Peshtigo - E) Roaring Rapids: Otter Ck to W.P.S. Landing (5.3 miles)

Peshtigo, Wisconsin, US


E) Roaring Rapids: Otter Ck to W.P.S. Landing (5.3 miles)

Usual Difficulty II-III+(IV) (varies with level)
Length 5.3 Miles
Avg. Gradient 36 fpm
Max Gradient 84 fpm

First Drop

First Drop
Photo of Dave McWethy by Thomas O'Keefe taken 07/07/96

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-04067958 225 - 1230 cfs III-IV 01h23m 1650 cfs (too high)
Unusually high flows (over 20" on bridge gauge). BIG fun for sufficiently skilled/experienced whitewater boaters. Gauge (447 square miles) is near take-out for reach, so quite accurately reflects actual flow.

River Description

This section of the Peshtigo is at the heart of the Wisonsin boating scene.  It has been a hub for boating since the 70s, and many generations of northwoods boaters have sparked their interest here.  The river supports 3 commercial rafting companies.  It has continuous class II-III and is runnable all summer.  However, most boaters prefer to boat it at levels at least above 5 inches at the Kosirs county C bridge guage (about 350 cfs).  Experienced boaters will find endless play potential and some challenging holes at levels from 15-35+ (750cfs+) inches.  At high water rafts have been know to get caught in some of the holes for hours on end, and even overnight.  Whether you are a beginner/intermediate or a expert, the peshtigo is a fun run.

If you put in at Farm Dam Landing, the Upper Roaring Rapids start about 100 yards downstream.  From there it is almost continuous II-III rapids until a mile before the take-out.

The major drops are named (with lack of imagination) "1st drop", "2nd drop", "3rd drop", "Five Foot Falls", "Horserace", and "S-curve".

The take-out is at Kosirs Rapid Rafts at the County C bridge (this bridge also has the old guage painted on it, its impossible to see at high water without being in a boat however)

Kosirs is also a conveinient place to score a shuttle and a campsite.  Rapids Resort Bar is all of 100 feet from the takeout and warmly welcome wet kayakers.  You can put in a order at the bar; tell them when you will be back; catch a shuttle with Kosirs; run the river; and walk the 100 feet up to the bar and have your lunch waiting for you. Then catch another shuttle back up for another run.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2016-12-31 13:42:46


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
2.0Upper RoaringIIPlayspot
2.3First DropIII+Playspot Photo
2.4Second DropIIIPlayspot Photo
2.4Rescue EddyIIPlayspot
2.4Third DropIIIPlayspot Photo
2.6Joeys HoleII+Playspot
2.8Five Foot FallsIIIPlayspot Photo
3.4Horserace RapidsIII+Playspot Photo
3.8S-CurveIIIPlayspot Photo
3.9Lower RoaringII+Playspot

Rapid Descriptions

Put-in (Class N/A)

The devoted private boater put-in is from the end of Farmdam Lane, and is actually on a tributary (Otter Creek) just before its confluence with the Peshtigo.  If you put in here, it is about a half mile paddle to the first rapid.  Shortly after turning on Farmdam Lane, you will see a big clearing on the right.  This is the commercial put-in, however if you get a shuttle with Kosirs, get dropped off quickly by someone and are ready to go, or park your car out of the way far enough no one will care that you put in at the commercial put-in.  If you are going to get ready at the put-in and take your time, stay left and follow Farmdam Lane until you reach the private boater put-in.

Upper Roaring (Class II, Mile 2.0)

continuous class II boulder gardens

First Drop (Class III+, Mile 2.3)

First Drop

First Drop
Photo of Dave McWethy by Thomas O'Keefe taken 07/07/96

After the "Upper Roaring" section you come to a short flat pool with a power line crossing overhead, which is your signal that "First Drop" is imminent. The river begins dropping around a bend to the left, then back right and the horizon line comes into sight.  Beginner/Intermediate boaters will probably want to scout the drop(Eddy out river left). More experienced boaters will be able to boat-scout and hit their line. At higher flows, a 'curler' in this drop flips rafters by the droves. Many folks carry up to re-run this drop, and (again, at moderate-to-high flows) people are known to 'body surf' the drop, getting 'stuffed' by the curler, to pop up well downstream. Do be aware that there are some large boulders in the outrun.  I know a boater or two who has gotten a black eye after flipping while surfing the bottom hole and hitting there face on one of these boulders...

Second Drop (Class III, Mile 2.4)

It's a blast

It's a blast
Photo of ? by Mark Mastalski taken 04/06/03 @ 15" (at Kosir's)

Some of the best surfs, spins, and blasting can be done on Second Drop.  Second drop will tire your arms out and privide surfs that will last an eternity if you have the energy.  This is a sticky hole; known to stop rafts like a brick wall at high water and even keep them over night.  This rapid is created by a river wide long sloping rock.  That being said, it is rather shallow so be prepared to bump your head if you end up inside out upside down.  If you can get on the big wave in the center at higher flows you can angle your boat in a way that will hold you facing upstream in a seam all day.  This is a sanctuary.

