By Jim Umhoefer
The Root River gets a lot of return business. Canoeists come back to paddle in the shadow of forest-carpeted bluffs, and anglers try their luck again for smallmouth bass, channel catfish, rock bass or panfish. Some cast for brown trout in the clearer and colder spring-fed streams as well as at the western end of the South Branch.
If you don't fish, bring your camera and catch a shot of the wildlife along the river. The sandstone and limestone bluffs and the hardwood forests that flank the river are home to over 40 species of birds and a variety of river-bottom and woodland animals.
Formed of two branches in the west, the North and the Middle, the Root River winds past towering bluffs topped with oak and hickory. Joined above Whalen by the South Branch, a tributary that flows from Mystery Cave, the river continues its way past bluffs and outcrops to Rushford. There the river straightens in a broad valley. The scenery settles into a gentle plain of pastureland and mixed cottonwood and maple with wooded, rolling hills visible in the distance.
Novice canoeists can easily navigate the Root River at normal water levels, though fluctuations will cause changes in canoeing conditions. Low water levels in late summer can make passage difficult on the North and South branches. Heavy rains can cause flash floods on the river, requiring campers to place canoe and gear high on the riverbank. Check the Department of Natural Resources canoe route map for other cautions: the old dam at River mile 62, a submerged dam above Rushford, and dredging operations on the lower river.
Family canoe day-trips are popular on the Root River. Those more adventurous can take advantage of the canoe campsites for overnight trips. Drinking water is not provided at the DNR campsites. Several towns along the Root River offer services and hospitality to river users.