and pick-up service at several area locations, including Gibbs Lake and the Lower Yahara River. To make a reservation or book a same-day rental, simply call or text 608-295-4348.