Difficulty II-III
Length 0.4 Miles
Gauge MENOMONEE RIVER AT MENOMONEE FALLS, WI
Flow Range 160 - 500 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 2 days ago 13.7 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 05/07/2019 12:59 pm

River Description


Quick Facts:

Location: Downtown Menomonee Falls.
Character: Small creek-like river, in a city park. Bedrock slides, one ledge-drop, tight turns, overhanging/undercut banks, and a couple of short intimate mini-gorges.
Shuttle Length: 0.5 mile (carry up).

Put-in is approximately 820' elevation.
Take-out is approximately 767' elevation.
Thus total elevation change is approximately 53'.
(Avg. and Max. Gradients stated in masthead are 'actual' values IF one continued to a full mile downstream from put-in, thus include 7' of additional drop.)
General Overview

Intimate city 'mini canyon' run in a quarry/lime-kiln park. Shallow limestone bedrock and a river-wide 3' ledge (making a shallow wave/hole) make for a 'novelty' in-town park-and-play with a decidedly 'creeky' feel.
(Indeed, there is 40-50' of drop in 0.45 mile, which makes an 'effective gradient' near 100 feet per mile!)

Be very cautious about boating this reach. At any time of year, at any boatable flow, it is virtually mandatory for all boaters to hike this entire reach, each and every time, before boating. Since it is such a narrow, confined stream, with very few good eddies, a downed tree or other obstruction in any spot could be disastrous. Strong flows will push you toward overhanging/undercut walls. Eddies will be few, small ('one-boat'), and often obstructed by overhanging vegetation (especially when foliage is fully lush). If you aren't completely confident that you can make the necessary twists and turns to negotiate the bends and get around or through any deadfall or strainers (or catch an eddy to get out before them), then don't put on! The situation often changes with each heavy rain or wind, as trees, wood and debris fall into and shift in this small stream. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that since you have made it down once (or any number of times, days, weeks, months or years) before, you can always make it down. The key phrase to remember: "Walk before you run."

Technically, the actual rapids almost never rate above a class III. However, at anything above bare minimum flows, you need a proper whitewater boat, and skills more in the class III-IV range! If you can't catch small eddies (or if you don't know what that means!), and if you can't roll your boat, do not even consider trying this run at flows above 200-250 cfs! Contrary to logic or expectation, small rivers and creeks like this can be more dangerous than some larger rivers, precisely because they will have so much UNAVOIDABLE overhanging shrubbery and deadfall, and essentially need to be in flood to run, meaning there won't be many eddies. You will be swept into things, and the strength of the current (and the steep-walled shore in many areas) can make it impossible to get you or your boat out of the river!


Note: Legality of access may be questionable. Talking with local authorities (many years back), one time I was told it was completely 'ok' to boat here, another time I was told it is not permitted (though I can find no specific ordinance supporting such a claim). Therefore, my best recommendation is to be as quick and discreet as possible (while gearing up in this highly visible parking lot), and get to the river as quickly as possible. If confronted by any anyone ('authorities' or not), be as polite as possible. You may wish to explain your experience with whitewater, explain your proper safety precaution and awareness, and explain your whitewater gear. But, do not belligerently assert your 'rights' to boat. Instead, be prepared to pack up, move on, and (perhaps) try some other time. Do not spoil it for others and give all boaters a bad reputation. (FWIW, having boated this over a dozen times across twenty+ years, I have never been stopped nor encountered any problem. Most folks either completely ignore us (as though they've seen it all before) or are politely curious and ask if they can watch.)

  By the way ... some remarks about the name ... take close note that this is the Menomonee River, not to be confused with the Menominee River. Both have three listed sections of whitewater. This one is in S.E.Wisconsin, while the other lies on the northern border, between Wisconsin and Michigan. Since the name is pronounced the same (whether with the "i" or with the "o"), I like to distinguish the runs on this river by abbreviating the section names. Thus, thia run on the Menomonee River in Menomonee Falls becomes "MenFalls".

