Difficulty II-III(IV)
Length 7.6 Miles
Flow Range 1200 - 3280 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 53 minutes ago 836 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 06/11/2019 12:41 am

River Description

In Cayuga, the Bad is a meandering quietwater stream and stays that way for the first mile or so. A railway line follows the Bad along the entire reach and the bridges provide a handy reference. At about two miles into the run, after the first rail bridge is passed, light boulder bed rapids lead into a pair of ledge drops which are a warm-up for the drops to come.

The Conley Road bridge (at 3.3 miles) can be used as an alternative put-in (shortening the run to 4.3 miles).

The Bad starts accelerating downhill from here. Take care to count railway bridges as the river builds to fairly continuous class II-II+ water. Just beyond the third railway bridge down from Conley Rd, grab an eddy and scout river-right from the railway line. Rocket Railroad Rapids, the most challenging drop on the reach, lies just below. Rocket Railroad starts with a fast flume of water leading into a ledge (about 4' or so) followed by a steep boulder slide of perhaps another 6'. There is a fair stretch of class II below this.

The river then alternates between fastwater and class II rockbed downstream with a pair of class III boulderbed drops interspersed to liven things up. You'll pass two more railway bridges downstream of Rocket Railroad with the last significant drop being located about a half mile below these. After this the pace drops off and you'll be looking for the next railway bridge which marks your take-out.

The Foster Junction take-out is located by driving 1.6 miles west of Mellen on Cty GG and looking for a small dirt road turning to the left. A short distance down this road is a grassy area along the railway. If you are not with someone who knows the run, we recommend you walk the eighth of a mile or so down the railway to the bridge over the Bad, to aid in recognizing the spot when you get to it on the river! Indeed, you may wish to mark this location with some temporary 'flag' you'll recognize.

The best lodging deal in the northwoods may be at Cayuga Hotel Saloon, whose backyard is the put-in: $10 a night (as of this writing (in 2000)) includes coffee and sweet rolls in the morning with the owners (if they're awake).

Rapid Descriptions

USGS sampling site: 31 sq.mi.

Class - N/A Mile - -4.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

USGS lists a sampling site at Minnow Creek Road / Morse with drainage at that point of 31 square miles.

Quarter-Mile Rips

Class - N/A Mile - -4.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Ever wonder what's upstream of this section? Well, there is one nearly quarter-mile stretch which looks at least mildly interesting, just a bit downstream of Morse. Other than that . . . flat water, flowing water, maybe a couple minor swifts and boulder fields for the remaining four miles to our listed put-in.

Drainage: ~51 sq.mi.

Class - N/A Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Drainage area at our listed put-in is approximately 51 sq.mi. (as calculated via USGS StreamStats Beta software).

First RR Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - 0.83
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Warm-up Rapids

Class - II+ Mile - 1

The first series of rapids is encountered after about a mile of flat water. Less experienced boaters may wish to take out river right to scout this class II+ sequence.

Right Tongue Drop

Class - III Mile - 1.65

This is the first Class II-III drop on the run. The river-right tongue is a nice ride at 4.3 feet. Most boaters should be fine 'boat scouting', but less experienced boaters may wish to take out river left to scout.

Left Tongue Drop

Class - III Mile - 1.82

This is the second class III drop of the run. Note that there is a big rock in the middle of the drop (see photo). As the name implies, we generally run down river left.

Conley Road: 82 sq.mi.

Class - N/A Mile - 3.28
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Some boaters opt to put in here, cutting off over 3.25 miles of river, skipping the first three drops, to focus on the major event downstream.

USGS lists a sampling site at Conley Road having drainage area of 82 square miles.

Second RR Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - 3.54
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

(Or the first downstream of Conley Road.)

Third RR Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - 3.81
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

(Or second downstream of Conley Road.)

Fourth RR Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - 4.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

(Third downstream of Conley Road.) GET OUT HERE TO SCOUT!!!

Rocket Railroad Intro

Class - III Mile - 4.24

Get out river-right ABOVE the bridge (5th road + railroad from the start, or 4th RR, or 3rd RR from Conley Road, 0.9 miles down), to scout this entire sequence. Eddies below this bridge are few and small.This is the intro to the two larger drops below, and consists of three to four class II-III drops back-to-back.

Rocket Railroad A

Class - III+ Mile - 4.29
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

This is the first of two big drops at the end of the Rocket Railroad Intro. Note the nasty piton rock in the middle. If you run the river-left slot, be aggressive, lean forward ('dive head-first through the hole'), as that pour-over loves to send boats vertical! At moderately high flows, a river-right boof may be appealing (to possibly avoid being unceremoniously stuffed and recirculated), though you'll have to make a quick right to head to the second part of this drop.

Watch the following YouTube video (courtesy of Ed O'Meara) and you'll see both parts of this drop. Note how all three paddlers get tail-endered (and the third one swims). This can be a very sticky boiling pool, especially at higher flows!

Rocket Railroad B

Class - III+ Mile - 4.3

The second of the two big drops at the end of the Rocket Railroad. (Rocket Railroad A is in the background of this shot.) You usually have your option of a right or left line here.

Rocky Prominence

Class - N/A Mile - 5.84
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

There's a rocky prominence evident in the stream just upstream of Happy Creek (river-right) and Hardscrabble Creek (river-left). It appears this should cause some rapids of interest, but is apparently lacking specifics from the write-up provided to us. Anyone able to fill-in details?

