Difficulty II-III(IV)
Length 7.2 Miles
Gauge Potato@Hwy.169
Flow Range 500 - 1200 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 33 minutes ago ~ 27.954 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 12/28/2019 7:51 pm

River Description

Boaters may wish to split this run into a short run of the upper 2.5 miles, then shuttle down to 'park-and-huck' the final listed sequence (about 0.5-0.7 mile).

Bryan Foster provides (2014-04-29):

Ran this on 4/27/2014. Level was 742cfs and falling on the Hwy.169 virtual gauge. The level was measured at 76.5" on the put in culvert at Hwy.77. Levels in the range of 742cfs to 830 cfs were perfect for running Hwy.77 to Upson Lake Road. I would guess that below 400 or 500cfs would make this run too low.
The first main rapid is Upson Falls. You can scout this from the Park along trails in the woods. If you decided to run the falls, put in at Hwy.77, otherwise you can put in at the park. The falls consists of three drops. The first drop is about 5 to 6 feet and has a stair step in it. The river right side formed a decent hole at our level, so we ran a seam in the center. Scott pitoned on a line that went down one of the stair steps. The 2nd drop is larger, at about 10ft. We ran this on river right (you can see the line in the photo). The 3rd drop is only a few feet and has a few lines.
After Upson Park Road, the river has a nice class II Brunsweiler feel until a first ledge of about 4ft. There is a large rock in the middle and either side was runnable. Shortly after is the second ledge of about 4ft. We were able to run this anywhere, but some holes will most likely form at higher levels. River right is a safe slide.
At about 1.1 miles there's a rapid with a curving wave train down the left side of the river. This and the rest of the rapids down to the ATV bridge at Upson Lake Road were 'read-and-run'. We took out at the ATV bridge on Upson Lake Road, where there is a parking for about 2 cars. Sullivan Road was still snowed in (being a fire lane, it is not plowed in the winter).

Bryan Foster further provided (2014-05-09):

Ran again on 5-3-2014. Level was 830cfs and falling on the Hwy.169 virtual gauge. The level was measured at 74" at Hwy.77 put-in.
Upson Falls was not as scrapy with the extra water. General character of the river did not change from 742cfs to 830cfs (76.5" down to 74" down). Casey Sag Road was open, but Sullivan Rd was still snowed in. We able to park where the road crosses river. Roads to falls below Foster Falls were in pretty rough shape.
There is only 2 consecutive class II boulder beds from Upson Lake Road to Foster Falls. We portaged Foster Falls on the left along a "road"/ATV trail. River split below Foster falls, with the left channel choked with wood, but a nice curving dells section down the right side was clear. The "dells" as marked on the description is more of a falls. Soon after the river bends left, we got out on left and right and scouted. The upper was better scouted from river left along with the lower drop. The hole on the lower right channel would require a scout from the island splitting the lower section of the falls or from down stream looking up. The right bank is a cliff with cedar trees making visual of the hole sketchy. We only ran the lower left steep slide/drop and short dells below.

Hike back out was along a ATV/4x4 trail to Casey Sag Road.

Thanks, Bryan, for the wonderful updates!!

The following 'video essay' (from YouTube, courtesy of 'edo0776') shows a great accounting of what you'll find on this run: https://youtu.be/CJZBFdHAkoE

Rapid Descriptions

Railroad Drop

Class - II Mile - -0.1

Some boaters may wish to carry upstream of Hwy.77 to run a rapids under the railroad trestle, and then head through one of the two box-culverts under Hwy.77. Reportedly the put-in to do so is 'not ideal'.

USGS sampling site

Class - N/A Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

USGS lists a sampling site right at our listed put-in citing drainage area of 22 square miles.


Class - N/A Mile - 0.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Upson Falls

Class - IV Mile - 0.286

Upson Falls consists of three drops. The first drop is about 5 to 6 feet and has a stair step in it (which has piton potential). The river-right side may form a decent hole, so look for a seam in the center. The 2nd drop is larger, at about 10ft. The 3rd drop is small at only a few feet.

Upson Park Road

Class - N/A Mile - 0.377
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Second Ledge Sequence

Class - III Mile - 0.44

After Upson Park Road, the river has a nice class II Brunsweiler feel until the first ledge after Upson Falls of about 4'. There is a large rock in the middle and either side is runnable.

Third Ledge

Class - III Mile - 0.55

A second ledge of about 4' can be run anywhere, but some holes will most likely form at higher levels. River right is a safe slide.

