My family and I are getting to paddle for a week on the St. Croix river on the 28 th of this month. I was wondering if anyone could let me know how the water levels are. I check the usgs monitors, but that only tells you so much. I was also wondering if someone could fill me in on the fish trap rapids above the confluence of the Croix and the namagonkin. Thank you. Sorry for the spelling errors I am typing on a iPhone!!!
Water levels in northern Wisconsin…
... seem to be pretty good. I paddled the Flambeau near Ladysmith almost two weeks ago, and the water was higher than I've ever seen it. Apparently it was close to "summertime normal" for the first of the various times I've been there over the last several years. For your trip, the Namakogen at Leonards is running above normal for this time of year, the St. Croix at Danbury is running close to normal and at St. Croix falls it's quite a bit above normal. All this is enough to make me think things ought to be fine, or at least easily do-able.
Northern Wisconsin is very green too, like it should be this time of year. There's not a trace of indication that rain has been lacking. Not like southern Wisconsin, which is more brown, parched and dry than I've ever seen (regardless of what time of year you compare it to).
I paddle it semi often from interstate state park and here's what Ive noticed based on my comparison with the usgs readings from here: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wi/nwis/uv?site_no=05340500
3000 cfs and less is low and slow. The water is warm. the river is low in places and you will have to stay in the channel or your paddle will hit bottom in several areas. I dont really like paddling it this low.
4000-5000 cfs is still fairly low and slow. this will probably translate to the gauge height if 4 feet. the river is slow, water is warm. Probably very safe for families with young kids assuming the parents know a thing or 2.
6000-7000 cfs has a more pronounced current which is nice if you are taking the shuttle back to interstate state park. You can slack off a little more if thats your thing. The current still isnt very fast once you pass the island though. Id still say its safe for paddlers with young-ish kids as long as the parents are not total novices. The water might be a little cooler since it usually takes a moderate rain to get the river to this level. This is my favorite level to paddle at.
8000-9000 cfs there is a pronounced current in the channel. its moving fairly fast and I certainly wouldnt want to tip. you'd be in a tough spot. the river will be at around 7-9 foot gauge height so it will be ~4-5' higher than at low flow. The sandbar island a mile south of interstate state park will probably be under water so you wont be able to stop and picnic there like a lot of people do. I wouldnt recommend it to inexperienced paddlers but the canoe rental will still launch boats. If you have kids and go out they should be decent swimmers and definitely wear a life jacket at all times. The adults should know what they're doing as well. There are submerged trees here and there hidden by the water also. All that said, Ive paddled it with my wife and it was fun. We even paddled back up stream a mile or 2 and it was tough but doable. (But I have a Jensen canoe which is a decently fast hull so if you're going to try that in an aluminum boat it would be harder) I like strong current and hard paddling too.
I havent paddled it at 10k+ cfs because my wife is uncomfortable with it but I will when I find someone to do it with me.
Hope that helps
The averaged records for the Danbury
gauge show that the current level has dropped a bit below the past average. By the 28th, the past average is maybe 960.
I ran the river from Nelsons Landing to Soderbeck Landing in late July back about 2001. I would guess I had about 1000 cfs, and it was enough, though picky in places. You will be well upstream of the gauge in question.
I suggest you go to the visitor center on your planned date and ask about current conditions. If they suggest that your upper river trip will be shallow and picky, ask them about shifting your trip downriver to Nelsons Landing or similar. Also ask them if they have information about which of the alternate channels is deeper and easier to negotiate.
The usual rule on rivers is, run the upper river portions in late winter through early spring, and later if you get good water. In summer, focus more on the middle and lower sections.
You guys have gone up and beyond the call of duty! Thank you very much.
We are going in two groups of seven. I have a big family, that loves to paddle. We are well used to low rivers, since we are from central Illinois. If any of you see a large group full of tandem canoes, solo canoes, and kayaks be sure to say hi. I will be in my brand spankin new nova craft prospector! I hate to brag, but every one else I tell has no idea what I am talking about. Thanks again.