Fifth RR Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - 6.23
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Sixth RR Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - 6.45
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Cool-down Rapids

Class - III Mile - 7.16

This is the final class III drop of the day. It is about 0.5 miles below bridge #7 (RR bridge #6). There was a BIG LOG river left when we ran this. Scout river right to see what is adorning this rapid when you arrive.

Seventh RR Bridge: 95 sq.mi.

Class - N/A Mile - 7.64
Rapid Thumbnail Missing


Drainage area at our listed take-out is approximately 95 sq.mi. (as calculated via USGS StreamStats Beta software).

Take-out Parking

Class - N/A Mile - 7.8
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From the recommended take-out (at the seventh RR bridge), you'll have a brief (0.15mile) walk NNE along the tracks to get back to your car. (Yes, you could stay in your boat an additional quarter-mile, til the river hangs a sharp 90-degree right, to the outlet of a tiny creek, to take-out and carry up to the tracks and to the LEFT to your car. However, we prefer the assurance of taking out at the RR as it is an unmistakeable spot.)


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Dan Varick
4 months ago

Ran on 4/10/20 @ ~400 (off Bad near Odanah). This is a real gem of WW in the Northwoods. Ran from Coyuga Junction down to Foster. As described the river has a few significant drops with well spaced out flat water stretches. The flatwater however does not feel as lengthy due to how it is broken up. Additionally, as described counting bridges is helpful and taking out above 4th RR bridge to scout Conley/Rocket is good. At this level this was clearly a V- with a pretty sticky hole and a tricky upstream set up. (Upstream looks a bit like Rockcut on W. Fork). We portaged RL over bridge putting in at collection eddy RR following small gametrail/path. Downstream there are a few rapids until TO at 7th RR bridge with graffiti on it.

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ed omeara
7 years ago

Ran the river Tuesday May 28 2013 me and Tyler cut the tree out of the way on the main line but part fell into the line the Minnesota crew cleaned out. We ran the main line I made it but he got stuck in the drop and had to swim after trying to roll about three times. The hole is very sticky and his boat got beat down for about 40 min before I was able to pull out with part of a tree. I also have had my boat stuck in that hole before. Any one who runs Rocket Railroad/Conley Falls should have very good paddle skills.

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Brendan Hammond
9 years ago

Video from Ed'O from a run 4/16/11 at ~5.4ft and falling on youtube. Rocket Railroad/Conley Falls (local name) was portaged. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQLpUEnreeQ

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10 years ago

Open boated this stretch several times & love it. Excellent write-up. But, for those that have been there: don't you think that main rapids should be called "AC/DC"?

Gage Descriptions

*This is a virtual gauge. The only currently active USGS gauge on this watershed is about twenty miles downstream, thus is not completely reliable for water levels in this reach. Specifically (obviously) this reach will flow sooner than the downstream gauge rises to a level which results in the virtual gauge showing as 'boatable'. Similarly, this reach will fall to unboatable levels well before the downstream gauge falls enough to flag this reach as unboatable.

Drainage area at the USGS gauge is 597 square miles. A gauge (not currently active) at Conley Road listed drainage area of 82 square miles, or 0.137 of the Odanah gauge. That multiplier has been used to create this virtual gauge.

Visual inspection from Conley Rd bridge is recommended.

The listed "recommended minimum" is based off of the '10% flow' (which tends to be a good starting point to approximate the runnability of many 'upper Midwest' whitewater streams). The listed "recommended maximum" is a 'guesstimation' based solely upon streams of similar sized and character. As such, both of these values are highly tentative. We encourage anyone who has run this river, and who can provide info ('data points') on gauge readings versus runnability, to do so. (Please use the "Comments" tab, "Add a comment" button.)

Gauge/flow analysis (based on most recent 20 years of data)
------------------------Odanah gauge ----- Virtual Gauge equivalent
Drainage area at gauge: 597 sq.mi. ------- 82 sq.mi.
All time minimum flow: 43 cfs ----------- 6 cfs
90% of time flow exceeds: 120 cfs ---------16 cfs
10% of time flow exceeds: 1,220 cfs ----- 168 cfs
All time maximum flow: 18,800 cfs ----- 2,582 cfs
10/90 ratio: 11.3 ('flashy-ness':under 3 is fairly steady, over 10 is quite 'flashy')
Average runnable days per year (days/year exceeding 'recommended minimum'): 35

Offseason ('Ice') correlations:
3.0' = 322cfs
3.5' = 537cfs
4.00 = 780cfs
4.55 = 1090cfs
5.30 = 1570cfs
6.60 = 2520cfs
7.00 = 2850cfs
7.19 = 3000cfs

Directions Description

No Accident Reports





Andrew Lovering

Asst Professor




Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1192539 04/03/09 Andrew Lovering Add (approx) lat/lng to rapids (based upon Google aerial maps)
1196661 11/22/09 Rob Fix/remove dead links.
1204075 01/26/15 Rob Minor edit
1208688 01/06/18 Rob remove table from gauge description, putting info into simple statement/paragraph form.
1211580 04/01/19 Rob updated image position
1212821 06/11/19 Rob updated description
1212822 06/11/19 Rob directions to the river