Reprinted from the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen
HORICON — For those who want a unique look at Horicon Marsh and all of the wildlife within, now is the best time to go out on the water.
“For most of the people that come to Horicon Marsh they tend to hike the trails; drive around and look at it from the outside,” said Bill Volkert, wildlife educator and naturalist for Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “But to really get an experience you want to get into the interior of it to get a feeling of how vast it really is.”
The height of spring is when people are urged to get out and see the marsh because the wildlife is most active and the temperatures are the most tolerable.
“Spring is great, and probably one of the things that most people make as a mistake is that they wait too late,” Volkert said. “End of May, Memorial Day, June, July; that’s nesting season. Right now we’re at the peak of the duck migration. Birds are in spectacular color, it’s nice cool air. It’s a great time to get out there.”
In 2007, the DNR created an actual marked canoeing trail for those that want to get out into the marsh but were perhaps a little concerned about getting lost. The trail is seven miles long and takes about two to three hours if you’re paddling straight through. The trail runs through the state wildlife area as the general public is not allowed to boat in the federal wildlife area.
“It begins at the Greenhead Landing where the east branch of the Rock River comes into the marsh,” Volkert said. “The Greenhead starts on the natural river course; it’s a real nice start.”
Marc Zuelsdorf, who owns Blue Heron Landing, a canoe/kayak rental and boat tour company, in Horicon with his wife Gayl, agrees that Greenhead is one of the better locations to start.
“We do have a shuttle option here where people can shuttle out to either one of the places,” Zuelsdorf of renting for either the Burnett Ditch landing or Greenhead. “It’s more scenic going out Greenhead.”
It is not required of kayakers or canoeists to follow the trail, in fact, Volkert suggests going off of the trail to see more wildlife in the marsh.
“Its quieter for one, it allows you to get back into the shallower waters,” he said. “That’s the neat thing about it that getting off the main river course and around those little corners and back waters that’s where you might surprise a heron or egret.”
When planning a trip, there are two things to take into consideration.
“I would always give people two big cautions when canoeing in the marsh: Don’t do it in high winds or high temperatures,” Volkert said.
The reason for his cautions are that during high winds, while in the open marsh, there is no shelter and canoeists spend much more time trying to steer than enjoying the marsh and wildlife usually hides during high winds and high temperatures.
People interested in canoeing or kayaking have the option of renting from the Blue Heron Landing, and Zuelsdorf thinks you don’t need to be a seasoned paddler to go.
“Canoeing, kayaking here is pretty simple, 90 percent of the time its all calm water paddling, no white water, no rapids,” he said. “For beginners and for novices this is a great place to do it.”
Most of Blue Heron’s rental customers come from outside the county, which makes him think more locals should take advantage of what the marsh has to offer.
“More people come from the surrounding areas,” Zuelsdorf said. “Its more visitors from the 50 to100 mile radius that are coming more. People locally take it for granted and that’s their mistake.”