Location: in town, Port Washington, WI.
Shuttle Length: 1.6 miles.
Character: Steep tree-lined banks provide a 'wilderness' corridor to this 'in-town' creek. Bedrock ledges and rubble fields (along with surprising gradient!) create a wild 'creeky' run.
Drainage: 32.6 sq.mi. (at take-out)
Put-in is approximately 663' elevation.
Take-out is approximately 591' elevation.
Thus total elevation change is approximately 72'.
Information (latitude, longitude, elevations, total drop, run length, shuttle length) all obtained from best extrapolation of data via the distance measuring tool from google.com/maps, USGS StreamStats, and other online resources.IMPORTANT NOTE: Other sources may show differing values (for elevations, total drop, gradient, class/rating, etc). All values should be merely for general comparative purposes. Relatively minor differences (even discrepancies up to 10-20% and more!) generally mean very little in the grand scheme of all things whitewater! Far more important than gradient and class/rating should be other less-quantifiable 'character factors' such as continuous versus pool/drop, wide-open routes versus constricted technical rapids, wide-channel with multiple routes versus narrow channel with essentially one route, gradual river banks versus rocky shores or steep-walled gorges, et cetera.Never rely solely on class/rating to decide if you should run a river/rapids!
Recommended 'Companion Runs'
------------------------------------------- Approximate ----- Approximate
------------------------------------------- Distance -------- DriveTimeMilwaukee River in Grafton ----------- 8 miles ------ 14 minutesCedar Creek ----------------------------- 11 miles ------ 18 minutesMenomonee in Menomonee Falls -- 26 miles ------ 35 minutes
Open canoes (without floatation bags) and 'recreational' kayaks (with no spray-skirt, or with flimsy nylon splash-skirt) are not recommended on this run!
If you don't know how to back-paddle, sweep-stroke, or catch an eddy (or don't know what any of those mean), if you can't turn your boat 180-degrees with just one paddle stroke, it is really unsafe for you consider running this creek! At any level above 14.2' you are very likely to end up out of your boat, you are likely to lose your paddle and likely your boat as well. Do not take this run lightly!
This run can be hard to catch at good levels (often runnable only a day or two at a time, but sometimes (in late spring or early summer) having a window-of-opportunity of only hours). It is a very interesting local change-of-pace when it is up. About 30' of drop in 0.3 mi (equivalent to near 100 feet per mile!) over bedrock and rocky rubble bottom provide an interesting 'creeky' feel, with sliding drops and very little play potential.
From the recommended put-in, you will have a short warm-up paddle (and likely some deadfall, strainers, and overhanging branches -- be careful!). There may be a few small waves for some minor surfs. As you reach an old bridge (now just three iron beams spanning the river overhead), the gradient will increase as the bedrock drops away toward the 'falls'. As the creek heads toward the falls, unfortunately it widens, so water sheets thinly across the bedrock.
At most water levels, you will be slowed by contact with the riverbed (raking/rashing the bottom of your boat) as you approach this 4' drop. The landing zone off the center of the drop is quite shallow (can cause boat or body damage), so the recommended route is generally down 'ramps' to either side. If you run the middle, hitting a 'boof' would be highly advisable, but is difficult since you are pitched down (on the sloping approach) and since the water will sheet so shallow across the approach that your speed is slowed, and it is tough to get a solid stroke to launch your boof. Be aware there is a transverse 'trench' in the bedrock left-and-center in the pool, which could dish out a major piton if you land 'nose-down' into it.
Immediately downstream, a series of short ledges, waves, and possibly playable holes (not great play, just possible play) will be found both upstream and down from a footbridge.
A substantial chunk of land here has been made into a conservancy area (I.E., a park) with trails in a wooded area. It may be accessed via N.Moore Road. (Lat/Lng coordinates 43.3946 -87.8823) Boaters may wish to just do a 'park-and-huck' here, as this is the area of best gradient and most 'fun potential'. Generally you will carry upstream (short carry to somewhere above the falls and the "Three Bar Bridge"), or longer carry, perhaps as far as the limits of the conservancy (to where you see denser trees and evergreens). It is possible to eddy-out under the pedestrian bridge to get out and repeat a run of the steepest gradient (Krueger Falls), but you will probably wish to continue downstream, under Pierre Drive road bridge, to take out river-left alongside the high school athletic fields (where the banks are more reasonable for a climb out) and then carry upstream on sidewalks and roadside to your vehicle at the conservancy roadside parking.
