This photo needs editing.
Difficulty II-III
Length 5.6 Miles
Gauge Big Iron Approximation
Flow Range 250 - 1000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago ~ 37.14 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 04/17/2019 10:21 am

River Description

Quick Facts:

Location: White Pine to Silver City
Shuttle Length: 6.1 miles. (See details in "Directions" Tab.)
Character: Innumerous small ledge drops in a fairly uniform-width channel.
Drainage area at put-in: approximately 97 square miles.

Put-in is approximately 760' elevation.
Take-out is approximately 600' elevation (Lake Superior, mean level).
Thus total elevation change is approximately 160'.

Reach consists of alternating sections of short bedrock ledges, rapids and moving water. Most of this bedrock breaks diagonally (rather than perpendicular) to the flow, making for some interesting running! One quite significantly bigger drop, Bonanza Falls, comes at 4.5 miles into the run and may easily push into class IV- territory at higher flows.

Good photos of the falls are available online at:

The resolution on satellite views for this area is excellent. We highly recommended going to the "Access" tab, clicking the "Put in" coordinates. You'll be taken to GoogleMaps, where you can click 'Satellite' and do a 'virtual walk' of this reach! (HINT: The river flows North.)

Those seeking a longer run may wish to put-in about five miles upstream of White Pine (if the logging roads are passable for access).

The (rather smaller) Little Iron lies immediately to the West of this run, and may be a great 'companion-run' (if they prove both to be at runnable levels) or the Big and Little Iron runs may be 'fall-back' runs for each other in the event one is too high (or low) and the other may be runnable.

There are also runs nearby on the W.Br.Big Iron and Mineral River. Accessing these rivers (as with the aforementioned upper section of the Big Iron) may require navigating the maze of logging roads in the area, many of which are not seasonally maintained. This will likely stymie any early spring attempts at access, but should allow later spring or early summer runs.

Rapid Descriptions


Class - N/A Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Do not let the near total absence of marked/named features deter you from exploring this run. While it is not nearly as challenging as many U.P. runs, with the right flows, this should be a great change of pace and a lot of fun in its own right.

USGS sampling site

Class - N/A Mile - 1.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

USGS lists a sampling site at this location with drainage area of 98.1 square miles.

Bonanza Falls

Class - III+ Mile - 4.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Described as "60-foot-wide falls consisting of two separate drops spaced about 200 yards apart. The upper falls drops about ten feet; the lower about three feet."


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Paul Lange
1 year ago

We ran this stretch on May 3, 2019. The West Branch of the Ontonagan near Bergland USGS gauge was ~1100 cfs, 5.17 feet. The Big Iron virtual gauge on AW was ~661 cfs. We thought this was minimum. Shallow and scrapey in spots, not pushy, several good surf spots. We put-in at an empty wooded lot between two houses at White Pine (the co-ordinate listed as the put-in on AW) and took out in Silver City at the boat launch at the mouth by Lake Superior. A local neighbor said it was OK to put-in where we did, although it did require some bushwacking down to the river, maybe 200 yards. Per this neighbor, this put-in is the closet spot to the river with "permitted" access unless you go way upstream. No specific trail down, just head straight down, weave through the pines, stay right of the creek you encounter towards upstream. Easy flat spot to put-in at river level just downstream of the creek. The take-out has a port-o-potty and good parking, easy access out of river. Be sure to do some rolls in Lake Superior before you take-out, brings good luck, I have been told! As described, this is river has multiple ledges which provide fun play and multiple boofs and one waterfall near the end. At this level, it was scrapey in spots. We felt it could use at least 200 more cfs. It is a wide river. A broken bridge abutment on river left with graffiti on it makes an easy marker for when Bonanza Falls are next. It is easy to scout the Falls ahead if time from a road that goes down to the Falls on river right. Most of us ran the Falls on the river right side, entering mid-right and zig-zagging back far right to boof the ledge as there was a big tree far right. We did not scout the Falls from the left. Easy portage path around the Falls on the right. At this level, we felt the section from White Pine to the Falls was CL II to easy III. The section from the Falls to take-out more CL III to III plus as the ledges are taller and closer together. There are multiple taller ledges after the Falls to the take-out; therefore, do not relax too much after your great run of Bonanza Falls. These ledges come faster. Be sure to look upstream after the Falls as the view is gorgeous. It would be easy to do a self shuttle from the Falls to Silver City, making a short but fun run. One could also take-out at the Falls, using the White Pine to the Falls as a "step-up" run with some adventure getting down to the river. Our guess is that the play would only get better with more water. At this level, everything except Bonanza Falls was boat scout able.

Gage Descriptions

Visual from put-in.

Drainage area at put-in is approximately 97 square miles.
This is about twice the size of the Falls River in L'Anse (48 sq.mi. at Hwy.41),
or about 1.5 times the size of the Silver River (64 sq.mi at it's gauge at Skanee Road).

Analyzing historical info from a USGS gauge which had existed on this river (from 1952-05-01 to 1957-09-30), the Minimum mean daily flow was 2.7 cfs ( 1954-08-22). Flow exceeds 10 cfs 90% of the time. Flow exceeds 340 cfs 10% of the time. Maximum mean daily flow during gauge period was 3,130 cfs ( 1957.04.21). This makes a 10/90 ratio of 34 ('flashy-ness': under 3 is fairly steady, over 10 is quite 'flashy').

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports






Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1204483 04/05/15 Rob minor edit
1208626 12/31/17 Rob remove table from description, putting info into simple statement/paragraph form.
1211934 04/17/19 Rob updated description
1211935 04/17/19 Rob updated description
1192478 03/02/09 n/a n/a
1196715 11/23/09 Rob Fix/remove broken links.
1196195 10/12/09 Rob Remove dead link
1198794 11/28/10 Rob Add gauge analysis.