Difficulty II-IV(V)
Length 6.5 Miles
Gauge Potato@Hwy.169
Flow Range 150 - 450 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago ~ 27.954 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 12/28/2019 8:16 pm

River Description

While sections of the Potato River Falls sequence are runnable, most landings are very shallow. (Average and Maximum gradient figures are skewed by the falls sequence, at least the final drop of which virtually all paddlers will not be paddling.)

A bit more than a mile downstream of the falls, as you cross into Ashland County, you are in the Bad River Indian Reservation. Permission from the Bad River Tribe must be obtained before paddling if you wish to continue your trip into the Reservation. (We are uncertain how likely they are to grant such permission.) For this reason, it is likely most paddlers will end their trip by carrying back to the Potato River Falls parking area (from wherever short of the county line they decide to end their trip.

From YouTube, here's a video showing a great aerial view of Potato River Falls: https://youtu.be/Lvyxz7-_JCM

Rapid Descriptions

USGS sampling site

Class - N/A Mile - 0
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USGS lists a sampling site at our listed put-in with drainage area of 91.5 square miles.

First significant rapids sequence

Class - N/A Mile - 0.888
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Final Drop of First Sequence

Class - N/A Mile - 1.02
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It appears (from aerial views) things may get a bit more complicated/interesting as this opening sequence comes to its end.

Beginning of Potato River Falls sequence

Class - N/A Mile - 1.493
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Final Drop of Potato River Falls

Class - N/A Mile - 1.64
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Most (all?) sane boaters will want to get ashore before the final drop, which is a very steep slide to an almost uniformly shallow landing area.

Parking for Potato River Falls

Class - N/A Mile - 1.641
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Falls Road leads to a parking area from which you can walk paths to view the various parts of the Potato River Falls sequence.

Start (continuation?) of gradient sequence

Class - N/A Mile - 1.9
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Below Potato River Falls, much lesser and more evenly spread gradient continues.

First of back-to-back ledge-drops

Class - N/A Mile - 1.96
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Second of back-to-back ledge-drops

Class - N/A Mile - 1.98
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From aerial view this appears to be a fairly substantial, uniform, river-wide ledge, which could be good or could be trouble!

Uncertain area leading to drop

Class - N/A Mile - 2.14
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Hard to tell (from aerials) what is going on here, but this area does appear to end with a drop/rapids of some sort before a sharp left bend.

Possible chute or compression waves

Class - N/A Mile - 2.18
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***Entering Bad River Indian Reservation lands***

Class - N/A Mile - 2.788
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Somewhere here-abouts you cross the county line and you are in Bad River Indian Reservation lands. Permission (to launch or land, and to be on the water) is required.

Islands (& likely woodpiles)

Class - N/A Mile - 2.93
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A series of islands of islands divide the river. (These may be your best sign that you have certainly crossed into the Reservation lands.) From the aerial view, it appears likely these will often hold massive stacks of trees and wood. The first island (in aerial views) is relatively smaller and treeless, thus may be more of a sand/gravel bar which may be partly or entirely submerged at good flows. The next pair of islands have trees (and appear to catch deadfall), and precede a HUGE island. The rightmost channel appears to carry the most water and have somewhat less problem with deadfall blockages. (I.E., KEEP RIGHT!)

End of large island

Class - N/A Mile - 3.325
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Nope, that's not a tributary . . . that's the flow from the (likely far more obstructed) left side of the huge island.

Possible small ledge/wave/hole

Class - N/A Mile - 4.014
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Elongated Island

Class - N/A Mile - 4.78
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A somewhat long and narrower island (compared to the previously noted large island) splits the flow. Right side carries more flow. (Undetermined whether either side has any notable features to establish preferred route.)

Possible minor rapids / ledge-sequence

Class - N/A Mile - 5.06
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Start of final significant rapids sequence

Class - N/A Mile - 5.16
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After what appears to be a long stretch of mostly flat/flowing/tame water, this appears to be perhaps nearly a quarter-mile of more entertaining water. Nearly a mile of uneventful water brings you to Potato River Road, our listed take-out for this reach.


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 "Comments" tab, "Add a comment" button.

Directions Description

Most paddlers are likely (recommended) to end their trip on this run somewhere in the vicinity of the Potato River Falls sequence, using that parking area. As a result, the following shuttle directions are unlikely to be useful. You can, however, enter into the text-entry box the words "Potato River Falls" (without quotes), and Google will show you the time/distance/routing to that parking area.

No Accident Reports






Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1211577 04/01/19 Rob updated image position
1214080 12/28/19 Rob updated description
1203145 03/08/14 Rob Add info for changing shuttle to Potato River Falls parking.
1203131 03/06/14 Rob Select featured photo.
1192536 11/07/08 n/a n/a
1196689 11/22/09 Rob Fix/remove broken links.
1197200 02/05/10 Rob Embed YouTube video of falls.