Red River Monastery Still Available (WI)

Posted: 09/09/2005
by Thomas O'Keefe

Monastery Falls on the Red River.

On September 8th the historic estate along the Red River known to generations of paddlers as "The Monastery" was put on the auction block. The old structures, gutted by a fire 30 years ago, have served as the backdrop to one of the region's signature rapids, a fun bedrock slot with a great surf wave at the bottom and a good recovery pool for those still learning to perfect their roll.

CJ Arnold playing at the base of Monastery Falls.

The land has been subdivided into 17 lots and the auction was conducted by Chicago-based Schrader/Westchester but the minimum bid was not met and the land remains available. Purchase of the site could lead to development of new homes along the Red River, with 7 waterfront lots extending from Monastery Falls to the public access at Ziemer's Falls typically used as a take-out. Additional lots downstream will be separated from the river by the Richmond Town Park which extends from Ziemer's Falls to a short distance downstream. The Town of Richmond will continue to maintain the park and will preserve access to the river at the take-out.

Some paddlers have inquired as to what may happen regarding the ability of paddlers to portage the falls. As the most difficult drop on a beginner run, not all paddlers are ready to tackle this rapid especially at higher flows. In addition, the rocks along the south side of the falls have served as a popular spot to hang out and enjoy the day in between surfs. AW has summarized Wisconsin Navigability law in the Navigability Toolbox. It appears that the right to portage would be preserved although other activities including scouting may be limited. Specifically Wisconsin Statue 30.134 states "members of the public may use any exposed shore area [between the water's edge and the ordinary mean high-water mark] of a stream without permission of the riparian landowner only if it is necessary to exit the body of water to bypass an obstruction."

AW will work with the town of Richmond to identify paddler interest in this river and will promote the development of a positive relationship with any new landowner who emerges. Local paddlers interested in assisting with this effort are encouraged to contact AW.

Parcel map for property to be auctioned off. Parcel 16 includes Monastery Falls. Public access to the river, typically used as a takeout is available through the dirt road that runs between parcel 11 and 10 which connects to public land along the river in the area of Ziemer's Falls.


A mansion was originally constructed on the property in 1939 as a private residence but with the intention that it could serve as a facility for the Alexian Brothers who acquired the property in 1950. Soon after the Alexian Brothers also acquired an adjoining farm. The property was used as a novitiate until 1968 at which point the program moved to Chicago and the facility was maintained by a caretaker. The Alexian Brothers attempted to sell the property for the first time in 1969. The Menominee Tribe showed an interest in the property and for a time in 1975 a dissident group of armed Native Americans calling themselves the Menominee Warrior Society seized the property. Later that year, the Novitiate was deeded to an alternative school from Milwaukee. Approximately fifty-six acres of the Red River frontage was deeded to the Town of Richmond in Shawano County for use as a public park. This includes the river front from Ziemer's Falls and continues a short distance downstream.

Discussions over the future of the property that included the land adajacent to Monastery Falls continued over several years and at one point during the mid 1990's the Red River Paddlers proposed that the area adjacent to the Monastery be designated as a county park. Other proposals for the property have emerged over the years but the next chapter in the life of this property remains to be determined.

Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012