Spring is upon us here in Wisconsin. Paddlers all over the state have been waiting for ice out. Canoecopia gets us dreaming of new adventures with the coming warmer weather. For Fox Cities paddlers itching for a very early season outing the Fox River and Little Lake Butte Des Mortes is the first open water in the area.
My friend Dave was looking to get out on his first paddle of 2011. He invited me along with his friends Frank and John to explore the Fox River and Little Lake Butte Des Mortes on March 19th. The weather was a balmy 45 degrees with full sun. For eager paddlers looking for a first adventure of the season we thought it was warm enough, We had a little wind in our faces going out making for a cool start. The water was high from all the snow melt which made the current stronger in the river during our first stretch going upstream. The upstream current was a good test for our unused kayaking muscles. Three eagles and a Red Tailed Hawk greeted us within the first few minutes on the river.
Here’s more of our Little Lake Buttes Des Morts outing on March 19th in photos.
Snow piles still around the launch. I had thoughts of using the snow to slide in but decided I wasn’t ready for the possibility of getting wet. Most of the parking spots at Lutz Park where still be used by snow piles.
Dave, Frank and John launching at Lutz Park on our 2011 maiden voyage. Lutz Park has nice launch facilities in Appleton.
Dave and I breaking ice near the Menasha Lock. We heard a canoe & kayak launch and portage area is planned for this area so we paddled over to see if it had been added. We didn’t see any signs of the portage or new launch yet. We’ll have to check back later in the season.
John with his icebreaker kayak near the Menasha Lock. There were still a few inches of ice in protected areas of the lake.
This is the trestle trail going over Little Lake Butte Des Morts to Fritse Park in Menasha. The trestle trail is open for walkers, runners and bicyclers to enjoy the cross over the lake on an old rail road trestle. There is even this shaded pavilion at about the half way point of the crossing.
Frank paddling near Fritse Park looking for a lunch stop. The trestle trail is in the background. Photo by Dave Horst.
John and Frank enjoying lunch at Fritse Park. We had to fuel up for our return journey to Lutz Park. Photo by Dave Horst.
Another local paddler found us on our lunch break and stopped to talk. I met Scott at Canoecopia. He was trying out his some of his new purchases. While resting at Fritse Park cedar waxwings flited around us in the trees. Photo by Dave Horst.
After lunch we started back along the West shore of the lake. I decided to explore along the icy edges of the lake. We saw coots (aka mud hens) on the way back, a small dark grey duck recognizable by the way they bob their heads as they swim and run across the water to take off. Photo by Dave Horst.
The wind was at our back as we returned to the narrower sections of the Fox River. We coasted back on the current and enjoyed the warm sun. We scared a deer also enjoying the sun along the river banks. The deer wasn’t sure we were supposed to be out on the river this early. We were a bit surprised to see a deer in the middle of the day in the city.
One of the recent additions at Lutz Park is this pedestrian bridge out the a small island in the river.
We had an enjoyable outing and I’m looking forward to our next date on the water.
Little Lake Butte Des Morts Information
Little Lake Butte Des Morts is a 1200 acre lake located in Winnebago County. There are 3 public launch places.
- Fritse Park in Menasha on the West side of the lake. The park has just improved in 2010 with new restroom facilities and a new quiet water launch. This wooden launch area can get really slippery. I recommend using the concrete launch area on the other side of the dock instead.
- 9th Street Landing is on the east side of the lake South of 441 in Menasha. The 9th street landing does not has restroom facilities at this time.
- Lutz Park launch in Appleton is technically not on Little Lake Butte Des Morts. Launching at Lutz Park and as you paddle West the river gradually gets wider and turns into Little Lake Butte Des Morts. Lutz Park has restrooms, you can refill water bottles and it has nice park facilities.
Have you been out paddling yet in 2011? If you have where did you go?