Token Creek Obstacle Course

“I hear voices,” I called out to our leader, Bill.

“You might want to seek professional help,” he responded with a smile.

A bit of a jokester, Bill was making fun of my answer to his inquiry on whether the rest of our kayaking group was catching up to us on the river.

Together, we were a pack of eight, paddling Token Creek from the Token Creek Historic Mill site on Portage Road, just north of Hwy. 19, to Token Creek County Park.

Bill and his wife, Maggie, and “empty-nester” friends Chad and Julie, Steve and Susan, and my friend Jenny and I were happy for an opportunity to kayak this September Saturday morning. The gray sky was thick with clouds, the air warm and humid. The forecast threatened rain after lunch so we put in just after 9 a.m. (Not only were we trying to beat the rain, there was a good chance we’d be home for the Badgers home game kickoff against Michigan!)

Every day on the way to and from work and trips southbound into Madison and beyond, I pass over and along Token Creek which runs within a mile of my home, yet I’d never kayaked between its grassy banks. It was comforting to paddle with Bill and Maggie on my debut trip because they had traveled it several times and were familiar with its intricacies.

Their experience was obvious: Bill carried a hack saw, and Maggie had a super-soaker squirt gun tucked in her kayak—both which came in surprisingly handy during our two-hour trip.

Entering the creek was easy, no problems. The water was shallow and flowing gently as we started off, traveling along Hwy. 19, unseen by the passing motorists behind a barrier of prairie grass. We crossed beneath a couple of bridges, ducking low against our kayaks or bending back like doing the limbo.

The river posed many obstacles, keeping our trip interesting.

“Stay to the right!” somebody would holler, helping others to dodge a log hidden under the water or shallow spot.

“Slalom!” we joked, veering quickly left then right to strategically maneuver around a fallen tree.

Sometimes we used our hands to push off from the trees and branches, the passageway too narrow to swing our paddles.

“Do they make shorter paddles?” asked Jenny.

If they do, we sure could have used them!

Bill used his saw to remove a medium sized branch in our way. Later, Chad and he worked together with the saw and their hands to move a log blocking our path.

In one tough spot, four of us made it through and had already rounded the next bend when we heard yelling and commotion behind us. Hearing a cry for help, we turned our kayaks around and quickly paddled upstream where we found Julie wet from head to toe, her kayak filled with water. The kayak had gotten lodged on an underwater log and the current toppled it over on its side.

“The water is cold!” Julie assured us.

And this is where the super soaker squirt gun came in handy! Chad and Bill dumped most of the water from Julie’s kayak and the rest was sucked out with the super soaker. So creative and it worked amazingly – I must get one!

This was Julie’s first time dumped from her kayak, but it happens to all of us eventually. Jenny had a close encounter going into a fallen tree which teetered her kayak, and at one point when I thought I’d cleared an overhanging tree, I dipped my paddle into the water on the left side of my kayak, only to have the other end of the paddle get caught in the branches, stopping my kayak abruptly and spinning it precariously. It’s easy to see how quickly one can capsize on the river.

As we approached the end of our trip, we pushed through a drainage tube under the road into an area where the creek forms a small, very shallow pond in Token Creek Park. The pier features a convenient V-shaped cutout, making it easy for paddlers to prop up their boats and exit gracefully.

Token Creek provided a pleasant ride with challenging obstacles for a close-to-home adventure. Definitely worth repeating!

We were out of the water by 11:15 a.m. and home about 11:30 a.m.—in time to watch most of the Badgers game and a few hours ahead of the rain that eventually saturated the afternoon and evening hours.

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