See the 'Flows' tab for details of the present release agreement.
Also, as many boaters have noted, our 'virtual gauge' (as cited above) is often of rather little merit. The most relevant info is available from a NOAA gauge associated with the powerplant. We are told if you subtract 700-1200 from the 'Hatfield Hydro Plant' reading, that will approximate the flow in the natural river channel.
When the full reach is runnable, it can provide some rare "big water play" in Wisconsin.
This may be done as either a 'park-and-play' at the put-in (where the best play waves are) or as the listed three mile run from the dam to the powerplant. The run may be extended to a landing at Hall's Creek to add three more minor drops (though most whitewater boaters forgo the added flatwater this necessitates).
The usual run (at moderate to high flows) starts about a quarter-mile below the dam (the first point reached from the carry-in from normal roadside boater parking). Between the dam and this point lie some serious drops which contains near inescapable boiling cauldrons at moderate to high flows (class IV-V+).
Note: As long as one puts in below this upper stretch, there no rapids which rise above a class II-III rating.
In times of lower flow (and during the scheduled releases) the drops from the dam to the carry-in pool are runnable, and may provide some class III-IV entertainment. In fact, according to Jeff Polzin: "the section immediately below the dam is full of fun class 2 drops at 75 to 150 cfs ... there are a couple of easy class 3 drops (at the K bridge and at the second zag of the "Z" approximately 2 miles downstream from the dam)"
Also at times of lower flow (I.E., when this reach is 'dewatered' due to the power plant diverting all the flow), boaters may wish to check out the reach from Below the hydroplant to Hall's Creek landing, as all water which had been diverted from the upper reach will now be returned to the riverbed for these final two or three drops. Runnability will, of course, depend upon power generation schedules.
Drainage area at the Hatfield Dam is approximately 1290 sq.mi. (as calculated via USGS StreamStats Beta software).
At times of lower flow (and during the summer releases), boaters carry from the "Campground Wave" to near the dam to run the sequence of great 'creeky' drops.
Check out the following video showing this action:
Downstream of the put-in waves, downstream of the highway bridge, an island splits the flow. The main channel is to the right, and the flow drops across a bedrock intrusion. At some flows a fine surf can be had here.
The following video shows this run, from put-in to take-out of this section, plus the next listed section of this river:
0.00 Put-in/Campground Waves
2.00 Island Drop3.12 Third Rapids6.10 Fourth Rapids6.40 Fifth Rapids9.03 Powerhouse Rapids10.35 Rapids Below Powerhouse
Rocky intrusion creates minor play.
A rocky outcropping splits the flow and allows some minor play.
A final boulder and bedrock intrusion allows minor play (though most folks don't bother, since they've played out the upper stuff).
888-HYDROWI is no longer being supported by the Dam Operator.
Current flow information can be found at:
The virtual "gauge" shown here in this listing is useless. The NOAA gauge John mentioned is the only accurate way to state how much water is in the reach.
The following graphic is being pulled from Weather.gov, and should show the latest data being reported for inflow and outflow at Hatfield dam and powerplant:
Interpretation of the data is a bit confusing. The most relevant values should be the reported "Hatfield Hydro Plant" and "Hatfield Dam". We had assumed the difference should be the amount of water in the river below the dam. However, others tell us subtract 700-1200 from the 'Hatfield Hydro Plant' reading, that will approximate the flow in the natural river channel.
This reach will run in spring when flows regularly exceed need for power generation or pond-height replenishment needs.
* The USGS gauge is well upstream of this reach, in Neillsville. Drainage area at that gauge is 749 square miles, while drainage area at the Hatfield dam is 1290 square miles. Therefore, on average, one should expect actual flow available at the dam (for hydro use and/or release into the natural channel) should be on the order of 1.722 times that of the Neillsville gauge. That 'theoretical available flow' is what is presently being shown by the 'virtual gauge' on this reach.
