Difficulty II-III(IV) at this flow (I-II(III) normally)
Length 4.3 Miles
Gauge RED RIVER AT MORGAN ROAD NEAR MORGAN, WI
Flow Range 100 - 1000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 49 minutes ago 421 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 04/02/2019 12:21 am

River Description


(Our thanks to Mark Mastalski for his fine description of this run.)

This is one of the classic beginner/intermediate rivers in Wisconsin.

About 1/4 mile below the put-in at the dam, the river will swing hard to the left and you will see a house on the river right. This is the first drop. Typically there is no need to scout; Simply stay slightly left-of-center and punch through a frothy hole. This ledge pourover is infamous for being sticky at lower levels and I've see many a paddler get windowshaded while trying to sidesurf. Outflow current is strong and the water is deep enough to allow for some vertical moves (tail squirts, bow stalls, etc).

The next mile or so contains a bit of additional class I-II fun water. One thing to check out is a large rock wall on river left, which is a great place to seal launch into the river at higher flows. You will come to a narrowing which is actually a rocky island splitting the flow, with the majority of the flow straight ahead (the left of the island). This is the site of a sweet double-drop. Depending on the release levels, there can be good front surfs, side-surfs, and spins possible on each of the waves. (You must have good control to keep in the area of the upper wave, however.) The lower wave has a deep pool, and good eddies, as it is backed up by a ring of rock diverting most of the flow to the left.

Below these two ledge/waves the river twists left and then back to the right and you have come to Monastery Falls, class III(IV). (Note: on the topos, this is marked as Freeman Falls, though I've never heard anyone use that name. Some refer to it as 'Alexian' or 'Novitiate', all referring to the former Alexian Novitiate (Monastery) on river left.) Scout on river right. (Avoid going ashore anywhere on the left bank, as it is private property, and has been the site of many skirmishes over trespass through the years.)

This is a terrific drop which may be intimidating to first-timers. The river gets squeezed down to a five foot slot with a 'launch rock' in the center. A meaty hole develops at nearly all levels, so a good 'punch' is required. (I once witnessed a buddy in a WaveSport 'Z' get sucked backwards into it and disappear in the hole, only to be spit out for a swim; quite exciting!) Some gnarly water follows as it drops down to another squeeze and powerful hole develops. Best route is left center and punch through the hole. There is pretty much no consequence as it ends in a humongous pool (virtually a lake). The bottom hole can provide great play, though it may be intimidating to novice boaters. One paddler was windowshaded five times before finally exiting upside-down, still in his boat. A common change-of-pace 'game' during warm weather releases is to bring inflatable 'pool toys' to run this drop and/or play the bottom hole.

Leaving the pool below Monastery, there are a few good rocky outcroppings and boulderbed rock-dodge rapids before the river returns to flatwater again. The next exciting drop is Ziemer's Falls, class II+(III). (Note: on the topos, this is marked as Gilmer Falls, though I've never heard anyone use that name.) The river will turn left, then right, down a small sloping ledge. Many families swim in this area, bodily sliding down the first falls, or taking a 'hydro-massage' in its base. You may wish to get out in the huge river-left eddy to scout, though confident boaters can eddy-hop and boat-scout their way (don't hit any kids!). At good release levels, this initial ledge/hole is fine for surfs and spins, though it can get steep and 'squirrely'. A short pool leads to the right and spills across shallow bedrock. A few minor wave/holes may exist here. The flow then necks-down between walls of rock, and heads straight toward a large hump of rock which divides the bottom of the drop, providing two routes to finish this drop. Boaters may catch an eddy on river left, then paddle into the current and follow the flow down a jumbled chute river-left. Or, you can ferry across current and hit the flow of water on river-right. At low levels rocks may be an issue -- stay as close to the right wall as possible. I once had the excitement of watching my brother attempt this route. He flipped and I heard his helmet bouncing off the rocks.

While most boaters take out at Ziemer's, there are a couple additional worthwhile rapids downstream. There is (or at least was . . . it's years since I've been there) a boater's landing about a half-mile further down which adds a simple drop ('Little Bull Falls' on the topos) with some good depth for squirt moves.

