Put-in involves carrying nearly a half-mile to put in at the Devil's Gate footbridge (the earliest legal put-in below Copper Falls). On river, much of the early going passes impressive sheer walls up to 200' tall. Rapids are generally boulder-gardens and wave-trains, with a few random ledge/waves. The majority of our recommended, shortened run is within Copper Falls State Natural Area (though there are a few random inholdings of private property).
We are unsure of viability of our listed access for take-out before entering the reservation. Anyone out there have the scoop on this? Help out your fellow boaters via the "Add a Comment" button which should appear below for all registered, logged-in users!
Beyond our recommended take-out(s), you enter the Bad River Indian Reservation. Light rapids continue intermittently down to the confluence with the Marengo River, and (ever lighter and more inttermittently) to the Potato River, but you'll have increasing flat water and meanders to the take-out at Elm Hoist Road (as has been listed in many old river guidebooks). Additionally, if you do plan on that full run, permission is required from Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
Drainage area at our listed put-in is approximately 213 sq.mi. (as calculated via USGS StreamStats Beta software).
Note: Each 'Name' used here is not meant as actual name, but merely as description of that which can be observed from online aerial and topo maps. As such, it is all tentative and speculative, and should not be relied upon as an accurate reflection of what the river/rapids/difficulty may actually be. If you have first-hand knowledge of this section, please help out your fellow boaters by providing more information, either via the "Add a comment" button (which should appear below for all registered, logged-in users), via a filing a 'report' (if possible with photo(s)/video(s) of parts of this run), or via contacting the StreamTeam Editor.
Generally light rapids are encountered from the put-in until a slightly more prominent ledge/wave.
Various random boulderbed rapids and areas of compression waves intersperse the first mile of river. As the river encounters a very high steep bank and hooks sharply left, it encounters what appears to be another somewhat significant ledge, likely to form a wave/hole -- perhaps fun at some flows, perhaps sticky/nasty at some flows.
More light rapids ensue, leading to a very slight right-left jig-jog, and another apparent riverwide ledge. Downstream, expect more light boulderbed rapids to intersperse flat/flowing waters.
After the river snakes one way and another through generally low-grade (class I-II) rapids, it encounters another area of high, steep (near-vertical) wall (maybe 150-200' tall!). Deflected into a horse-shoe left turn, as the shore moderates, the river picks up a fine (though rather brief) rapids.
A couple of narrow islands appear on river-left. (At least as of the date of the aerial photos -- possible, unknown how likely, they could collapse and wash out in floods?) Most of the flow stays in the much wider channel to the right. It may be more impressive to paddle the narrower left channel between the islands and the vertical rock wall shore.
Another horseshoe U-turn to the left with vertical 200' wall on the right.
There appears to be a double-track which heads off through the trees from Pufal Road at a slight bend, not far past the East-West stretch and a road/driveway splitting sharply to the right. From various maps, this double-track appears to be within public lands (part of the Copper Falls State Natural Area). It appears (assuming it is not gated or posted as off-limits for vehicles) one could follow it virtually to river's edge as the point of egress for the best action and shortest run of this stretch of river. (Strongly recommended to look at the river and be sure you can recognize this location, especially if vehicles will not be visible from on water!)
That said, there appear to be some additional light boulderbed rapids downstream of this location, with at least one brief area of likely more significant action (possible playspot), if the later listed access is available (possibly requiring permission from private property owner).
At a spot with steep rockwall to the left, as the river sweeps in a round-house right, with gravelly shoals to the inside (right) shore, it appears to trip across a ledge/wave which could (at some flows) offer fine play.
Just downstream on the left, as the shoreline flattens, there appears to be a double-track very near shore. However, this appears to be on an inholding (private property, rather than being within the public lands of the Copper Falls State Natural Area), so permission from that property owner would likely need be secured to use this point of exit.
Additional light boulderbed rapids continue intermittently downstream.
