Exploring Baraboo, Wisconsin – Baraboo River & Mirror Lake State Park (Part 2: Kayaking)

Some of the best (and craziest) kayaking we’ve done is in Baraboo. You can experience a peaceful float or an exciting adventure depending on where you go and the current river conditions.


The first time we stayed in the area, as we were driving back to our campground from hiking at Devil’s Lake, we passed Luebke Landing – a public launch on the Baraboo River.

The next day we decided to kayak there. We paddled upstream about a mile. It was flowing pretty slow, so it was not difficult at all. We had the most peaceful and relaxing float back downstream. 


The next time we were up that way, we went with friends. There were 9 of us with kayaks. We wanted to share our peaceful, relaxing floating experience with them. We decided since we had multiple vehicles, we’d drop in upstream (Glenville Landing) and float back downstream to the next landing (Luebke Landing). So then all you’re really doing is floating down the river, no work involved at all, right? WRONG.

Maybe if we listened to the guy Al, who owns the local kayak rental company and was picking up some kayakers, we would have had a different experience. He basically told us we should not go that way, we’d be better off launching further upstream and floating back to that landing. He said there were many log jams and downed trees downstream where we were headed.

We had already unloaded our kayaks and the thought of loading them all up again sounded like a pain, so we said, “eh, we’ll be fine!” As we all got in the water, he said “Don’t hesitate to call 911 if you get into any trouble!” Yikes. He also gave us his number so we could let him know how it went. 

The first part of the float was so relaxing, we were listening to music, having drinks, laughing, and having fun.

Then, suddenly we came across the first log jam. Uh oh. 

Followed by many more log jams. Some managed to get through areas that were flowing, many fell in, and some were like NOPE and portaged around to avoid falling in. I tried making the best of the situation and took some photos of the chaos…

This was not turning out to be very relaxing!

And then there was Mat, the hero, who remained calm the entire time and figured out the best way for people to get through each jam.

Just when we thought we were in the clear, we hit another one. This time, one woman from our group lost her kayak entirely and was stranded on a large log that was across the water. It was not a good situation and calling 911 was a real possibility. But Mat came to the rescue again, calmed her down and got her safe on land. A couple other friends were able to rescue her kayak that was lodged under some logs downstream. 

OK we are all safe now, back on track! At this point, it was getting late in the day and we all just wanted to be done. We’re tired, hungry, thirsty and cold. Our friend Frank, who was picking us up, helped us figure out how close we were and we finally made it. We all were soooo happy to see Frank standing at the landing ready to take us back to the campground. It was intense, it was exciting, it was scary and most importantly – we didn’t die.


The next time we were up there, Mat and I decided to do the route that Al from the kayak rental place suggested. We launched at Haskins Park and paddled to Glenville Landing. Now I would not call this trip super relaxing, but it was definitely safe. There were calm parts and there were small rapids. There were some rocks you had to look out for and maneuver around. This route takes you through the town of Baraboo, past the distillery, past Circus World, and along a bike path. We had friends catch some video of us going through some of the rapids. 

We look forward to going back and experiencing it again sometime. It could be very different – it all depends on the water levels and if any trees have fallen to create log jams. When in doubt, ask Al! 


If you are looking for the ultimate peaceful and relaxing paddle, check out Mirror Lake State Park. Out of all the kayaking we’ve done, this is one of our favorites. There is a reason it’s called Mirror Lake, the reflections are amazing. 

If you launch at the state park by the kayak rental place, and go straight across the lake into the channel, it’s another world. Smooth, calm water surrounded by pine forests and tall sandstone cliffs. It’s so peaceful back there. Once you paddle through that channel you will come across another larger lake. There is another boat launch back there, too. 


Another area to explore is the northeast side of the lake. Go past Ishnala Supper Club (another fun place to stop), under the bridge and keep paddling until you get to the dam. You can pull over and walk your kayak down some stairs, drop back in and paddle through a beautiful channel to Lake Delton. 

Once you get to the lake, go to the left. Across the lake you’ll see where the Tommy Bartlett Water Show used to be. Around the corner is a bar called Ravina Bay Bar & Grill. You can beach your kayaks there and have lunch – great place!

We hope you enjoyed hearing about our kayaking adventures in the Baraboo area. If you have any questions or comments, please comment below, or send us a message here