Paddling the Peshtigo River
The Peshtigo 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 canoe, kayak, and raft rentals, as well as guided rafting trips.
Another fun whitewater run is from Burnt Bridge to Goodman Park (P3). A twelve mile stretch that features two class 3 waterfalls in Taylor Falls and Strong Falls, along with numerous class 1 and class 2-3 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 the river flows through more beautiful wilderness scenery with a number of mixed pine and cedar groves covering the banks. The forests surrounding much of the river include: hemlock, tamarack, ash, popple, birch, aspen, maple, and oak. 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 2 boulder garden can become a roaring class 3 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.