Plan a trip on the water with our Paddle Guide, exploring the best spots to canoe and kayak in the Stevens Point Area. This time we're featuring the Blue Heron Loop, part of the Biron Flowage of the Wisconsin River. In each guide, you'll find details on what to expect, where to put-in and take-out, along with mileage and estimated time. All that's left to do is head out! 

Paddle Guide: BLUE HERON LOOP

By Timothy Bauer of MilesPaddled.com
 

TRIP DETAILS

This trip explores a cluster of wild islands on the backwaters of the Wisconsin River below Stevens Point, specifically the Blue Heron Loop. It is a perfect example of finding adventure (and solitude) in unlikely places, with extraordinary wildlife, beautiful scenery, and lively small rapids through a fun boulder garden.

Skill Level: Beginner
Class Difficulty: Small rapids + occasional paddling against the current
Gradient: 2′ per mile
Time of Year to Paddle: Water levels are always reliable, but the current can be very strong right after rainstorms.
Put-In + Take-Out: Blue Heron Lane boat launch, Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Time Needed: 2-3 hours
Miles Paddled: 3.5-6.5 (depending on which route you take around the islands)

Wildlife: Bald eagles, great blue herons, dragonflies, hawks, sandhill cranes, painted and leatherback turtles, woodpeckers, songbirds, and splashy fish.

Official route map of the Blue Heron Loop on the Wisconsin River.

Trip Description

A natural oasis escape surrounded by the city, the backwaters of the Blue Heron Loop, immediately downstream from the third of Stevens Point’s three dams, treats paddlers to a wild setting free from development and the trappings of civilization. There’s no development on any of the islands, so the feeling while paddling through them is unique. By beginning and ending at the outstanding boat launch at Blue Heron Lane, no shuttling is required for this trip – as long as paddlers don’t object to paddling against the current for a little while. The urban oasis this archipelago provides is truly extraordinary – like an arboretum, but instead of hiking trails, there are paddling trails. There’s no wrong way; it all depends on how long you want to be on the water.

The wildlife alone makes this trip extra special. The odds of seeing (and hearing) bald eagles and great blue herons are very good, not to mention umpteen turtles on a sunny day basking on a log in the warmth.

Timothy Bauer, writer for Miles Paddled, prepares to launch a canoe trip with a friend.

If that wasn't enough, on the west shore, below the Al Tech Park dam is a short but lively boulder garden and set of small rapids. They’re the icing on the cake of this surprisingly diverse trip! Paddlers have two options here: going down the main channel or through a creek-like side channel that’s parallel to (and visible from) Blue Heron Lane. Just be mindful that there’s enough water to run the rapids here, as this stretch can be shallow during dry spells.

Alternative trips

Paddlers who don’t mind shuttling could put in at Al Tech Park, just below the dam and then ferry over to the big island and travel down any number of side channels, or simply cruise through the boulder garden and light rapids, past the boat launch, and head down to the mouth of Mill Creek, some 4.3 miles downstream, in another beautiful backwaters area – and perhaps stop at Rusty’s Backwater Saloon for a Bloody Mary or bite to eat.

Want more? 

Find more fun on the water in the Stevens Point Area - from paddling to swimming and fishing to boating - and learn more about MilesPaddled. Then, plan your own trip in the Stevens Point Area with the Pedal, Paddle & Hike Guide (view online), or order a copy by mail