Rescue Eddy (Class II, Mile 2.4)

There is a fun little hole followed by some surfable waves (at levels above 8") that is great for bow stalls and squirting in between 2nd and 3rd drop. Right below this hole is "Rescue Eddy," which is the last eddy befoe closely placed 3rd Drop, Joey's Hole, and 5 Foot Falls.  In high water, a swim at 3rd Drop or Joey's Hole will likely mean a swim over 5 Foot Falls.  Its a good place to regroup before this serries.

Third Drop (Class III, Mile 2.4)

WI, Peshtigo, Third Drop

WI, Peshtigo, Third Drop
Photo of Elise Giddings by Tom O'Keefe taken 05/15/96

At low-to-moderate levels, 3rd drop can provide some decent play. At higher levels, it can get VERY sticky, and those who fail to 'punch' it (or avoid) will provide entertainment to others.  At high water a good line is to stay left on the main drop and angle river left as you punch the hole. After you punch the hole drive river left hard to avoid Joeys hole.  There is a sharp ledge in the middle of the river on this rapid. At high water the hole below the ledge becomes nasty, but at lower water the ledge can be ran with ease.


Far river left there is a small channel that runs at high water.  For beginners/intermediates this may be a good sneak route when the water is cranking. 

Joeys Hole (Class II+, Mile 2.6)

Joeys hole is a beautiful surf at low to medium levels.  This is a excellent spot to learn to flat spin, play king of the hole with your pals, or just enjoy the solitude of a surf.  It is too shallow at most levels to loop this hole.  At higher levels most boaters try to avoid Joeys hole as it is notoriously sticky and only about 75 yards above 5 foot falls.

Five Foot Falls (Class III, Mile 2.8)

Five Foot Falls

Five Foot Falls
Photo by Jesse Becker @ 12"

The traditional line on Five Foot is down a twisting chute, fairly well over to river left. Currents carom off a rock wall on shore, twisting back toward the main flow (center river) and tripping through a couple of holes. A straightforward line right down center river is possible, as the river mostly just slides down rock. Between those two lines the drop is more vertical, but it lands on fairly shallow rock.

Horserace Rapids (Class III+, Mile 3.4)

Horserace Rapids on the beautiful Peshtigo

Horserace Rapids on the beautiful Peshtigo
Photo of Bob Heckler by Wendi Heckler

The longest, most continuous rapids on the river -- Horserace Rapids. Many beginner/intermediate boaters will be well served to scout this drop (usually from river-right). A lead-in of easy waves progresses to a couple of significant holes on river left(if you stay further right you will avoid the upper holes). At low flows, there are many eddies that are fun to catch on your way down.  At moderate-to-high flows, eddies are surging, swirling, boiling affairs. There is a wide hole right before the final stairstep drops; know as "Wahaha."  The remainder of the rapid below Wahaha is rather shallow, so punching Wahaha and staying upright here is essential.  There are two sharp rocks known as the "Dragons Teeth" river right twards the bottom of the rapid, so you want to be further left when you hit Wahaha.  If you get too far left above Wahaha, you will enter "Forever Eddy."  If you enter Forever Eddy at high water there is a strong eddy fence and the only way out is the downstream end of the eddy.  If you catch the eddy and exit out the downstream end, you can completely cheat Wahaha and be far away from the "Dragons Teath." If you flip at Wahaha, reach for your toes and kiss your bow.  People have gotten beatered badly when upside down below Wahaha.  It should also be known that there has been a foot entrapment fatality (a customer on a commercial raft trip) at the bottom of Horserace.

S-Curve (Class III, Mile 3.8)

S Turn

S Turn
Photo of Mike Eviston by Thomas O'Keefe taken 05/13/11 @ 950 cfs

The final named drop is S-Curve. Flow is wraps hard to the left, across a submerged ledge, and through a good hole. Old-school boaters delighted in doing 'enders' here to their hearts content.  It is possible to loop and cartwheel in this hole as well.  At low water the rock that creates the hole become more exposed and harder to surf, but there is a jetstream of concentrated water about two feet wide below the rock.  It is deep here and a textbook spot to squirt.  Every level on this river uncovers hidden jems.

Lower Roaring (Class II+, Mile 3.9)

The Lower Roaring Rapids are a notch higher than the Upper Roaring.  This is a long stretch of continuous class II+ and a fun way to wind down after the larger rapids.  Catch eddies, surf waves, and boof rocks.

Take-out (Class N/A, Mile 5.3)

After the gradient peters-out below the Lower Roaring, you have to suffer a mile of flatwater.  Take out at Kosirs Rapid Rafts unless you would rather go another half mile of flat water to Boat Landing 12.  

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