It appears there is double-track immediately adjacent to the river (on the left) just at the end of a light rapids. Downstream, rapids diminish as the river heads toward the Bad River Reservation. While this location appears (from online maps) to be within public lands (the Copper Falls State Natural Area), it appears necessary to pass through the aforementioned private inholding to get here, which would require appropriate permissions.
Proceding beyond this point should be done only if permission can be obtained from the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
From their website (http://www.badriver-nsn.gov/history): "Wisconsin is what is known as a Public Law 280 State which gives criminal jurisdiction on Indian Reservations (except the Menominee) to the state. Civil jurisdiction such as hunting/fishing/gathering laws is a function of the tribe. The tribal court system oversees civil cases while criminal cases are overseen by state courts and enforced by state/county police officers."
Within the Reservation, the pace slows considerbly for a bit, but picks up for a brief (maybe 0.1 mile) low-grade boulderbed rapids at this point.
After some flat/flowing water (and random minor waves), the river twists tightly left to encounter a somewhat longer bouderbed rapids.
As the longer boulderbed rapids continues (somewhat intermittent, broken only by brief pauses), at a tight twist to the left, it appears to encounter what may be a slight ledge/wave/hole. This could be small enough to 'wash out' at good flow, but may also (at some flows) be a fine playable wave. Light boulderbed continues maybe a half-mile downstream before becoming increasingly intermittent. These low-grade (I-II) riffles and rips continue intermittently to the confluence with the Marengo.
The Marengo River enters from the left. From aerial views, it appears there is a large island at this confluence. Bear off to the right at/before the confluence to cut off some distance.
Downstream, the Bad enters generally broad floodplain where it meanders, lazily, broken ever more seldomly by areas of shoals, riffles, and rips. Mileages from here down are somewhat dependent upon route taken, as some of these meanders may have 'short cuts' (especially at higher flows).
This is the take-out listed in many (old) river guide books. Paddling to here involves MUCH flatwater, and involves paddling within the Bad River Reservation. To the best of our knowledge, this would require attempting/obtaining permission from the Bad River Band Of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
Best boatable flows for this reach are unknown, though I would expect (due to lack of large falls or significant gradient) it is floatable most of the year.
"Minimum" listed here is just a wild guess to get 'color-coding' for this reach.
If you have any information on good boatable levels, please use the "Add a Comment" button which should appear below for all registered, logged-in users of this site.
The cited gauge is at Elm Hoist Road (the historic take-out for the 'long' reach). This is downstream of major tributaries (Marengo and Potato Rivers), so gauge will certainly overstate actual flow in our recommended shorter run.
Gauge/flow analysis (based on most recent 50 years of data)
Drainage area at gauge: 597 sq.mi.
All time minimum flow: 27 cfs
90% of time flow exceeds: 120 cfs
10% of time flow exceeds: 1,360 cfs
All time maximum flow: 22,000 cfs
10/90 ratio: 11.3 ('flashy-ness': under 3 is fairly steady, over 10 is quite 'flashy')
Average runnable days per year: 170
Offseason ('Ice') correlations:
3.00' = 322cfs
3.50' = 537cfs
4.00' = 780cfs
4.55' = 1090cfs
5.30' = 1570cfs
6.60' = 2520cfs
7.00' = 2850cfs
7.19' = 3000cfs
Permits are not required for this reach.
It can be advantageous (particularly on longer runs, with longer shuttles) to meet at the take-out (where possible), gear-up, swap boats & boaters into shuttle vehicle(s), leaving 'drop' vehicle(s) at the take-out.
Unless you have non-boating/shuttle-only drivers, meeting at the put-in means at least some vehicles/drivers have to drive downstream and back up before the group starts down the river. You are looking at something near an hour (or more) that some (non-driving) boaters will sit idle while shuttle is run.
Meeting at the take-out, leaving one or more vehicles there, and then shuttling up means no boaters sit idle before the run, and the before-trip shuttle is only one-way, saving some time. There are times when that 'extra' time could make a difference on the river! It will help if you think of it this way: you (always) run the river top-to-bottom -- whenever possible, run the shuttle bottom-to-top.
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