Paddle destination: Horicon Marsh (southern aspect)
Launch – Green Head Road N8600 Green Head Rd, Mayville, WI
Land – One Mile Island Trail Head and parking 204 N Nebraska St, Horicon, WI
Type of environment:
Did you know Horicon Marsh is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States? The marsh itself covers approximately 32,000 miles – majority of it is water. There are several small islands throughout the area – some are easier to walk upon than others (depending on water height/recent rain). The put in at Green Head has a rather large parking area – more like a dirt road with ample parking on the side of this road. This is a dead-end road, and there is a cul-de-sac which makes navigation with a trailer a bit easier. The launch has a gradual grade into the water, and you may need to get your feet wet. This section of water is the Rock river, and following it west will eventually lead you into the Horicon. One may see some smaller boats with trolling motors through this section of river, although rare. Traveling along this stretch, the trees and vegetation is pretty numerous and offers nice protection from the winds. As one exits this forest of trees, the water area opens up and the scenery changes dramatically. Didn’t really notice any current while on the water, until nearing the take-out area near Horicon. It was fairly gentile as it flows south towards the city. The take out at One mile Island, is slightly tucked away on the western side of the main channel. This parking lot is rather sizable and can hold easily 40+ cars. Total one-way distance is about 8 miles.
One of the biggest hazards is the size of this place, and the ever-changing water levels throughout the year. This can be a unique maze, if one decides to venture away from the main flowage. I would highly recommend downloading this navigation map http://tinyurl.com/y3agdjc8 to aid your progression. A compass, GPS, or other tracking device will also be helpful. There are landmarks one can see from the seat of the yak – but the marsh can act as a cat tail maze at times. Once one gets nearly midway in to the marsh, a water tower in Horicon can be seen and can be used as a general reference point. Best suggestion I have is to go with someone who knows that marsh VERY well – or even go with the Horicon Marsh visitors center – as they offer guided tours throughout the year.
The navigation map provided displays the paddle route one should take, there are marked signs on this path, however at times can be rather difficult to see.
If it is a windy day, or chances for a breezy day – some may find it a challenge doing this route. The cat tails and scattered islands only offer slight protection.
There are the occasional tour boats which follow the main channel going north to south – these may be a good reference point to follow, should you need to find your way to the take out.
Abundant wildlife in all aspects. So great in fact, during water fowl season approaches, hunters enjoy this place. Depending on the time of year one paddles this area will dictate what is seen and heard. The times I have gone – there was migration of spring birds and other water fowl moving into the area, and at others, the cat tails were very tall and plentiful – at times obscuring distant views.
If with someone knowledgeable about the area – this is a great beginner paddle when conditions are perfect. If going the entire distance from Green Head to Horicon, this may be quite the workout on windy days. Although there are a few islands in the heart of the marsh, majority of them have a solid ground (look for very established trees) and can be good resting place. Because of the chance for facing winds, and distance of this paddle, I would not recommend kayaks shorter than 10 to 12 feet.
Definitely check out the Horicon Education and visitors center while you are there. There is such great information about the geological design of the marsh, how the marsh was used throughout the years, the mistakes humans learned when they attempted to change the landscape, and what the future of the area holds.
For the Paddler Within….