Popple, Wisconsin, US
|Usual Difficulty||II(III) (varies with level)|
|Avg. Gradient||11 fpm|
|Max Gradient||13 fpm|
|POPPLE RIVER NEAR FENCE, WI|
|usgs-04063700||200 - 1000 cfs||I(II)||00h36m||78.6 cfs (too low)|
|Too low for reasonable whitewater. (May be paddled as a scenic float trip, but all gradient will be a scrape or carry.) Gauge (139 sq.mi. drainage) is 5 miles upriver from listed put-in. Flows in this section may be ~1/6th again the gauge reading.|
This remote, scenic run is 89% swifts/flatwater. 3 rocky rapids (I-II) have drops over bedrock shelves (II-III). Trip time 2.5-5 hrs (avg 3.5)
Little input (30cfs) to flow from groundwater (springs) is a limiting factor for this river. The best water levels are usually not from snowmelt. They are from early spring rains that come when the ground is still frozen until trees fully leaf-out. A rain of 1” at this time will provide excellent water levels while during the summer it may take a 3” rain (See Photos Tab: Popple River Flow Pattern Graph)
In 1965 the Popple River became a State of Wisconsin, designated “Wild River.” This state designation pre-dated and was the model for the national Wild and Scenic River program. Because of this special designation, today over 95 % of the land along this stretch of the Popple is owned and protected from development by the WI DNR and Florence County. Geologically the bedrock outcrops (at each falls) along this stretch is metamorphosed basalt and intruded volcanic granite that originally solidified off the ocean floor south of the equator nearly 2 billion years ago. It is some of the oldest rock in North America. The unique values of ancient bedrock and wildness add depth and value to your run down this remote stretch of river.
Drops include Champeau(II), Washburn Falls(III), and Jennings Falls(II+ to III). Only Washburn Falls has a marked portage trails that facilitates scouting. Champeau can be viewed from East River Rd off (from Hwy 101). Jennings is usually scouted from the right shore. Lining or portaging (no trail) on the right is a possible option. None of these are "falls" in the traditional, vertical sense.
Champeau is a short, small ledge drop with a fun s-shape path. The drop is a quarter of the way into a long (1/3 mile) complex rocky rapids (I-II)
Washburn Falls, being a close, cascading sequence of 5 ledge drops with big action, is the most difficult and exciting rapids on the Popple.
Jennings Falls is in a rock-walled gorge that, more or less, lasts all the way to the Pine. It is a fast, one-drop plunge into a significant standing wave that has aeriated water one side and a vertical rock wall on the other – very quick, very exciting.
Arranging to use the river-left takeout (45.839427, -88.338503) is a make-or-break necessity for this trip. All other shuttle options are discouraging or dangerous. The ¼-mile gravel drive from the end of Jack Pine Drive to the takeout landing is on private property and is gated but available to paddlers who obtain permission. For permission to use the river-left takeout (or arrange shuttle assistance) contact Dwayne of Wild Rivers Adventure Co. (Florence, WI) at 715-528-5266 or 715-952-8027. From the river, the unmarked landing is 250 feet downriver from the confluence with the Pine River, immediately past the iron-post remnants from the long-gone bridge. Start down the river-wide Class-1 but eddy-out left, immediately, before this minor swift takes you any distance downriver. The shuttle distance from this takeout is 7.7 miles mostly on paved road (Hwy 101). If you choose to bike back (1 hour trip) take note that there are 3 steep downhill runs and 2 steep uphill climbs, each of 150 vertical feet. Other shuttle alternatives are a) 1.5 up-river on the Pine to Hwy 101, b) river-right public landing that is often impassable or a slow, rocky, 16-mile shuttle, or c) continue 4-7 more miles downriver (with portage(s)) around major waterfalls.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
Check out staff gauge on downriver, river-left bridge support before launching. Put-in can off shallow land before the little rapids or left, on the shallow gravel shore just after the rapids.
This fun (playspot), warm-up drop is unlikely to need scouting but is viewable down a steep bank by parking on East River Rd (off of Hwy 101) at 45.799664, -88.388126. A designated parking area with walk-in trail (not so steep) to the river just below Champeau Ledge is at 45.800035, -88.386525.
After passing the obstructing tree and the very large river-right boulder (45.810524, -88.366105) the signed portage takeout is 200 feet ahead, on the right (45.810674, -88.365339). At lower water levels, submerged rocks may require going just past then backing, upriver into the pool of water at the landing. The portage trail is 440 feet with a steep, rocky end but it does provide an excellent view of the falls for scouting.
Washburn Falls can be reached by White Ash Rd. (45.810145, -88.363939). The gravel road (and ATV trail) is 4-miles and the last half is often rough. A parking lot and a 400-foot trail to the falls is on the left. Driving in from the east can be a rougher or impassable drive.
From mile 4.28 (45.832318, -88.366572) for a ¼ mile to the mouth of Woods Creek (45.834118, -88.368173) is a stretch of swifts, embedded boulder, and created islands that were installed to restore this river back to some resemblance to what may have been before in-river obstacles were blown up or dragged to the riverbank during the logging era. At the end of the restoration area, is a vertical wall of rock coming out of the water on river-right. Jennings Falls is near. Follow closely, to the right, around the 2nd point into the quiet water at the unmarked landing (45.836795, -88.363941) to scout Jennings Falls. Rock outcrops will continue to appear on or near either shore almost all the way to the Pine River.
If you pass just to the left of the 1st haystack a boat will deflect towards the rock wall. I have not yet seen anyone hit the wall but it will come by fast and very close. Passing on the right of the 1st haystack increases the odds of tip-over (experienced paddler or not) because of the height of rise to the standing wave and the depth of the hole just to the right of it (see photo). This is drop is quick, exciting, and fun!!!
The ¼-mile gravel drive from the end of Jack Pine Drive to the takeout landing is on private property and is gated but available to paddlers who obtain permission. For permission to use the river-left takeout (or arrange shuttle assistance) contact Dwayne of Wild Rivers Adventure Co. (Florence, WI) at 715-528-5266 or 715-952-8027