Kickapoo River: Rockton to LaFarge—Flat Water Paddling

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The Kickapoo river is one of the premier paddling destinations in all of Wisconsin. With easy access, camping opportunities and stunning rock formations, it’s a bucket-list destination.

Written by

Barry Kalpinski


10.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

71.9 miles


2 of 5 diamonds

The Kickapoo has been know for being crooked and twisty but even beginner paddlers should be able to handle the twists and turns this river has to offer.

Time To Complete

0 hours


Spring, Summer, and Fall

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits


If you park at the put-in within the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, their is a $4.00 parking fee (unless you're camping, in which case, the parking fee is included with your campsite fee). You'll find a self-registration box at the landing.

Land Website



The second of two of the most popular sections of the Kickapoo offers much of the same wonderfully stunning sand and limestone cliffs, and scenery unique to this area of Wisconsin.

What Makes It Great

Just like the upper section, Rockton to LaFarge is gorgeous. Beautiful cliffs, swift, clear water, a sandy-bottom and riffles here and there make this paddle through the driftless area a memorable one. Around every bend awaits something new to make your jaw drop a little or give you a reason to pull out your camera. 

The Kickapoo River is a canoe and kayakers dream; stunning in its geology, wildlife and scenery. This section brings about more unique encounters with wildlife. We spotted three bald eagles, a couple hawks, a crazy bat and three snakes shifting across the water. 

One of the unique landmarks on this section is located between bridges #18 and #19. The beginning of a storied and controversial (but unfinished) dam looms large in the distance. The dam would've flooded the valley creating a lake meant to bring in tourist dollars. The project was abandoned at the last minute when numerous studies showed it might not have the economic impact that was anticipated. It's an issue that divided and changed the economic face of the area for decades and beyond. This concrete tower juts out of the field like a relic from a different time. It’s a haunting reminder of what might have been.

If you're looking for a day paddle, this is a wonderful section. If you had to decide between the two, we'd recommend the upper Ontario to Rockton section but ever so slightly. That section seemed to have more limestone walls and cliffs but we're only talking by a few strokes here so we're splitting hairs. They're both awesome. Even better? Make it a two-day outing and notch both sections to experience what this wonderful stretch of river has to offer.

Post-Paddle Diversions: Wildcat Mountain State Park is small but it’s proximity to the Kickapoo makes it a convenient camping option pre- or post-paddle. Moving south, a stop at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve is definitely in order. It’s a beautiful facility and if you haven’t stopped to pay for camping or grab a map, you should visit just to soak up some history of the area. Even further south, in LaFarge, you'll also find the home of Organic Valley Co-op.

Who is Going to Love It

Canoers and kayakers looking for uniquely breathtaking scenery on a narrower river will love the Kickapoo. It's great for beginners as well as seasoned paddlers. Nature-enthusiasts may not (only because it can get busy and crowded) but that comes with territory on a beautiful river like this.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Whereas the upper Ontario to Rockton section has numerous access points, this stretch has only one true landing (landing 14 on County Highway P) not counting the put-in and take-out at #12 and #20 but there are still many places to land, stretch your legs, lunch and explore.

Put-In at Landing 12: Rockton, Wisconsin: The put-in for this section is in the town of Rockton and within the Kickapoo Valley Reserve so if you're parking at landing 12, you'll need a $4.00 parking pass. If you're camping, parking is included in the cost of the permit. 

Take-Out at Landing 20: LaFarge, Wisconsin: The take-out in LaFarge is outside of the Reserve boundaries so there's no fee. It's not clearly marked from the road but it's tucked back in a field over a farm bridge and past a gate (upstream left of Landing 20).

Extended Trips: If you’ve paddled the Rockton to LaFarge section and haven’t been upriver, you have to paddle the upper Ontario to Rockton section next. But your best bet is to paddle the entire Ontario to LaFarge stretch while camping in-between. It can’t be beat.

Related Links: 2012 Trip Report | Video | 2012 Trip Report (Ontario to Rockton) | Video (Ontario to Rockton) | 2015 Trip Report (Landing 4 to Landing 14)


Kickapoo River: Rockton to LaFarge

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