Approximate Mile-by-mile gradient: 33, 27, 50, 144, 38, 31 Approx.Ave.Gradient: 52 FPM, Approx.Max.Gradient: 140 FPM
The Amnicon is a beautiful stretch of river with features which will be interesting to intermediate as well as the advanced paddlers. We'll note up front that the flow ranges are likely quite different for the full run we list versus optimum flows for the sequence of falls within the state park. Moreover, those who are 'vertically addicted' may just do a park-and-huck of the sequence in Amnicon Falls State Park.
Put-in is possible from the Hwy 53 bridge, though (as listed here) we prefer a less-busy access ~1.7 miles upstream, at the start of the gradient. The early portions of the run will consist of class II-ish rockbed rapids with one larger drop (class III) about midway between Hwy.53 and Hwy.2. The pace picks up below the Hwy 2 bridge as the river enters Amnicon Falls State Park. Intermediate paddlers and those unfamiliar with the reach should get out to scout upon reaching the road bridge in the park. There are several hundred yards of class III-III+ before the falls sequence proper. A mistake here could quickly turn epic (not to mention dangerous).
A footbridge and split channel mark the beginning of the falls sequence. Take-out above the footbridge to scout. The right channel carries the most water and is most commonly run. Below the bridge a steep drop of ~15' may generate an aggressive hydraulic at its base. A short distance downstream, the river twists and drops off a second falls of about 15'.
Note: there are splines of rock in the pool below, running parallel to the face of the drop and fairly close in. (These were no doubt formed as the falls, over time, has receded upstream, apparently in uneven 'chucks'. The resultant bottom contour is like the corrugated layer of a corrugated cardboard box.) These shallow splines generally preclude runs of this drop at low-to-moderate flows. You must be justifiably confident you can 'boof' the drop. Failure to do so will result in boat and/or bodily damage!
The third falls is a highly scenic photo op. After passing under the Horton covered bridge, the river drops over a medium-angle slide of perhaps 8'-10'. Watch the hydraulic here at elevated flows, though there's a big pool below for recovery if necessary. Below this point, the Amnicon resumes a pace very similar to that of above the falls sequence. The gradient gradually lessens until the CTH.U bridge is encountered.
There is actually more than one falls sequence in the park, as the river divides at the footbridge which marks the start of the serious gradient. The secondary (left) channel passes through a sequence of drops known as the "Snake Pit", which has been run with elevated flows. There is also a third channel that is not commonly viewed because of its location behind the pit toilets.
Through the years there had been confrontations from Park Rangers with boaters at Amnicon Falls State Park, including threats of fines up to $250 for running the falls and putting in/taking out in the park. In January of 2017, DNR officer Kevin Feind (the head official for Amnicon and Pattison State Parks) was contacted by an American Whitewater member and he confirmed that no one has the authority to fine a boater for kayaking the falls in Amnicon State park. He did stress his concern for the safety of boaters and the possibility of a boater hitting a swimmer below when coming off the falls. That being said, there likely won't be people swimming a the falls when the water is high enough to run them, but always keep in mind that it is a common swimming spot directly below some of the main waterfalls. Officer Kevin also made it known that a sign on the bridge that had read "No Kayaking Below Bridge" has been removed. Thus, boaters should no longer worry about getting fined for kayaking in Amnicon Falls State Park.
Drainage area at our listed put-in is approximately 108 sq.mi. (as calculated via USGS StreamStats Beta software).
Uncertain about legality (property ownership), but aerial (satellite) view shows a road stub and no buildings at this site. A clearing appears to lead to good river access, as an alternative to the listed put-in.
USGS lists a sampling site here with drainge area of 113 square miles.
The nearest active USGS gauge is on the Nemadji where it has drainage of 420 square miles. Thus, flow here might be about 1/4th the flow on that gauge. (Ratio of drainage areas is 0.269)
At a large island in the park the main flow (straight ahead) goes over a couple major falls. A much much smaller channel splits sharply to the left to head into the "Snake Pit". If you haven't thoroughly scouted this area already, this is your final chance to get out and to have someone set safety (and/or shoot video from shore) for anyone running the main drop sequence.
A sharp right turn contains an apparent rapids (maybe a minor ledge/drop?). Additional light rapids intersperse the remaining two miles to our listed take-out.
Again, the most vertically addicted boaters may attempt a park-and-huck of the action within the park, hoping to avoid any interference by authorities. Some boaters doing the full run may attempt to take out as soon after the action in the park, again hoping for minimal interaction or interference from officials. We prefer extending to our listed take-out as an attempt to minimize hassle. The overall run is just not inordinately long, and flow should move well on the lower-gradient portions of the run.
Used to hike here all the time while in college in Superior. Great river with some big drops. I recall the first waterfall to have rock in the base but with high flow it could be o.k. the other one is a slide and it was very clean. I have heard that there are more big drops upstream (south) of the park.
This used to be one of my favorite spring runs. I dont know the date when the park opens but many times the river is at peak flow when there is still snow on the ground. This is the ideal situation for this run, no rangers to fuss with & if you go when raining no public either. At these elivated flows the "normal line" becomes incridibly scary however the snake pit really goes off. If you live near by this little section is sweet!
Many years back (long before being a boater), I swam in the pool at the base of the larger falls in the park. As briefly mentioned in the text above, my recollection is that the pool actually contains multiple 'splines' of rock parallel to the face of the falls (perpendicular to the flow of the river). Walking/swimming toward the falls from below, one goes from knee-deep to over-your-head to knee-deep to over-your-head almost literally from one 'step' forward to the next. (Essentially a rather exaggerated, 'corrugated' bottom.) Thus, depending on where one lands (and how deep they go), there is potential for great pain here.
I talked to the rangers at Amnicon Falls this summer about the run. They said they didn't want people putting in from the Park, but you could start further up. According to the ranger I talked to, everything below the high water mark is public, so it would be possible to scout the drops - some of which looked quite nice. However, they were understandably concerned with liability and the possibility that this would encourage unskilled spectator-type people to attempt this run, as it is a popular park. While that ranger did not say it was forbidden or illegal, I think it would be a good idea to discuss your plans with them beforehand.
Gauge shown is for Nemadji River which may provide some indicator of runnable flows. Correlation not known at this time but look for flows in excess of 8'. Visual inspection at Amnicon Falls State park recommended.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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