Text and photos by Jodie Bartnik
When a gathering of 15 old and new friends paddled trips totaling over 40 miles in the Madison area July 15-18, variety clearly was the theme.
Each day of the NEWP members-only Madison Gathering brought new sights, different groups, varying paddling conditions, and a variety of challenges.
The group began Saturday with an out-and-back paddle encompassing lower Mendota Lake. We launched near the UW Madison Campus and paddled around the Madison Isthmus. The afternoon brought a bumpy open-water crossing to the famous Picnic Point and ended with a hearty (and tasty) group meal back at the campsite.
Sunday greeted us with beautiful sunshine and a launch on the Yahara River near the Tenney Park dam. We had a leisurely trip around the Madison Isthmus, where we paddled side-by-side with boat traffic and ducks alike. (We could only go as fast as the boat in front of us and enjoyed great conversation with the power boaters next to us.) Upon exiting the canal, we proceeded along the northwest shore of Lake Monona to our lunch spot at Olin Park, where we met a duck that was insistent on enjoying the kayaks as well.
The afternoon brought slightly more challenging conditions, aka “the fun part of the trip” as many would put it. We proceeded down to the south shore of Lake Monona to the continuance of the Yahara River and on to Lake Waubesa by the campground.
Monday’s launch had us pick up the trail where we left off the previous day on Lake Waubesa. We continued around the top of the lake, down the east side and into the lower Yahara River. This exhilarating portage past the dam was one we agreed could be skipped in future trips.
However, the lower Yahara River brought a beautiful natural landscape with few houses, people, or boaters. The afternoon concluded with a landing and shuttle from Lake Kegonsa State Park back to the campsite.
Each evening brought a gathering of friends and an enjoyable meal, either at the campsite or out at one of the many dining choices in the city. We discussed the events of the day, followed by an after-dinner hike on some of the many pedestrian and bicycle trails that were accessible directly from the group campsite.
Tuesday brought with it some additional variety as we took a day off the water to visit the UW Madison Arboretum for a nice hike and the Henry Vilas Zoo, where the highlight was the baby orangutang.
On Wednesday, we finished the just over 40 miles of paddling by circumnavigating Lake Kegonsa prior to departing for home.