Thursday was Paddle to Work Day in Madison. Organized by the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission, the event is part of Take a Stake in the Lakes Week and is organized around canoe and kayak flotillas to encourage people to paddle across lakes Mendota and Monona to get to work.
Conditions on Paddle to Work Day were ideal. Options for those who did not have their own boats included rentals and the opportunity to join 10 or a dozen other people in paddling a reproduction Voyageur canoe -- a 25-foot model that maneuvers like a wayward barge.
Launching from Starkweather Creek at Olbrich Park, one of the Voyageur canoes set off a little after 6:30 a.m., heading west along Lake Monona's north shore toward Monona Terrace and downtown Madison.
Conditions on Paddle to Work Day were ideal. Temperatures were climbing toward the 60s. The sun was up. The wind was down to a light breeze. The dawn light was gorgeous. Environmental consultant and Dane County Supv. Brett Hulsey took the stern seat and was directing the boat, doing his best to keep us on track by calling out when he wanted the paddlers on the port or stern side of the boat to paddle. A couple miles ahead in the distance, lit by early light, the Capitol and the downtown skyline signaled our destination.
It took about an hour to maneuver along Lake Monona's north shore to the takeout along John Nolen Drive between Monona Terrace and the Machinery Row Building. By this time, two members of our party had disembarked: First, a local TV reporter at Hudson Park; and later, Hulsey himself, a triathlon enthusiast who jumped ship to get in some training time by swimming the rest of the way. As we approached the takeout, where the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Voyageur-sized boat trailer awaited in the parking lot, we raised our oars in salute.
Paddling to work in a Voyageur canoe was quite an enjoyable way to begin the day. If you think it looks like fun, there are a number of opportunities to paddle a replica Voyageur in the coming months. The Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board is sponsoring a series of canoe forays on the Wisconsin River in the first half of July.
Led by the board's executive director, Mark Cupp, each trip can accommodate 14 people in one of the replica Voyageur canoes commissioned by the State of Wisconsin for its sesquicentennial. The schedule features: Muscoda to Port Andrew from 5-8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 1; Spring Green to Lone Rock from 5-8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 2; Mazomanie to Arena from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and Arena to Spring Green from 1:30-5 p.m. on Thursday, July 3; Muscoda to Boscobel from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday, July 6; Lone Rock to Muscoda from noon-5 p.m. on Monday, July 7; Bosobel to Millville from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Tuesday, July 8; and Muscoda to Port Andrew from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, July 13. Due to the Voyageur's limited seating capacity, reservations are required for each trip. For reservations and details, phone the riverway board's Muscoda office at (608) 739-3188 or 1-800-221-3792.