Ontonagon, Cisco Br. - Kakabika Falls (Thayer Rd) to FS Rd 178 (Park-n-Huck to 9.7 miles)


Ontonagon, Cisco Br., Michigan, US

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Kakabika Falls (Thayer Rd) to FS Rd 178 (Park-n-Huck to 9.7 miles)

Usual Difficulty I-II(IV) (for normal flows)
Avg. Gradient 27 fpm
Max Gradient 75 fpm

7 Final Sequence


7 Final Sequence
Photo by C.J. Arnold taken 08/26/06 @ 125

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
CISCO BRANCH ONTONAGON R AT CISCO LAKE OUTLET, MI
usgs-04037500 60 - 300 cfs I-II(IV) 02h54m 76.1 cfs (running)
Likely ELF (Extreme Low Flow), boat/paddle abuse run. (We need your input. Add a comment or report about best flows for whitewater.) Gauge (50.7 sq.mi. drainage) is 12 miles upstream at regulated outflow from Cisco Lake Dam. May flow when rain would not have other rivers in the area flow.


River Description

The Chippewa name for a waterfall is 'ka-ka-bi-ka,' thus this is yet another example of Anglo-redundancy (much like the many 'Bull Falls', where 'bull' is an Anglicised version of a French word for rapids or falls).

While the overall run is class I-II, the opening drops of this reach (the Kakabika Falls sequence) rate the parenthetical class IV. As a result, many advanced boaters will prefer to do this as a 'park-and-huck', carrying back up to their vehicles after running just the opening sequence (Kakabika Falls), while less experienced boaters may either carry down past Kakabika (enjoying the view) or use an alternate put-in (as described below).

From the put-in (road), the river soon enters an increasingly steep series of ledges, dropping almost 50' in the next quarter mile into a mini canyon. As it makes a hook turn to the right, it flumes down into a complicated mini-gorge culminating in a near vertical drop of about 8', with a wicked spline of rock in the landing zone to punish boaters who may be just slightly off their line. Eddies are tiny and rare through this sequence, and wood may be present in the confined course. (This may push into class V range at higher flows.)

Many that float this reach simply put-in below. The river is primarily moving water for the next several miles, followed by a nice long stretch of rockbed rapids culminating in Wolverine Falls, a boulderbed rapid.

An alternate put-in (to avoid Kakabika and the the lower gradient section) may be found from a logging road which is about four miles from Kakabika Falls by road, turn to the left and drive/carry a half mile to the river. This abbreviated section has a length of 4.9 miles and gradient figures of 37'/mile average, 62'/mile max.

Satellite image resolution is fantastic for the bulk of this reach. (Unfortunately, that does not include the put-in and the class IV mini-gorge section, and does not extend downstream of the indicated take-out.) On the "Map" tab, click 'Satellite', double-click near (not 'on') the take-out, zoom in to maximum resolution (without losing image), and do a 'virtual walk' of the run. Image quality on 'USGS Aerial' is pretty good (though nowhere near the 'Satellite' resolution), so you can switch to 'USGS Aerial' to 'walk' the rest of the run.

(Side note: I'm not completely convinced that 'Woverine Falls' is marked in the correct place on the topo maps. We once walked trails a good ways upstream of the take-out and saw nothing more than riffles and rips. On the other hand, looking at 'USGS Aerial', there does appear to be some rapids or falls a short distance downstream of the take-out. I have not been back up there to check that in person.)

Shuttle Length (full run): 9 miles.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2011-09-01 20:21:14

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
9.0Wolverine Falls (marked)N/A
10.0possible falls/rapids?N/A

Rapid Descriptions

Wolverine Falls (marked) (Class N/A, Mile 9.0)

Topo maps show Wolverine Falls at this location. 0.7 mile upstream of the listed take-out. There is very little apparent on the 'USGS Aerial' or on 'Satellite' (best resolution) at this location. A friend and I hiked a good ways upstream from the take-out (river flow too low for a run), and saw nothing but riffles and rips. (Maybe we just didn't get far enough upstream? Or perhaps this is nothing more than a rapids, in truth. Can anyone provide any info? Add a comment!)



possible falls/rapids? (Class N/A, Mile 10.0)

Downstream of the listed take-out, viewing the 'USGS Aerial' map, it appears there may be a rapis or falls, and it looks possibly more significant than what is in the area where Wolverine Falls is marked on the topo maps. Perhaps this is mislabeled (mislocated)? Or perhaps the aerial view deceives.

Anyone ever checked downstream and have a report?




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