A few photos, other info
– Last Updated: May-18-11 10:06 AM EST –
I did a trip on the Black River below the Hatfield dam a year or two ago. Here are some representative photos:
When we started out, only one turbine at the dam was operating. At that time, the river was much too scratchy for comfortably getting a canoe down the river, but it would have been doable. Just as we got going, the plant operator decided to do us a favor and he started another turbine, which of course doubled the flow. It was a pretty section of river, but still a bit scratchy. I think we took out below Power House Rapids. The book "Paddling Northern Wisconsin" by Mike Svob will help you out in choosing access points, and will describe river conditions along the way.
At normal summer flows, you'll be scratching bottom quite a bit on this section, but there are scheduled dam releases in summer that make this part pretty crazy. The guy who led the trip that I went on, who paddles that section of river a lot, said that during a good release, standing waves 6 to 8 feet high are normal in some spots. Under those conditions, safely getting to shore could be a problem, so make sure you know what you are getting into before paddling on a release date.
As far as biting flies go, I expect people are talking about deer flies, as the whole region is deer-fly country.
For other Class-I to Class-III rivers, check out the book I mentioned above. I think the Black River is probably one of the whitewater rivers that is closest to Madison.