If you proceed downriver, gradient eases, but continued areas of riffles and rips will be found. Large, sharp-edged, broken concrete slabs, boulders, old parking-meter posts, ever-changing strainers, and other debris litter the riverbed. You don't even want to think about flipping, swimming or trying to stand anywhere on this river when it is at runnable levels. Therefore, novice whitewater boaters should not run this river unless accompanied by an experienced paddler. Flips or 'out of boat' experiences are likely to be brutal! (All that said, I have long and often heard rumors of 'tons of rebar' in this river. I have walked most of the stream at minimal flows. While I cannot say that there is NO rebar, I would say that it is really quite sparse. However, the concrete slabs and other very shallow rock and debris are, indeed, quite plentiful.)
Most of the remainder will be little more than a swiftwater float, though one or two waves near the listed take-out may provide minor additional play. At high water (14.5' or more on the stick gauge), most of the run will be a rush of currents and waves, making the full run a hoot! From the pedestrian bridge (below the big drop) down to S.Milwaukee Street is a full mile, initially class III and soon dropping to a fairly continuous class II bobble.
Caution: Very alert, aware boating is urged in the lower part of this reach, as strainers are extremely likely, change yearly (and sometimes monthly or weekly!) and can be deadly. (They are the most potentially dangerous thing about this run!!!)
It is highly recommended that you get out no later than S.Milwaukee Street, before dropping into the lake and the harbor. A vertical steel-plate weir and outflows from a power plant create some wild currents (and potentially deadly hydraulics), especially at good boatable flows. In addition, scores of fishing lines are likely to hang from the platformed rim surrounding this area.
NOTE: more recently, I believe the aforementioned weir has been broken out a bit, diminishing the dam/hydraulic at the mouth. This is also highly affected by Lake Michigan water levels. Some years back while the lake was low, there was more drop and more hydraulic! More recently, lake levels have been higher, and there is almost no drop and no noticeable hydraulic. Fishermen and outflow from the powerplant are still likely to be problematic.
Park on the street, just a little bit north of the last house on the west side of the street and look for a small trail down through the woods to the creek.
Note: while other locations upstream may be possible, in general they add no rapids nor gradient, but are extremely likely to add problems dealing with deadfall (likely portages).
From the listed put-in you will have swift-flowing water with a few minor riffles and riffs for the first quarter-mile or so until the creek encounters the limestone bedrock which creates the falls. A few small pitches in the bedrock before the falls will create minor waves, a couple of which have just enough of a pool (and eddies) to allow some minor play.
Talking with some locals, I was told that this (at least for some folks) is referred to as Kreuger Falls (or Krueger's Falls), after the former owner of the property (before it was deeded over as a conservancy). Remnants of the foundations of old farmstead buildings can be found back among the trees on the property.
On stream, the approach to this falls is signaled by an old bridge of sorts (three iron rails span the creek from a raised cement platform). This "Three Bar Bridge" is a 'point of no return -- at almost any runnable flow, once you pass it, you ARE going down the falls -- there is no stopping now! (At moderate-to-high flows, the point of no return is somewhere back when you can first see the Three Bar Bridge (or before that)!
The narrow creek unfortunately spreads wide across the bedrock it encounters at this spot, which means water will sheet quite shallow heading into the falls. Expect to 'grunge out' no matter what line you take toward the falls.
To the left, there is a sweet 'off-ramp' slide. Unfortunately, this is route is often somewhat encumbered with over-arching shrub willow from shore. Far right, there is another longer sliding 'off-ramp' which will be passable only with very high flows in the creek (above 15.0' on the staff gauge). Down the center, the creek falls off more abruptly. Left-of-center there is high piton potential. The better line (for those choosing not to run either slide) is well right-of-center, coming off the lip with your right elbow or paddle-blade almost banging the right 'wall' of water (cascading off the right-side 'off ramp').
Immediately after Kreuger Falls, sweet sliding bedrock continues until a small ledge immediately before the footbridge.
