To best paddle this section of river, the water levels in Decorah need to be at least 2 feet. Typically 2.25 feet is optimal. When I went, it was around 1.85 feet. This led to significant dragging. Partially due to the weight for 9 day's worth of gear. Overall, it made for a tough paddle, getting stuck constantly and trying to dodge obstacles. Previous trip reports made it seem like it'd be low but manageable. It was barely manageable.
The trip was very scenic. Bluffs line a good portion of the river. There's plenty of hills, trees, animals, and all things nature. Arguably, it's the most scenic paddle in the midwest area. I love the WI Dells, but this had many more scenic spots. It an odd way, it became almost predictable. So much of the scenery looks like sections that came before, so there's a weird repetitive nature to that stretch of the river. It all blends together, rather than seeing lots of unique features.
Day 2: 12 Miles. This still took about 2MPH. Lots of dragging again. I found a nice grassy perch by a bluff to camp at.
Day 3: 15 Miles. The river started to get a little better. Still plenty of dragging and several hazards to dodge.
Day 4: 27 Miles. Finally got up to just over a 3MPH pace. This section took from 8-6 with several breaks. I did lunch in Bluffton. There was a big rapids section just past the Bluffton area. I saw Chimney Rock in the morning, poking out by a long stretch of cliffs.
There were no portages for this stretch. Besides the many times you have to get out and drag. There are a few tight turns with trees in the middle that you have to carefully maneuver around Three or four times, i opted to get out and walk my boat around obstacles, rather than try to paddle through them.
Naturally, I want to go back and try the second half. Allegedly it gets much easier as it goes on towards the Mississippi. If you are interested in going, I highly recommend it.