One of the most winding rivers in the U.S., the Kickapoo River is also called “The Crookedest River in the World” and comes from an Algonquin word that means “he who goes here, then there.” But all that winding just gives canoers and kayakers more opportunities to admire the gorgeous scenery: from the limestone, moss-covered bluffs that made it famous, to rolling, grassy hills. Kickapoo river canoeing offers a gentle current and numerous landings, which makes it a perfect river for beginning canoers, and its length (with 11 riverside campsites for an extended trip) and twists-and-turns offer plenty of challenges for the experienced canoer. No wonder it’s one of the most popular canoeing rivers in Wisconsin!
Reserve Your Canoe in Advance
There are several great Kickapoo River canoe rental options in the Ontario area, all offering different lengths of trips and shuttle service back to the rental location as well. These companies make canoeing a fun and easy experience for everyone, including beginners and families, as they also work on clearing debris from sections of the river! Be sure to make a reservation, especially during the busy summer season.
Extend Your Trip – Kickapoo River Camping
The Kickapoo River winds through the Wildcat Mountain State Park (also listed in our blog about our favorite state parks in the area!) and the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. Most of the campgrounds are city-run and have stores and restaurants within walking distance of the campgrounds (with the exception of the Plum Creek Takeout) so you don’t have to pack food for the whole trip. Campgrounds are first come, first served, so always have a Plan B if your first choice isn’t available. Camping also requires a permit, which you can obtain from the Kickapoo Valley Reserve Visitor Center or any of the self-registration stations. Port-a-potties are available at the landings. You can also get a Kickapoo river map at the visitor center.
What to Bring
For a day trip, you won’t need more than sunscreen, some refreshments/lunch, and a waterproof camera. Some rental locations even offer floating coolers. It’s also a good idea to pack a pair of dry clothes in a ziplock bag, and then put all your belongings in a bag you can tie to your canoe. For camping trips, you’ll need a bit more: in addition to camping basics, remember to bring ponchos and a tarp or trash bags to keep your equipment dry in case of rain. And remember to “pack in and pack out” … no trash left on the river or the campgrounds. Red mesh bags are available at all the access sites for trash collection.
Bookend Your Kickapoo River Canoeing Trip with a Stay at Westby
Westby House Inn is a short 30-minute drive from Ontario and Wildcat Mountain State Park, making us a perfect place to kick off your Kickapoo River canoeing adventure. And after a day (or several days, depending on how extended your trip was) on the river, we’d love to welcome you back for a great night’s sleep in our luxurious guest rooms and a scrumptious start to your day with our gourmet breakfast. There’s so much that the Wisconsin Driftless area has to offer, so download our complimentary Vacation Guide to help you plan your trip. We hope to see you soon!