More adventurous boaters may try to work (and play) some of the small pocket-waves through here. There are precious few eddies, so do not expect much extended/repeat play other than the final ledge at the footbridge. This one can become a bit sticky at certain flows, though more often does a good job of kicking you out.
There are stairs (steel-grate steps) at river-left at the footbridge which can be used for access or egress. When scouting this area before putting on (as is highly recommended!), more timid boaters (especially at higher flows) may opt not to do the upper part of the run, but 'salvage' their trip by just putting in from here. Conversely, gung-ho boaters may opt to exit here, to carry above the falls for a quick repeat of just the steepest part of the gradient. (Though I find it generally more fun to continue down the next stretch, even though it means a longer carry for the 'park-and-huck' or laps of the steep stretch before continuing to the listed/usual take-out.)
After the brief 'pool' under the footbridge, the bedrock again slopes away. At moderate-to-high flows, there will be some very interesting diagonal waves and holes through here which skilled boaters may wish to surf-on-the-fly. The final one has a short pool and decent eddies which can allow some (minor) repeat play.
Downstream, the stream-bed degenerates into stone and concrete rubble, forming class I-II runout which continues almost unabated to the take-out (at least, at higher flows).
NOTE: I have walked the stream at minimal flows, and there is NOT a significant amount of rebar (metal reinforcing rod) as some people have rumored. (I'm not saying NONE, just not what I would call anything close to significant.) There IS a significant (extreme) amount of cement rubble, with rough irregular edges. Anyone upside-down or out of their boat will be punished severely!
Some boaters may want to 'do laps' on the steepest part of the gradient (either as part of full run with shuttle, or to avoid driving/biking any shuttle). The first reasonable exit (after running the pitches below the footbridge in the conservancy) could be at Pierre Road bridge. However, there are only minor eddies under that bridge (at moderate-to-high flows) and it is a steep awkward climb up the banks to the sidewalk.
Perhaps the easiest exit from the river is to keep watch (within the next quarter-mile) at river-left, looking for a spot to beach (on rocky shore) and 'mantle up' about a 3-4' vertical cement wall. Walking upriver (to the north), a gate in the chain-link fence (around the school football/baseball fields) may be open, but more likely you may have to drop back down-and-up the wall again to get around it. (It may be possible to take out from the creek before going past that fence/gate, but there is little-to-no obvious marker, and the eddies are not generally as good up prior to that point.)
A bridge allows pedestrians to get from Moore Street to the high school athletic fields. While this bridge is generally high enough over the water as to not be a problem, amazingly it can collect wood (whole trees!) when branches get stuck up into the undercarriage of the bridge.
It is a good idea to stop and scout from here while running your shuttle!
At times, some boaters may opt to take-out here, if they are just doing a 'park-and-huck' of the steepest gradient, and if it is too difficult or risky (flow is too fast) to attempt exit at any other point before this. The cement flanks supporting the ends of the bridge are 'stepped', but it will be a bit of an awkward climb (especially for shorter boaters), as they are tall 'steps' in the concrete).
Passing the Athletic Fields Bridge, the creek takes a sweeping left-hand bend, runs eastward for a bit, then takes a sweeping right-hand bend. Both of these bends are tight enough to preclude seeing what may be in or just downstream of the bend.
This 'zig-zag' area has periodically held wood (large branches hung up, whole trees in the river, and/or significant overhanging branches and brush on shore). Since this is an area which cannot be easily scouted before putting on, it is extremely important to proceed with utmost caution!
On the one hand, it may seem advantageous to attempt approach from the outside of each bend (river-right for the left-hand bend, river-left for the subsequent right-hand bend), so as to be able to see as far around the corner as possible (to see problems early).
On the other hand, it is virtually mandatory to stay away from the outside of each bend, so as not to be swept into (and become entagled in) all the brush alongshore! This is especially crucial in the second (the right-hand) bend here! Set a boat-angle hard-to-river-right (and paddle stronly!) as the current is especially swift pushing you to the brushy shoreline here!
An old USGS staff gauge (metal plate) is affixed to the leading right side of the bridge. This can be checked from shore (as detailed in the 'Flow Info' tab) before making your run, or checked from your boat as you pass through this location.
USGS lists drainage area at this point as 32.6 square miles.
An old bridge pier (long defunct bridge) splits the flow.
