As we navigate through a new world of quarantine, cancelled events, and school closures, many find themselves being drawn back to the basics of nature.  Devices aren’t in hand as frequently, and a trip to your nearest trail proves to be the best part of the day. If you find walking trails to be a source of peace, wait until you try a water trail!

Kayak paddle with another kayak in the distance on the river

The Rock River Trail in Watertown, WI

The Rock River Trail is a 320-mile national water trail that starts in Waupun, WI, and flows to the Mississippi River in Rock Island, IL, slicing right through Watertown along the way.  Watertown places a lot of value on the river, and is in the process of designing a Town Square that will be located on the water, which will include a kayak launch to encourage users to paddle in for events and activities.  The project is slated for completion in fall of 2021. The city also boasts one of the most beautiful parks in the area, appropriately named Riverside Park. This water-side park hosts some of the area’s largest events, including a free 4-day music festival, Watertown Riverfest.

watertown riverfest music

The Rock River Rescue lends a hand

Another unique attribute to the Rock River in Watertown, is the Rock River Rescue Foundation.  This group is dedicated to improving the river in the city and beyond.  Since its inception in 2002, the group has stocked well over 900,000 fish into the area, they have removed hundreds of thousands of carp, they have improved the habitat for beneficial fish species, and they donated two handicap accessible fishing piers to the city. Their hard work did not go unnoticed as a recent episode of Outdoor Wisconsin noted that the water quality in the Watertown section of the river is some of the best seen in the state.

Man dumping fish out of a bucket

Bring your camera!

If we haven’t convinced you to get out and try the trail, we should probably share what you will see along the way. Bald eagles have made a comeback to the area as their habitats improved, providing plenty of fish to feed on.  In fact, the trail can be an excellent way to expand your bird watching. You are sure to see birds along the shore that you won’t find on your average hike through the woods.  If you’re paddling quietly you may also see deer working their way through wooded sections of the trail.  Turtles, geese, waterfowl, and more make for regular companions on your journey.  And while we highly suggest putting your devices down while you enjoy the scenery, you will definitely want to keep your camera handy for the many photo ops along the way.

Heron standing in Rock River

Enjoy the trail

If we’ve encouraged you to hit the water trail, kayaks can be rented at the Watertown Park & Rec Department, seven days a week.  You can also rent from 2 Rivers Bicycle & Outdoor in Fort Atkinson, and Zastrow’s Watercraft in Lake Mills.

Not up for paddling the Rock River Trail? Then drive it, bike it, hike it, or even fly over it!  Maps are available for every option.


Robin Kaufmann is a member of the Jefferson County Tourism Council and manages the daily operations of the Watertown Tourism office.  She's a Watertown resident and the QUEEN of our Facebook content!