You can also continue about another 1.5 miles to the little burg of Red River, where three drops in quick succession can provide some interesting entertainment. (These are not marked on the topos.) This area may be somewhat problematic for legal access, since it may be posted and fenced. (Again, it's been years since I've been there, but it is worth checking out at least once if you have time and have never seen these drops.) The second of these is rather like a smaller, narrower version of second drop on the Peshtigo, while the last drop (just above the bridge) offers playboaters vertical rock smears and cartwheels down a ledge parallel to the current.

The following video follows NorthEast Wisconsin Paddlers (NEWP) as they work their way down each of the drops on this run.

Rapid Descriptions

USGS gauge

Class - N/A Mile - -7.66
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Gauge is 7.66 miles upstream. Two dams intervene, but are supposed to be operating at 'run of river'. Thus, flow from gauge should fairly well reflect water in the reach. However, it will be subject to certain 'variations'.

First Ledge

Class - II Mile - 0.35
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

About 1/4 mile below the put-in at the dam, the river will swing hard to the left and you will see a house on the river right. This is the first drop. Typically there is no need to scout. Simply stay slightly left-of-center and punch through a frothy hole.

This ledge/pourover is infamous for being sticky at lower levels and I've see many a paddler get windowshaded while trying to sidesurf. Outflow current is strong and the water is deep enough to allow for some vertical moves (bow stalls, stern squirts, etc).

Double Drop

Class - II Mile - 1.2

The mile or so between the first ledge and the next drop contains a bit of additional class I-II fun water. One thing to check out is a large rock wall on river left, which is a great place to seal launch into the river at higher flows.

You will come to a narrowing which is actually a rocky island splitting the flow, with the majority of the flow straight ahead (the left of the island). This is the site of a sweet double-drop. Depending on the release levels, there can be good front surfs, side-surfs, and spins possible on each of the waves. (You must have good control to keep in the area of the upper wave, however.) The lower wave has a deep pool, and good eddies, as it is backed up by a ring of rock diverting most of the flow to the left.

Monastey Falls

Class - III+ Mile - 1.28
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Below these two ledge/waves the river twists left and then back to the right and you have come to Monastery Falls, class III(IV).

(Note: on the topos, this is marked as Freeman Falls, though I've never heard anyone use that name. Some refer to it as 'Alexian' or 'Novitiate', all referring to the former Alexian Novitiate (Monastery) on river left.)

Scout on river right. (Avoid going ashore anywhere on the left bank, as it is private property, and has been the site of many skirmishes over trespass through the years.) This is a terrific drop which may be intimidating to first-timers. The river gets squeezed down to a five foot slot with a 'launch rock' in the center. A meaty hole develops at nearly all levels, so a good 'punch' is required. (I once witnessed a buddy in a WaveSport 'Z' get sucked backwards into it and disappear in the hole, only to be spit out for a swim; quite exciting!) Some gnarly water follows as it drops down to another squeeze and powerful hole develops. Best route is left center and punch through the hole. There is pretty much no consequence as it ends in a humongous pool (virtually a lake).

The bottom hole can provide great play, though it may be intimidating to novice boaters. One paddler was windowshaded five times before finally exiting upside-down, still in his boat. A common change-of-pace 'game' during warm weather releases is to bring inflatable 'pool toys' to run this drop and/or play the bottom hole.

Ziemer's Falls

Class - II+ Mile - 2.14

Leaving the pool below Monastery, there are a few good rocky outcroppings and boulderbed rock-dodge rapids before the river returns to flatwater again. The next exciting drop is Ziemer's Falls, class II+(III).

(Note: on the topos, this is marked as Gilmer Falls, though I've never heard anyone use that name.)

The river will turn left, then right, down a small sloping ledge. Many families swim in this area, bodily sliding down the first falls, or taking a 'hydro-massage' in its base. You may wish to get out in the huge river-left eddy to scout, though confident boaters can eddy-hop and boat-scout their way (don't hit any kids!).

At good release levels, this initial ledge/hole is fine for surfs and spins, though it can get steep and 'squirrely'. A short pool leads to the right and spills across shallow bedrock. A few minor wave/holes may exist here. The flow then necks-down between walls of rock, and heads straight toward a large hump of rock which divides the bottom of the drop, providing two routes to finish this drop. Boaters may catch an eddy on river left, then paddle into the current and follow the flow down a jumbled chute river-left. Or, you can ferry across current and hit the flow of water on river-right. At low levels rocks may be an issue -- stay as close to the right wall as possible.