Caution: this location is likely to accumulate snags and strainers. As of August, 2018, there is a tree just upstream, totally blocking the river, and more trees effectively blocking access to the left side of the pier.
Anyone considering running this creek should ALWAYS SCOUT THIS SPOT BEFORE SHUTTLING UP AND PUTTING ON! From the take-out parking area, walk west (upstream) until you see a clearing (and where the shore has slumped into the creek) where the bridge pier is visible. Carefully look as far upstream and downstream as possible, with all the shrubbery blocking the view from shore.
The bridge pier can provide an interesting dynamic eddy to catch. Downstream, there are some 'fish habitat structures' which have been added to the streambed, but generally will be unnoticed by boaters at boatable flows.
The best take-out (for shortest hike back to your vehicle) is immediately under the Wisconsin Street bridge. A hill of dirt on shore (just before the bridge proper) creates a great eddy against the river-right cemeant wall of the bridge. Beach your boat and walk tot the top of that hill. Hoist your boat up to the grass at the top of about a 5' wall. It may be a tough climb up the wall (especially for shorter boaters), as you have to 'mantle up' (rock climbing move) to the grassy area immediately behind a fish-cleaning station (with rest rooms).
There is a good-sized parking area immediately adjacent, but it has been fenced in (low wood/rail fence) and marked exclusively for use by WE Energies vehicles. Best I can tell, it is still legal to parallel park outside that fence along an alley, or at the west end (outside the fence) next to a powerline post.
An alternative for take-out does now exist downstream, as the river-right (which formerly was a vertical wall, as still exists river-left) has now been laid back and landscaped. They are trying to establish 'prairie' plantings here, so I'm not sure how much foot traffic is welcome on this shore. Additionally, it will be a bit of a carry to anyplace that you can park your vehicle (either the aforementioned locations, or improved parking area out in a penisula/park immediately northeast of the powerplant and overlooking the harbor. Also, this being a far more visible location (with fishermen, people walking the sidewalks, etc), and preferring to keep much more of a 'low profile', I strongly prefer to take out under the Wisconsin Street Bridge.
Beyond the recommended take-out there may be a few minor waves, but nothing worth really caring about. As the creek reaches the lake, it encounters remnants of a small dam or weir, most of which has been broken out. Some rebar remains. Depending upon river level (flow) and lake level (which varies year to year, decade to decade), the weir can form a really nasty hydraulic.
The WE Energies powerplant discharges cooling water immediately adjacent (to the right), which contributes to the unusual currents found here. Fishermen love this spot, hanging lines from the pathway flanking this location. There is not a very convenient way to get out down here. You will have to paddle (0.2 mile) over to the boat ramp (the 'marina', for large, trailered boat access to the lake), or paddle over to an area of HUGE quarried rock shoreline, to stabilize your boat as well as possible, to exit and climb up the rock jumble to the grass and sidewalk.
For all these reasons, it is strongly advised that you take out at the listed location, rather than continuing to the lake. (The only reason to do so would be if pursuing errant gear from a boating mishap further upstream.)
For what it's worth, regarding reference gauges: While Cedar Creek (and it's gauge) are a good bit closer to this creek, it has considerably larger watershed, as well as considerably different 'flashiness' in the flow pattern. For this reason, we do NOT use it as an indicator for Sauk Creek. The Menomonee Falls gauge has more similar drainage area and should have much more similar flow patterns ('flashiness'). As always (with 'reference gauges' such as this) correlations to are not assured. It will always be necessary to get on-site look at conditions to assess runnable flows.
10 months ago
DO NOT RELY ON (or use for your records, or report to any others, ...) the online refernce gauge reading!!!
The best gauge (and the most accurate for you to 'log' your trip or tell others about the level when you've boated or looked at this) is the old rusted USGS stage plate affixed to the upstream-right face of the Grand Avenue (main street) bridge. It can be checked by parking just west of the river and walking down near water level. (You have to push aside shrubs and branches to even find your way here when everything is fully leafed out in summer!) BE CAREFUL! The cap-rock on the stone wall is loose, and there is a rock-jumble and dirt slope (which is prone to be very slippery) on the banks, so footing is somewhat treacherous.
OR, if you bring a pair of binoculars, you might be able to check it from a grassy area and a fence overlooking the river on river-left (to the east, toward the harbor).