*Possible* mild gradient/rockgarden sequence

Class - N/A Mile - 0.86
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Rock outcrop sequence

Class - N/A Mile - 1.08
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Tree covered ledge?

Class - N/A Mile - 1.32
Rapid Thumbnail Missing


Class - N/A Mile - 1.7
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Confluence Alder Creek

Class - N/A Mile - 1.78

(Low gradient rapids bouldergarden)

Class - N/A Mile - 1.9
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Upson Lake Road

Class - N/A Mile - 2.37
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

ATV/Snowmobile Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - 2.527

There are only 2 class II boulder beds from Upson Lake Road to Foster Falls, so boaters may wish to skip nearly four miles of uninteresting water by taking out here, and driving down to run the final stretch of rapids as a separate 'park-and-huck' sequence.

Rocky Sequence

Class - N/A Mile - 4.25
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Confluence: Sullivan Creek

Class - N/A Mile - 5.225
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Casey Sag Road / Sullivan Road

Class - N/A Mile - 6.43
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Foster Falls

Class - N/A Mile - 6.54

Most will likely portage this at most flows!


Class - N/A Mile - 6.74

Transverse Falls

Class - N/A Mile - 7.18

There is a second set of falls below Foster Falls. This is the upper with the drop of about 8ft onto a perpendicular current.

Split Drop

Class - IV Mile - 7.2

A split drop with a nice drop/steep slide on the left and drop with a hole on the right.


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Dan Varick
2 months ago

Paddled on 4/4/20 with a gauge reading of 900cfs. A fun creeky ricer without too much wood currently. Note that below the posted "TREE COVERED LEDGE?" and after the cabin RL it is hard to find the main river channel. We got a bit lost NE of the main river after it swings West with the confluence of Alder Creek. Had to tromp around in alders and ended up attaining back up to the cabin to find the main flow.

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bryan foster
6 years ago

I ran Foster Falls at 246cfs on the virtual gauge. There were a few concerns for us. The right side of the main drop had a spine of rocks down the slide and an undercut at the bottom. Middle/left offered a bumpy ride into a flushy hole at the bottom. The main part starts with a spine wave on a rocky lip that drops about 5 ft onto a slide of about 20ft long into a final hole at the bottom. The far right of foster falls was a double drop, did not inspect the landings.

Gage Descriptions

*This is a 'virtual gauge', based upon the fact that the Potato River at Hwy.169 drains 92.7 square miles. It flows into the Bad River about 4 miles upstream of its (currently active) gauge, which lists total drainage of 597 square miles. The ratio of those areas (92.7 / 597 = 0.15528) is applied to the Bad River gauge to approximate flow in the Potato.

Obviously, a virtual gauge based upon such a calculation will not be completely accurate at representing flow in this reach. Branches will not always contribute proportionally to the gauge reading. The downstream gauge (and thus the virtual gauge based upon it) will lag flow in the upper reaches. This means the upper reaches will flow before the gauge reflects runnability, and the gauge will show runnability after flow in the upper reches have declined.

Boaters are advised to take this into account. Visual inspection will be the best 'gauge'.

The 'recommended minimum' and 'recommended maximum' are presently little more than guesses based upon common values for upper Midwest runs, and need substantiation and revision. Anyone with experience running this reach is encouraged to provide info ('data points') via the "Add a comment" button which should appear for logged-in users with verified email addresses.

Boaters report doing a measure-down from the downstream/west bridge abutment on Hwy.77. (You will notice references to this on Bryan's comments and photos.) It appears that one could make this more readily relatable if one takes the 'measure down' reading and SUBTRACT IT FROM 77", to get a 'more is more' reading (instead of the raw measure-down 'less is more' reading). This should be easy to remember: subtract the Hwy.77 measure-down from 77". Applying this method to presently reported runs, runs at 0.5" and 3.0" were reported "perfect" levels. It should be expected that runs at 0" to perhaps a couple inches below (-1", -2", maybe -3", or measure-downs of 77" to maybe 80") are likely to be ok, and likely getting boney below that. Help out your fellow boaters by reporting your runs and calculated gauge-measurements!

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
1211651 04/01/19 Rob updated image position
1214078 12/28/19 Rob updated description
1203136 03/07/14 Rob Add visible features.
1203402 05/22/14 Rob Incorporate Bryan's comments into description.
1203403 05/22/14 Rob Fix a few typos.
1203404 05/22/14 Rob Oops. One more typo fix.
1192535 05/01/08 n/a n/a