The capacity of the powerplant is reported as 1262 cfs. Inflows in excess of that may initially be used to replenish the reservoir (particularly in mid-to-late summer). However, when the 'pond' is at full elevation, excess inflows will be returned to the natural channel (this reach). The 'recommended minimum' has been set at 1662 cfs on this virtual gauge: 1262 for the hydro plant, leaving a theoretical 400 cfs for the main channel. This is a level which would/should make the 'creeky' drops (immediately downstream of the Hatfield dam) runnable. Levels of 2262 cfs should leave 1000 cfs for the main reach, which would/should make the upper reach quite gnarly, but begins to make the main reach worthwhile as a playboating run.
Gauge/flow analysis based on data from 1963-10-01 to 2008-05-11
Drainage area at gauge: 1290 sq.mi.
Minimum mean daily flow during stated period: 19 cfs (1988.08.04)
90% of time flow exceeds: 102 cfs
10% of time flow exceeds: 2,652 cfs
Maximum mean daily flow during stated period: 42,878 cfs (1979.04.25)
10/90 ratio ('flashy-ness'): 26.1 (under 3 is fairly steady, over 10 is quite 'flashy')
Average days per year over recommended 'low' threshold: 58
Average days per year over recommended 'high' threshold: 43
A license agreement issued June 10, 2008 provides for releases as follows:
(1) Minimum release flows would be provided one Saturday during the months of May, June, and September.
(2) The flows would be released from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm.
(3) Inflows above 150 cfs, measured at the Neillsville flow gage at least 24 hours in advance, would trigger the release flows. Flows above 150 cfs and below 1,200 cfs would allow a release of flows between 400 and 600 cfs of varying peak durations. The targeted peak flow duration is three hours.
(4) Ramping rates in the dewatered reach of the Black River would be maintained at 300 cfs an hour (cfs/h) rising limb and 100 cfs/h falling limb.
(5) Inflows occurring during a planned release above 1,200 cfs would be directed into the bypassed reach, increasing the recreational flows.
The key point here is that scheduled releases occur just 'one Saturday', during only three months of the year (May, June, September), with flows of only 400-600 cfs (appropriate for the class IV+ section below the dam, but not generally for the full run), and flows will be cancelled if less than 150 cfs inflow (on Neillsville gauge), and will be augmented (increased) by the full amount of inflow in excess of 1200 cfs (possibly making the full run worthwhile).
Most generally, boaters should expect the full run to be worthwhile only in early spring, or after particularly heavy rains, on UNSCHEDULED dates, just as it had been without the agreement (as described above the gauge analysis above).
For more information: Jeff Polzine at (715) 284 1946 w or (715) 284 4417 h
Angie Tornes (NPS, FERC) at 414-297-3605
There is a NOAA gauge at the Hydro Plant.
The tabular data can be accessed at NOAA Hatfield Hydro.
From the release study which was conducted in 1995, my recollection of the consensus opinion of the boaters who were there was:
1000cfs was tame play,
1750cfs was very a good intermediate level, and
2500cfs was pushy and difficult play for most boaters.
Bear in mind, 'playability factors' (boat designs, boater technique, and what constitutes a 'good' playable feature) have changed somewhat since then.
If you have input on 'best' boatable levels (either for the initial class IV 'creek' reach or for the longer 'play' reach) please use the 'Add a comment' button in the "Comments" tab, or sign on as StreamTeam member for this reach!
We have had releases on this reach but don't show any currently. This information is gathered by the public. If you know about releases then contact us about them. If you would volunteer to enter the releases, then reach out to us.
Permits are not required for this reach.
Shuttle directions for the full run (Black River, Hatfield Dam to Power Plant) appear below. For the new releases, which only make the upper 'creeky' drops runnable, your 'shuttle' will be carrying up to near the dam, running the short reach of rapids (repeatedly), and carrying back to your vehicle. 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).
~ 2200 cfs
Second Drop second pitch
Above the Putin
WI, Black River, Surf Wave
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