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Difficulty I-II
Length 6.5 Miles
Gauge N/A
Flow Range
Reach Info Last Updated 07/13/2019 1:26 pm

River Description

Southwest Wisconsin (the area around La Crosse, in the counties of La Crosse, Vernon and Monroe) is commonly called "The Coulee Region". Erosion has divided the area into narrow ridges and steep-sided valleys called coulees,  from the French verb "couler," meaning to flow.

With all its rolling terrain, any boater with any imagination who has driven through or looked at it on topographic maps would have to surmise "There MUST be some good whitewater here!" Unfortunately, there are serious downsides of all that steep coulee terrain. By its nature, it fractures the watersheds into such small subdivisions that where there is gradient, there is not generally much drainage area. By the time there is decent drainage area, you are in the 'bottom lands' where there is not much gradient. Being such smaller drainages, they have very little flow most of the year, thus are likely to have much overhanging or encroaching shrubbery, deadfall, and snags.

All that said, the Bad Axe is one drainage which (beyond its suggestive and colorful name) appears to have some promise. The gradient is spread quite evenly, without encountering significant bedrock or narrows, resulting in mostly 'swiftwater' with little-to-no true whitewater features.  Doing a 'flyover' (via satellite views) suggests much of this section is fairly 'open' (I.E., not running through too much wooded area), so deadfall and snags may not be as much a problem as otherwise might be expected with so small a watershed area.

Rapid Descriptions

Esofea Road

Class - N/A Mile - -3.32
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Alternate put-in may be Natwick Road just near Larson Lane and Lovstad Lane. (These 'lanes' may actually be little more than driveways!) Drainage at this point is 10.5 square miles.

While this adds 2.5-3.0 miles of lower gradient (15-25 FPM), the final half-mile or more (leading to Esofea Road and our listed put-in) drops at an equivalent of 50 FPM, which exceeds gradient anywhere else on the run and could be some fun action!

Drainage area: 12.7 square miles

Class - N/A Mile - 0
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At Esofea Road, the drainage area (as calculated by USGS StreamStats V.4.3.8) is 12.7 square miles.
At our listed take-out, it has more than doubled, to 28.6 square miles.


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10 years ago

I have done both rivers. There are a lot of stainers and fences across both rivers. The best stretch on the South Fork is from Oliver Road to Bad Axe Road. It's only a couple of miles and not too exciting. The best stretch on the North Fork is from Highway 56 to the Mississippi River landing. This stretch is about 4 or 5 miles, but takes a while due to portaging strainers and fences.

No Gage

Gage Descriptions

The various options are all fairly small drainage areas: 10, 15, and 30 square miles. It will take significant rain or spring snowmelt to find sufficient water to make these anything more than a scrape down a drainage ditch (if they are ever anything more than that). The 'window of opportunity' is likely quite short after a good rainfall, meaning that trying to attach these reaches to any 'reference gauge' (USGS gauge on any nearby river) is probably futile. (The nearest gauge on anything of near comparable size is the S.Br.Baraboo River, nearly 40 miles east, with drainage of 39 square miles.)

Directions Description

No Accident Reports






Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1213288 07/13/19 Rob updated description
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1201110 07/13/19 Rob remove table from description, putting info into simple statement/paragraph form.
1212820 07/13/19 Rob directions to the river
1197081 07/13/19 Rob Minor text/format changes.
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