By KAREN PARKER | County Line Publisher

It appeared that every Wisconsin resident had come to the same conclusion Saturday: “Let’s canoe the Kickapoo.”

I would like to accompany this column with a photo of the mobs of vehicles that filled nearly every bare patch along canoe livery row. But the only way to do that justice would have been from the air, and my wings weren’t working that day.

The canoe business has grown substantially over the years, from one rental (the Beauti-View) to two when the Kickapoo Paddle Inn began offering rentals, to five at present, plus another operating from Rockton. Along with that growth, most of the rentals have expanded their offerings to kayaks and inner tubes.

All of this has ballooned in tandem with people buying their own canoes and kayaks; consequently, the public landing also is clogged with vehicles.

A few things never fail to astound me. Just one day later, on Sunday, the mobs dwindled to nearly nothing. Why would anyone choose to fight the hordes on Saturday when one might enjoy a leisurely cruise on Sunday?

Secondly, for all of the hundreds of cars, the people are nowhere to be seen in downtown Ontario. It’s as if their GPS brought them to the canoe livery parking lot, and when they were done with the paddle, they hopped back in their cars and drove away. I wonder if most of them are even aware that a town is adjacent to the river.

Just out of curiosity, I waded through pages of reviews on the Web. I expected to find folks whining about the lack of services in Ontario. I thought they might be asking, “Where are the fast food restaurants, the casino, the fudge shop, the places to buy moccasins and obscene T-shirts made in India?”

There are a few flattering comments about the food at the Milk Jug CafĂ© and the ice cream at the Kickapoo Paddle Inn, but that’s about it.

Most reviewers were more impressed with the back rests on the canoes at Kickapoo Wild Adventures than they were with any of Ontario’s auxiliary services.

Overall, the canoe liveries received high marks for courtesy, helpfulness and reasonably priced services. Two reviewers griped that they had been treated rudely at a canoe livery, noting they would never return again.

If you are one of those people who wonder how canoeing the Kickapoo can be fun on a busy Saturday, at least one traveler found it actually bordered on a nightmare.

This fellow first paddled the river on a Sunday in May with five adults and eight kids. He reports having the river to himself and enjoying the “incredible scenery,” encountering other canoeists only when he landed at Bridge No. 5.

Then he went on a Saturday in August. Oops. Here’s what he had to say.

“If you’re looking for a relaxing and respectful place to float, do not try this on a summer weekend. Go in the spring, early summer, or fall. If you do want to paddle in the summer with kids, please consider somewhere else. The language used, the amount of alcohol (one canoe probably had 5060 cans of beer while another group was handing out shots to passersby), and the number of girls showing way more than I would want my kids to see was enough for us to write this place off until it either gets cleaned up or we know this behavior won’t be the norm.”

I wasn’t around here in the 1960s, but I suspect the first canoeists were mostly birdwatchers, fishermen, and wonky nature types who thought a glass of wine at the end of the trip was more than enough party life. The story of how that evolved into animal house would make a good study.

I blame it on the Kickapoo’s lack of whitewater. If canoeists had to hang on for dear life and keep their wits about them for fear of drowning, there would be a lot less monkey business.

It’s sometimes hard to tell if the Kickapoo meets people’s expectations. One visitor wrote, “As far as the river goes, as others have said, it has its good and bad. The river does not smell, and there is no wildlife in the river that I would worry about being near. Only fish and a few beaver are noticeably present.”

Really? It’s hard to imagine what self-respecting wildlife would hang around on a busy summer day. And as for threatening beasts, our voyageur evidently has not met the ferocious woodtick.

The same fellow was relieved to find that the Kickapoo runs in the same direction.

“The river has several twists and turns,” he reports, “but there is no way you could get lost or end up going the wrong way. The light current prevents that.”

This fellow might be amazed to know that the Ontario area’s first white settler, Esau Johnson, actually paddled upstream on a raft, reportedly not only once but twice. But that was when men were men and canoes were made of wood. And there were no shuttle services.

In another month, the canoes will go back on the rack, and only a few fall-color enthusiasts will take a journey down the Kickapoo.

Without the tourists, the wildlife can come out of hiding just in time to be shot during hunting season, the Kickapoo can go back to smelling like whatever it smells like, and it can flow in any direction it chooses and no one would likely notice.

As the old Doc Watson folk song goes, “Life gets tedious, don’t it?”

Actually, the whole first verse is worth a quote:

“The sun comes up, the sun goes down,
the hands on the clock go round and round,
you just get up and it’s time to lay down !
life gets teejus don’t it?”