Paddling the Peshtigo River
The Peshtigo River is fairly well-known amongst whitewater kayakers and rafters throughout the midwest. The segment named 'Roaring Rapids' (P5) is a four mile stretch of nearly continuous intermediate and advanced whitewater that is a virtual magnet for advanced-level paddlers looking for an exciting challenge. The popularity of this segment is evident by the presence of several large outfitters located in the immediate vicinity, providing: shuttle services, canoe and kayak rentals, guided rafting trips, camping and fun outdoor adventures.
Another fun whitewater run is from Burnt Bridge to Goodman Park (P3). A twelve mile stretch that features: the Upper Dells Rapids (class II), Michigan Rapids (class III), Dells Rapids (class III), Taylor Falls (class III), and finally, Strong Falls a technical class IV. There are also numerous class I and class II-III rapids. There are a large number of access points in this segment which provide plenty of choices on which rapids you want to run. However, the 'runnability' of this segment is difficult at best when river levels are low.
Quietwater enthusiasts will enjoy the segment between Big Joe Landing and CCC Bridge (P1), where the river winds through a remote wilderness setting of dense northern lowland forest. Wildlife is especially abundant in this stretch. South of the CCC Bridge (P2) the river flows through more beautiful wilderness scenery with mixed pine and cedar groves frequently covering the banks. This is a fun run for novice whitewater enthusiasts with several long stretches of class I and class II rapids.
The forest surrounding the river consists of that unique, northwoods scenic blend of hardwoods and conifers: ash, popple, birch, aspen, maple, oak, red pine, white pine, hemlock, spruce and tamarack are common. Beaver, otter, deer, and red squirrel are often spotted, along with the occasional black bear.
Two of the most scenic county parks in Wisconsin are located along the river in Segment P4 at Goodman Park and McClintock Park. Both offer pleasant, shaded campgrounds right next to the river. And both feature short but excellent trails with scenic footbridges leading to small, picturesque islands.
The water tends to have a dark color due to the numerous tamarack swamps surrounding the upper Peshtigo. The dark water can make it difficult to spot submerged rocks in several of the rapids.
The best paddling is often in the spring and early summer. After the spring melt-off, rainfall has a major impact on river levels, probably more so than any other navigable river in the state. Even a moderate rainfall can cause river levels to rise dramatically for a few days. These changing water levels alter the river's character as well. During the summer and fall, what one day may be a scratchy class II boulder garden can become a roaring class III rapids, especially in the segments above the Rat River confluence.
If you are planning a trip on the Peshtigo during mid-summer or later, you should contact one of the regional outfitters for water levels before you embark.