The upper section behaves like a younger sibling; smaller, distracted and less tamed. The river bends and lurches like an impatient child, flowing around an exposed gravel bar island, discarded like a forgotten toy. Low bluffs checkered with forest and plains are interspersed with high, eroded cliffs weathered into sculpted poses along the banks. Apart from the sounds of water gurgling down various ries, the breeze swaying through the trees, and the birds songs and calls, all is quiet.
While shorter, this section can be more technical, especially at higher water levels, due to narrower stretches and greater possibility of downed trees or other strainers. Previous paddling experience suggested when levels exceed three feet.
Launch the canoes or kayaks at Kinney’s Ford Canoe Access and wind through the river to Kennekuk County Park, approximately 5.5 miles. Shuttle busses will pick you up and return you to Kickapoo adventures; some waiting time is expected.
The Salt Fork/Vermilion River is the low water alternative to the Middle Fork. Kickapoo Adventures runs this trip when the Middle Fork water levels drop below navigable depths. The Vermilion River is further downstream , providing enough water for an enjoyable outing during dry conditions. During drought periods, even the Vermilion can become unnavigatable.