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Madison Boats

Where to Paddle

Madison is the perfect mix of urban outdoors. With running, biking, and hiking trails, there is so much to do, but the defining characteristics of Madison are often left unexplored. At Madison Boats, we want to help you get out, connect with your friends and family, and also explore our wonderful lakes. To make this easy, we have created two resources to help you explore:

Top Ten Paddle Destinations at Madison Boats

Madison Boats Top 10 Paddle Destinations

Download Poster PDF
Lake Wingra Paddle map

The Big Spring

 

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Easy

DURATION: 1 hour

You leave the lake, pushing you way past lily pads bigger than your boat. You disappear between cattails and emerging under towering tree into a haven for fish, turtle and birds. The Big Spring is a natural wonder with a powerful spiritual energy.

 

TIP!

Drift in the calm water of the spring and soak up the tranquility.

Henry Vilas Beach & Zoo

 

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Easy

DURATION: 1-2 hours

One of Madison’s largest and most popular beaches, Henry Vilas Beach, is just a 20-minute paddle from Wingra Boats. Paddle, build a sand castle, get a snack, and enjoy Wisconsin summer sun!

 

TIP!

Plan ahead, bring or borrow a lock from Wingra Boats.

Wingra Creek

 

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Intermediate

DURATION: 3 hours

Locals and visitors alike will enjoy this paddle offering wildlife, great fishing, and urban bridge art. Be sure to bring refreshments, and a camera to capture the best skyline view of Madison (just out of Wingra Creek on Lake Monona) and dramatic views under the bridges.

 

TIP!

Wingra creek is best paddled early in the season. Weed growth makes this paddle more of an adventure as the summer progresses.

From Wingra Boats

1. The Big Spring (1 hour)

2. Vilas Beach and Zoo (1-2 hours)

3. Wingra Creek (3+ hour round trip)

Marshall Boats Paddle Map

Spring Harbor Beach

 

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Easy

DURATION: 1 hour

 

The paddle to the beach is beautiful. You’ll navigate through the sailboat mooring field and past beautiful lakeside homes, enjoying nature along the way.

 

TIP!

Bring your own swimsuit and sand toys, and don’t forget the sun screen.

Governor Nelson State Park

 

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Advanced

DURATION: Half a day

 

The farthest destination on our list is Gov. Nelson State Park, a perfect picnic destination for a half-day paddle. This state park provides many amenities boat slips to pull into it’s well-maintained beach, bathrooms, playground equipment, and plenty of picnic tables.

 

TIP!

This is a challenging trip, especially when the wind is blowing from the northwest, but well worth the effort!

Pheasant Branch Conservancy

 

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Intermediate

DURATION: 2 hours

 

You’ll want to linger and enjoy every moment from upland oak savanna to lowland wet prairies. Pheasant Branch is a must-do paddle every spring, summer, and fall as the seasons change.

 

TIP!

Bring your binocular! This is an excellent spot for bird watching.

From Marshall Boats

4. Spring Harbor Beach (1 hour)

5. Governor Nelson (half a day)

6. Pheasant Branch (2+ hours)

Brittingham Paddle Map

Monona Terrace

 

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Easy

DURATION: 1 hour

Did you know Frank Lloyd Wright designed Monona Terrace to be seen from the water? Paddle a short 20 minutes from Brittingham Boats to see it as Frank Lloyd Wright envisioned it.

 

TIP!

The view of the Capital Building is stunning. Go to the center of the Terrace then paddle out 5 minutes. Now turn around. WOW!

Northern Yahara River

 

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Intermediate

DURATION: 3-4 hours

The Yahara River cuts through Madison’s isthmus, connecting Lake Monona and Lake Mendota. Paddle past Monona Terrace to the Yahara River for an urban treat.

 

TIP!

If you decide to stretch your legs and meander around Willy Street, bring a bike lock and cable to lock your boat while you’re away.

Southern Yahara River

 

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Advanced

DURATION: 4-5 hours

The Yahara River heads south, connecting Lake Monona with Upper Mud Lake, the Waubesa, and the rest of the Yahara chain of lakes. This paddle features many different stops from great parks to restaurants!

 

TIP!

Enjoy the Madison skyline as you paddle back to Brittingham. Spin around and grab a selfie with the skyline in the background. Don’t forget to tag us!

Olbrich Park & Starkweather Creek

 

DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Advanced

DURATION: 4-5 hours

If you’re up for an adventure, paddle your way across Lake Monona to Starkweather Creek. Your reward is enjoying Olbrich Botanical Gardens from the water, paddling under vine-covered bridges and a breathtaking view of the gold-trimmed Thai Pavillion.

 

TIP!

Take the long way home and continue your way along the East Shore and stop for a “dip” at Monona Bait & Ice Cream, a famous stop for Babcock Hall ice cream.

From Brittingham Boats

7. Monona Terrace (1 hour)

8 Northern Brittingham Boats (3+ hours)

9. Southern Yahara River (4+ hours)

10. Starkweather Creek & The Thai Pavillion (4+ hours)