Wisconsin River Update?

Anybody have first-hand knowledge of how the Lower Wisconsin is right now? I hear the sandbars are covered with all the rain we’ve had. Are the islands OK to camp on?


See PJC’s posts on WI R. thread
in Getting Together & Paddling in last several days:


No sandbars

– Last Updated: Jul-23-10 5:53 PM EST –

I did a drive yesterday and checked all the landings from Arena to Muscoda and inspected what I could from the road. Not a sandbar to be seen.
The Pine River landing near Gotham had standing water in the turn-around and even the vast expanse of sand usually visible from there is all under. The water is lapping at the edge of the parking area at Otter Creek landing near Lone Rock. Over the rip rap at both spots. The beach at Peck's Landing by Spring Green is at most 8ft from the road. At Muscoda the water is at the base of the trees at Victoria park.
There is standing water in most of the lower sections of the wooded parts of the islands and the higher parts are spongy at best. Its safe enough to paddle for experienced paddlers, but look out for powerful whirlpools under the bridges. Lone Rock and Woodman rail road bridges are likely to be the worst. If you keep in the main flow, I'm sure any good paddler can manage. It would be a bad place to swim, though. I plan to paddle it this weekend, but I won't be expecting to find any sandbar camps. I've paddled it higher, but not much.

We got quite a lot of rain yesterday, most of it in the Wisconsin R. watershed, so I expect it to rise more yet.

If you had plans for river camping, I think I'd be considering camping at Victoria in Muscoda, Bob's Riverside in Spring Green, or Wyalusing. Self-shuttles could be run from there.

Here's the info from the Muscoda USGS station:
If you go you'll most likely enjoy a very fast run, but be careful. 24,000cfs deserves respect.

PS: I checked the Kickapoo also. The upstream is high, so it'll be rising too. If the past is any indication, I'd expect it to rise fast and maybe get dangerous in the next day or two. Probably everything's pretty big and powerful where they meet at Wazeka. Perhaps I'll get photos if we decide to go down that way.

I appreciate the detailed information. I went to Rutabaga tonight and heard the same thing about the conditions, specifically the whirlpools. I hope the river goes down soon… I need to get out there and camp!

4 inches of rain
They had 4 inches of rain in parts of that watershed yesterday, it’ll be a while before the levels go down, likely a long while.

Bill H.

First hand info
Just got in from paddling Lone Rock to Boydstown (about four miles downstream from Boscobel). There was more sand than I expected, though that’s not saying much. There were four spots between Lone Rock and Muscoda that I saw that would hold a tent or two and be safely above any possible overnight rise. All were occupied, though some of the occupants may have just been leg-stretching rather than camping.I paddled over some of my regular camp sites without my paddle touching bottom. I also paddled through willows into areas that are usually a bit of a hike from the river. Camped at Muscoda’s Victoria campground, well above river level. Between Muscoda and Boscobel I saw only two campable spots. Both were on the shore and may have been on private property. I think the river is a bit higher below Muscoda than above it, right now. All our usual Pnet trip sites near Boscobel (and the backup sites also) were under. The only sign of any of them was the occasional surface disturbance caused by the smaller submerged willows that grew on them.

Beautiful paddle though. No major whirlpools at Lone Rock or any other bridge I went under, as I thought there might be. Easy to make time. Its refreshing to paddle to a point on the horizon with absolutely no thought of zig-zagging to avoid shallows. Perfect summer weather. Life is good. But it needs to come down about three feet or there will be no river tripping at this year’s rendezvous.

river closures
Btw, most of the rivers in northern Illinois are now closed officially. Those in southern Wisconsin might be too, don’t have official info for them.

Bill H.

Maybe I don’t know the right people, …
…but I’ve never heard of anyone “closing a river” here - certainly not this river. I can understand why canoe-rental shops would stop renting boats when all the traditional camping spots are flooded, but I don’t believe the river is actually “closed”.

Keeping an eye on this…
Great information from one of our local outfitters. Every time we’ve paddled, it’s been between 5-6k cf/s, so to see the current conditions like this, it’s mind-boggling…


different states
Different states do things differently. In bordering Illinois the state police can and do close rivers. Mostly to prevent needless expensive rescues when people go out in water they don’t have the experience to handle. Also protects the shoreline and sometimes homes of landowners from powerboats creating large wakes onto already flooded property.

Bill H.

Btw, right now most of the large recreational rivers in northern IL are closed to boating. Severe flooding right now.

Bill H.

Another Weekend of Waiting
Here’s the weekly video update from Mark Cupp. Do note that the whirlpools are real. That rescue last weekend was pretty wild.


Canoeing Aug. 22nd…Maybe??
We are planning a canoe trip from Lone Rock to Muscoda on Aug. 22nd. If the weather permits and we don’t recieve an accumulation of rainfall like we have, will the sandbars come back by that time? Or with the current as it has been, will they likely be gone the rest of the season?

Sandbars will be back

– Last Updated: Aug-02-10 12:02 AM EST –

Have no fear about the current wiping out sandbars. The sandbars move - downstream - but usually don't disappear. Most of the sandbars are still right about where they were before, and when the water drops, they will be exposed again. The water should drop enough by the date of your trip, if the rain stops.

The movement of sandbars downstream is fascinating stuff, but islands do it too. I stumbled upon a gem of a book back when I was a kid, and thought of it again just now. In that book, here's a nice river-geology lesson involving islands:


Thanks for the sandbar info! It’s been a long time since I’ve canoed the lower WI and I’m looking forward to it.