Rapid Descriptions

Bridge Wave

Class - II+ Mile - 0
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This wave is above the put-in! Generally, from the parking lot, we carry down the path to the river, and up under the main street bridge to put-in. (At most boatable flows, there are generally exposed or shallow covered stone ledges along the river-right 'wall'.) Paddle upstream a bit under the bridge to play this wave which forms as the flow (coming off the dam upstream) caroms off the upstream face fo the bridge and hits the slower water in the pool under the bridge. Currents in here can be a bit tricky, though, so you had better be quick with recovery strokes (bracing strokes). If you're upside-down, or out of your boat, it is shallow, and you (and your gear) will be flushed pretty quickly down the opening drop sequence.

First Pitch

Class - II+ Mile - 0.03
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Tom & Pete run the First Pitch

Coming out from under the Main Street bridge, the run starts right off accelerating down a nice pitch, swings 'round a bend, and drops into a fine little dells.

Upper Dells

Class - II+ Mile - 0.04
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At the base of the First Pitch, water hits a brief flowing pool. Experienced, aggressive paddlers may break out of the flow, catch an eddy, and go for surfs in the wave/hole at the base of that First Pitch. On surfer's-left (river-right), there is a diagonal wrapping wave/hole, while the center-to-left can form a pretty decent wave. There will be a narrow eddy tight to the river-left vertical wall of rock. You will need to be aggressive and in control to avoid being flushed downstream if you try for repeat play here.

Heart of the Dells

Class - II+ Mile - 0.08
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The current from the first pitch flows swiftly across a short pool, tripping across (often shallow) rocky debris, then drops into the Heart of the Dells. The river twists sharply left, the right wall is slightly undercut/overhanging, and the currents flow hard and fast into it. Boaters are advised to turn bow toward the left shore and paddle aggressively out of the strongest current (you want to be along the left wall immediately below the bend), so as to not get shoved up against the undercut right wall. (If you stay aligned with the current it can be REAL tough to avoid the wall!)

Lower Dells

Class - II Mile - 0.12
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Running the Lower Dells

After passing under a footbridge, you'll be swept though the lower part of the dells. A few small waves form through here (at higher levels) which can be 'catch on the fly' surfed. (Though most boaters tend to just flush straight through this stretch.)

Kil'n Ledge

Class - III Mile - 0.17
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Dropping over Kil'n Ledge

As the river exits the main dells, as the banks start to open up a bit, and the river veers off to the left, it tumbles down a short (~3') ledge. At higher levels (above 300-400 cfs) this can get rather sticky, and will stop (or back-ender) boaters who do not hit it in the correct spot or with good momentum and technique. Generally, it is best to aim for a 'seam' well to river-left (at the deepest part of the hole!) where current pushes through the pile. While this can be played at low-to-moderate levels, the ledge is shallow up front, so play is limited to surfs and flatspins (no elevated or aerial moves at any but the highest flows).

Undercut (Overhanging) Wall

Class - N/A Mile - 0.21

Coming out of the pool below Kil'n Ledge, the flow spills down some rubble-filled gradient and heads toward a rocky wall on river-left. Stay as far as possible to the inside (river-right) to avoid being stuffed into the undercut/overhanging wall.

Sweeping Left-hand Bend

Class - II Mile - 0.28

At this point, the stream takes a sweeping left-hand bend. The right bank is seriously eroding (from various high-water events) to the point of back-cutting/undercutting the bank. Earth from around the roots of various trees regularly erodes enough to leave them no support, dumping them into the stream. There is one VERY LARGE tree which has now dropped into the river and totally blocks the stream! (This will not flush out without major chainsaw work!) At most boatable flows, there is VERY NARROW passage between the rootball and the right shore. You must make a STRONG MOVE to river-right to charge this narrow slot to avoid being stuffed under the trunk of this tree!

