Put-in above the dam on the upstream side of the park (which straddles either side of the main road). The far-right two gates of the dam are normally runnable.
A short stretch of rapids with some minor play potential lead to a very scenic dells with an intense zig-zag of channels and drops. Riverbooks indicate the river drops 65' in 1.5 miles (44fpm). Often boaters just do a park-and-play in a county park where the bulk of that drop is concentrated.
Downstream of the dells, boulderbed rapids proceed past random rocky outcroppings for the next mile or so, leading down to and around either side of a large island. Better flow is to the right, and a fine set of ledges will be encountered just before the end of the island. The gradient peters out the rest of the way toward and beyond CTH.Z, before reaching another island. Either side is runnable, with the left being narrower and potentially more interesting, as it drops through a mini-dells with good waves and holes. As the island ends and the flows rejoin, the gradient eases, and the remainder of the float to the take-out is flatwater.
At our listed put-in drainage area is about 300 square miles (as calculated by USGS StreamStats 4.0 Beta software).
Drainage at the USGS gauge is 375 sq.mi., so (on average) one might expect flow here to be 8/10ths of that gauge reading.
By our listed take-out the area is 315 sq.mi. (an increase of just 5%).
This dam has two releasable gates to the right. At most boatable flows, the gates should be open sufficiently to allow boaters to run through them. Scouting before putting on is highly recommended, as the chutes are rather tricky in the immediate outflow area.
Reportedly, some higher flows may allow running ('boofing') the 'fixed' portions of the dam. (Note: last I was there, massive wood debris blocks most of the fixed portion of the dam.)
There are numerous small ledges and waves as you work your way downstream from the dam. The largest/best combination occurs as one nears the CTH.Y, where you may find some play before proceeding to the 'main event'.
The main drop of the dells is a complex drop in a beautiful scenic dells of granite rock. The main flow goes far to the left, jumps down a short shelf into a transverse channel. Flow is backed up by a massive rock, and splits to go left and right. While runnable at low flows, moderate-to-high flows create a massively retentive boiling landing zone. (I have watched good open-boaters have their canoes swamped and chundered in here!)
Moderately high flows open up a center chute which can be a fun 'boof', while higer flows open up a river-right bump-and-thump (or better) class III- sneak.
There is little evident on aerial/satellite views. I believe this is a boulder-bed rapids, easy to just read-and-run.
Many low, small islands dot the river at areas with little-or-no real rapids, thus it doesn't matter which side of those you run. However, there are two major (large) wooded islands which do have gradient of interest. This first one is best run on the right (which takes slightly more of the flow). After you pass most of the island, the channel twists to the left, and (before it rejoins the other channel) drops across a fine sequence of ledges and waves.
(The left channel is far less interesting and will be very rocky/boney until flows exceed 1500 cfs or so.)
After passing under Hwy.Z, a brief paddle brings you to the second large, wooded island. Take the left channel here and you will find a very sweet constricted dells. This can be run pretty much right down the middle, through a fine series of waves and small holes. At moderate to high flows, the waves and holes will build, and boaters may enjoy a roller-coaster ride, or work the rapids by catching some eddies as you break up this flume/drop.
Ran just the dells today (april 3rd, 2015) at 439cfs, ugg what a low water spring so far. There is an ok surf wave, good for a few swishing front surfs, by the large river right eddy just after the dam. The middle line at the main dells is pretty scrapy, and still not worth it at this level. The main, left drop, has good speed down a sloping drop into a bubbly pool, but can be easily boofed on the the left half and the second squeeze drop does not form a hole at this level. This is a great level to try out the dells, safety can be setup on the main drop with a quick one step in the water to get over to the middle rock formation next to the drop. Any problem will most likely be due to the boogy water between the first main drop and the second squeeze drop.
This river has a odd range of flow. The section below the dells peaks out in the 3500+ cfs range when it begins to be quite pushy and gets bony at below 350 cfs.
The main section of the dells drop will starts to get nasty, hole gets big at second drop and buggy water gets intense, at 900+ cfs, but can offer cheap thrills down to 85 cfs. A far right option ,class III-, opens up on the dells proper at above 2000 cfs and is runnable up to about 3500 cfs. These are some of my best estimates for runnablity.
Ran the section below the dells on 4/9, gauge was reading 3.9' and 1400 cfs. It was a very good level, the s-turn section just below the dells was great, as was the next rapids around the island. However, the gauge is far enough downstream that at this level the river was much higher than Bryan's photos at 2450 a week later and at 4.25 days earlier. So the gauge is not entirely reliable for exact flows and levels, it still provides good indication if the river is running.
FYI, the dam is now back. See pictures. At lower levels when the main drop of the dells is relatively safe one can run the dam gates. There are 2 on the river right. The right one tends to have debris in the outflow and does not have a clean line, so I would suggest the left on that forms a nice tongue.
At higher levels, say over 500 cfs the stationary part of the dam becomes runnable. Granted it will be a bit of a bumpy 5ft drop at 500cfs. The far right of this stationary section of the dam looked like it would be best, based on a run at 485 cfs.
the dam at the dells has been destroyed by a large ice flow a few years back,the river now runs alot differently than before. watch for pieces of old dam and re-bar if you run it.the large hole in the dam allowes for better flow all year.
Gauge is well downstream, thus does not reflect actual flow in this reach, but should serve as a decent indicator of runnability. Gauge rise and fall will likely lag rise and fall in reach. There are only relatively small tributaries entering downstream.
Min (350) and Max (3,500) are for 'best' runnability. Some boaters may enjoy runs at levels outside this range. It will get very 'bump-and-scrape' below 125 cfs, but there will still be playable spots. On the other extreme, the drops will get big and ugly at high flows. While some may be incined to challenge them, most will stand in awe of the fury of this stretch of water at high levels. At those times, portaging, running alternate lines, or putting in below the main drop in the dells is recommended.
Gauge/flow analysis (based on USGS data, 1914.01.01-2010.07.03)
Drainage area at gauge: 375 sq.mi.
Minimum daily mean flow (many dates): 25 cfs
90% of time flow exceeds: 60 cfs
10% of time flow exceeds: 519 cfs
Maximum daily mean flow (1926.08.21): 7,180 cfs
10/90 ratio ('flashy-ness'): 8.65 (under 3 is quite steady, over 10 is quite 'flashy')
Based upon USGS historical data and the listed min/max levels, expect the full reach to be runnable 50 days per year (on average).
Permits are not required for this reach.
Shuttle directions (take-out to put-in for Eau Claire River, Eau Claire Dells to Badger Road) appear below.
For drive time, distance, and directions from any other location to the put-in for this reach,
enter (into the text box) your location (zipcode, city state, address city state, or lat lng coordinates).
Looking down the sneak
play wave just below dam
dells with the sneak
Ugly right side bounce at dells
dells at high water
Bryan runs dells at low water
Ernie Runs the dells
1st rapid after dam
kane running dam
Eau Claire Dells
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