Most trips (most boaters) take out here, for a short easy shuttle. However, the river has more to offer. If you have never done so, I do recommend at least one time running the rest of the reach as described here, to the (unincorporated) town of Red River.

Little Bull Falls

Class - I Mile - 2.63
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Little Bull Falls is a simple rapids with some good depth for squirt moves. Not far downstream a vacant lot was purchased years back to assure boater access (when the landing at Ziemer's was in jeopardy, and vandalism of shuttle vehicles was common for a while).

Final drops

Class - II+ Mile - 4.41
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Three drops in quick succession can provide some interesting entertainment. (These are not marked on the topos.) This area may be somewhat problematic for legal access, since it may be posted and fenced. (Again, it's been years since I've been there, but it is worth checking out at least once if you have time and have never seen these drops.) The second of these is rather like a smaller, narrower version of second drop on the Peshtigo, while the last drop (just above the bridge) offers playboaters vertical rock smears and cartwheels down a ledge parallel to the current.

Comments

default user thumbnail
Kevin Hill
|
5 years ago

I really think the "Green" on the flow chart for this river should go down to 100cfs, or at least 120cfs. We have paddled it twice around 110-120 cfs, and had no problems. As is often the case, more water would make for better WW, but the river is narrow and deep, so there aren't really issues with scraping. The majority (all) of people I talk to feel the same way. I know many who paddle it repeatedly at 90cfs, and have lots of fun.

Gage Descriptions

Visual at put-in. Rocks in outflow channel from powerplant should all be covered for a moderate level, though runs are still good with highest rock exposed up to 8".

The USGS gauge on the Red is upstream of the two dams, thus is not necessarily a true indicator of what is in this reach, but should be a reasonable predictor of available water. Runs are certainly possible lower than the cited minimum, but flows above that cited minimum should provide much better assurance of a good whitewater experience.

Runs are dependent upon releases from the power generation facility operated by the town of Gresham. This used to be on a 'peaking' (as power was needed) basis. However, as of summer of 2004, the lower dam (put-in for this reach) is operating on a 'run of river' basis, essentially meaning what comes into the resevoir (from the upper reach where the gauge is) goes down this reach.

Directions Description


Shuttle directions for Red River, Lower Red Lake Dam to CTH.A appear below.
For drive time, distance, and directions from any other location to the put-in for this reach,
enter (into the text box) your location (zipcode, city state, address city state, or lat lng coordinates).

No Accident Reports

Alerts

News

article main photo

Gresham Municipal Utilities Initiates Licensing Process for Red River Dams (WI)

8/16/2010
Thomas O'Keefe

Over the past few months Gresham Municipal Utilities has been gearing up to relicense their hydroelectric projects on the Red River. As paddlers know operation of the Weed Dam impacts flows on the Red River.  American Whitewater can provide technical assistance on the project but we are seeking a local volunteer or group of volunteers willing to invest some time in this process over the next few years.

article main photo

Red River Monastery Still Available (WI)

9/9/2005
Thomas O'Keefe

On September 8th the historic estate along the Red River known to generations of paddlers at "The Monastery" was put on the auction block but as bids failed to meet the minimum price the property remains available. AW will be following this issue given the regional importance of this river for paddlers, particularly those just entering the sport, and the need to have safe portage options at the falls that flow through the property.
article main photo

Midwest Hydro Successes

6/26/2004
Thomas O'Keefe & Angie Tornes

Working in close partnership with AW since the first flow study on the Pine River in 1991, the Rivers and Trails Program has assisted us in obtaining significant benefits for whitewater recreation through the FERC licensing process. Several projects in the midwest have benefitted from this productive partnership.
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Rob

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Matt Muir

Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1196694 11/22/09 Rob Fix/remove broken links.
1192107 04/03/09 n/a
1199001 12/06/10 Rob Embed YouTube video
1199049 12/15/10 Rob change 'sequencer' due to add of 'middle red' reach
1208482 11/11/17 Rob Swap to better youtube vid (full run)
1211656 04/02/19 Rob updated image position