**** DO NOT BOAT DOWNSTREAM OF THE POOL BELOW KILN LEDGE WITHOUT FIRST WALKING THIS STRETCH! ****

Confluence

Class - I Mile - 0.33

A small side stream flows in from the right. Gradient on the run has significantly diminished by this point, and boaters wishing to shorten the carry back up could take out here (walk out on a dirt/mud path parallel to this side-stream, then upstream on the paved path). Swiftwater and rips (and one or two minor possible playable spots) do continue downstream to the listed bridge take-out.

Take-out

Class - Mile - 0.45
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Egress is possible (and easiest) either river left before the bridge, or river right just past the bridge. Carry up a paved path through the park to your car, or to put in and run it again!

Pilgrim Road

Class - N/A Mile - 0.8
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For folks wondering "Why not keep going? What's downriver?", it is possible to double the length of your run by going down to Pilgrim road, to take out at river left where there's parking for a ball field.

There really aren't any rapids in this stretch, but a continuation (and gradual diminishing of) the gradient immediately upstream of the listed take-out. The 0.4 miles is pretty much all swiftwater, bobble-water, riffles and shoals to Pilgrim Road. As a result, most folks will use the listed take-out, getting the best action, and having the shortest walk as their shuttle. (Continuing down to here is likely only if bothering to set a vehicle shuttle.)

After this point, the river is flat and flowing, with little-to-no natural rapids until the next listed section.

Comments

Gage Descriptions

As levels rise, this mini-canyon will get very flushy with very few eddies, often obstructed by overhanging vegetation. Kil'n Ledge will become quite aggressive/retentive, verging on class IV. Any 'out of boat experiences' are likely to mean swimming (and chasing a boat) well beyond the normal take-out bridge, before you (and the errant boat) can find an eddy to get out of the flow. Therefore, at levels above the listed 'max', the boater should have at least class IV experience and skills.

The 'maximum' is indicative of levels 'above the norm'. The river is runnable much higher, and, in fact, many experienced boaters will prefer levels above this value. (Has been run as high as 658 cfs! It's a RUSH!!!)

At any time of year, and at any boatable flow, it is a good idea (virtually mandatory) to hike this entire reach each and every time before boating. Since it is such a narrow, confined stream, with very few good eddies, a downed tree or other obstruction in any spot could be disastrous.

Drainage area at gauge: 34.7 sq.mi.
Gauge/flow analysis:
Minimum mean daily flow during gauge period: 0.6 cfs (1988.08.17)
90% of time flow exceeds: 4 cfs
10% of time flow exceeds: 66 cfs
Maximum mean daily flow during gauge period: 960 cfs (1997.06.21)
10/90 ratio ('flashy-ness'): 16.5 (under 3 is fairly steady, over 10 is quite 'flashy')
Average days per year over recommended 'low' threshold  (125 cfs): 16
Average days per year over recommended 'high' threshold  (300 cfs): 3

Directions Description


Most generally you will walk the shuttle on a paved path through the park back to your vehicle.

Therefore, use the following map mostly just to view for logisitics, and to enter your home or other starting location to get drive time/distance and directions to the put-in.

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Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1192442 04/10/09 Rob
1212170 05/07/19 Rob updated description
1198373 10/08/10 Rob Minor changes to descriptions.
1195754 08/09/09 Rob Tweak/reformat some text.
1195954 09/08/09 Rob Supply 'lost' length value.
1196650 11/22/09 Rob Remove dead link(s).
1197511 04/06/10 Rob Recalibrate off-season gauge.
1197595 04/26/10 Rob Minor changes to description.
1208703 01/09/18 Rob remove table from gauge description, putting info into simple statement/paragraph form.
1199572 03/08/11 Rob Add photos.
1200599 09/03/11 Rob Change featured photo.
1201251 05/06/12 Rob Minor tweaks to descriptions.
1210386 09/25/18 Rob minor edit
1211616 04/01/19 Rob updated image position
1212169 05/07/19 Rob updated description