One spring day while walking along the Upper Yahara River Trail between Windsor and DeForest, my daughter Rebecca and I spotted a kayaker quietly making her way down the Yahara River. We both looked at each other excitedly. We had yet to consider kayaking the river, but seeing the woman in her kayak, we vowed to try it. By the time we reached the end of the trail, we had a plan in place to kayak the Yahara River.
On Friday afternoon, we launched into the river from an access point off Innovation Road in Conservancy Place. Lake kayakers up to this point, we were pleased by the gentle pull of the current, requiring little work as we floated downstream. Hmmm. Maybe river kayaking was the way to go.
Or maybe not. The relaxed ride didn’t last long. The river was shallow and we began getting stuck in low, rocky areas. Not wanting to get out of our kayaks into the “dirty” water (yes, we were being girly), we maneuvered our way through the low areas by thrusting ourselves forward and using our paddles to push off from the rocks. Finally, we conceded defeat and stepped into the river, pulling our kayaks forward to better waters.
Despite the low water levels, there were actually areas of fast-moving water and mini rapids, making us feel adventurous as we strategically piloted our kayaks around rocks and sharp bends. The river threw in a few other challenges as well. We encountered fallen trees and low hanging branches requiring us to duck our heads or veer around them when possible, and in a couple of cases, flatten ourselves into our kayaks to get under them. I regretted not wearing a baseball cap to protect my hair from bugs and cobwebs.
We continued our way downstream, the river an interesting design of twists and turns. We had not studied our route in advance and didn’t realize the number of river bends—and how unlike traveling a river is to traveling a straight road between the two communities.
Traveling through the trees and late afternoon sun, our sunglasses became unnecessary and we propped them atop our heads. In and out of our kayaks repeatedly, we forged ahead. At one point, Rebecca gasped and realized her “favorite” sunglasses were missing, surely fallen into the river as she got out of her kayak during a rough patch a while back.
Seeing how upset she was, I agreed to go back and look for them. We’d already been in the water plenty of times by now, so getting out again into the river water and pulling our kayaks back upstream wasn’t a big deal. Fighting against the current with water up to our knees, we made our way back the way we’d come.
Rebecca was confident she knew the spot where she’d been stuck and gotten out of her kayak, and we were able to reach it about 10-15 minutes later. Hanging onto our kayaks as they bobbed in the river, we walked back and forth through a shallow, rocky area, bent at the waist, peering into the water. The water was clear but we didn’t know if the current had carried her sunglasses away.
As we searched, I asked her about the sunglasses: where she’d purchased them, how much they were worth, why they were her favorite—and if she’d considered wearing a sunglasses strap! Not one to give up—even though we weren’t looking for Ray-Bans or anything truly irreplaceable—we kept looking.
A moment later, I gasped as I saw them beneath the water and plucked them out quickly. Yes, V-I-C-T-O-R-Y! Boy, had we gotten lucky. Back-tracking had been worth it to find Rebecca’s sunglasses.
Back in our kayaks, we made our way south, under Windsor Road and through the Lake Windsor Golf Club. Somewhere between 2-3 hours had passed. We pulled our kayaks ashore and called for our ride home.
The Yahara River was an adventure, yet we both agreed we enjoyed lake kayaking better. We were tired and felt dirty from our heads to our toes, but elated that we were returning home with Rebecca’s favorite sunglasses. Using my motherly wisdom, I kindly suggested she choose a non-favorite pair the next time we went kayaking. With her own solution in mind, she searched online from her phone and ordered multiple pairs of these “irreplaceable” $5 sunglasses by the time we reached home.
We concluded that we were content not trying this route again. Yet, much like childbirth, memories fade and you forget the bad parts, and somehow you find yourself doing it again. I’ll fill you in on the Yahara River Round 2 next time!