--- Stage --- Class --- Evaluation
12.0 - 13.9 I (II) Too low (total boat abuse); Not recommended for anyone.
13.9 - 14.3 I-II (II+) Minimal. Most of run is boatable, but the approach and the falls will be very scrapey. Appropriate for confident, strong-beginner to intermediate whitewater boaters.
14.3 - 14.7 II (III) Pretty sweet. Run is great, though you'll still grunge a bit coming into the main falls. Appropriate for confident, skilled intermediate whitewater boaters.
14.7 - 15.1 II-III+(IV) Beefy! Continuous! Few eddies! Appropriate for strong ntermediate to advanced skill whitewater boaters. (Any downed trees will be serious hazard! Scout main gradient, and boat with extreme caution!)
15.1 - 15.5 III-IV Serious Stuff!! Wild! Appropriate only for extremely cautious, highly experienced, whitewater boaters with full swiftwater rescue skills.
15.5 - 17.0 IV Yeeee-haaaa! Wowie kazowie! Freight train rush! (My highest run to date was somewhere just over the top of the gauge!)
17.0+ IF THE GAUGE IS UNDERWATER, DO NOT PUT ON unless you first stop at the consevancy property on Moore Street and walk up to look at the Three Bar Bridge. (YOU WILL NEED TO BE YOUR 'WET GEAR', AS IT WILL INVOLVE WALKING IN WATER TO GET THERE!) The "Three Bar Bridge" (just upstream of the main drop in the conservancy) WILL BECOME IMPASSIBLE at some flows when the gauge is submerged! (This will happen only at (near) record flood levels.) THERE WILL BE VIRTUALLY NO WAY OF GETTING OUT OR AVOIDING IT once you are in your boat on this run.
You can also do a visual inspection of the main drop from a pedestrian bridge at 3210 Moore (lat/lng: 43.3946 -87.8823). If this area looks boatable, the run should be fine. A simple 'boater's gauge' may be to look at the steps leading into the river downstream-river-left at the pedestrian bridge. If water is just covering the bedrock at the base of the metal stairs, it's boatable, but pretty minimal/grungy. Water about midway between bedrock and bottom step is likely around 14.3 on USGS stage plate, and a pretty good level. If water is up to the bottom step, you've got a moderately high level. Higher than the first step will get beefy!
The gauge listed on this run is for the Menomonee at Menomonee Falls, about 20 miles Southwest.
Sauk's watershed is 32.6 sq.mi. compared to 34.7 sq.mi. for the Menomonee, so on average, in general, flow is likely to nearly equal the gauge shown.
At all times, this Menomonee Falls reference gauge should be taken only as an indication of possible runnability. Never rely on nor report that gauge reading as what "Sauk is flowing"!
It will be expected that the gauge will give false reads of boatability (or non-boatability). Since these are both small watersheds, they can 'flash' up and back down fairly quickly in response to rain. Localized storms may affect these rivers quite differently, so an indication here of 'runnable' should be confirmed by other sources (I.E., on-site visual inspection).
One might also check weather radar and rainfall totals. If the area gets a couple inches of rain in a day, you may want to do a visual check of the creek. Expect this to be boatable maybe 10-15 days a year.
NOTE: as levels get high, this run will become a mad rush, freight-train ride, with few eddies, since the banks are generally high and steep. EXTREME CAUTION is urged at higher levels! The main gradient will take on decidedly class IV character, having virtually no eddies for a half-mile (from above the 'three-bar bridge' to the high school athletic fields)! At levels around 14.5' or higher, the whole rest of the run (down to just shy of the lake) will be a fairly continuous class II bobble.
Permits are not required for this reach.
Put-in: Park just north of the lawn of a private property on the west side of the street. A well-worn path leads down through the woods to the creek.
Take-out: Park adjacent to the creek in a WE Energies overflow parking area (I believe it is labeled such), where there is a fish-cleaning station (with restroom facilities, which may be locked). The best take-out from the river (at least in my experience) is to catch an eddy immediately under the road bridge, to then use a bit of a hump of soil and trees to assist your carry up the wall to the grassy area and to your vehicle. DO NOT boat past the bridge. Depending upon lake levels and river level, a wicked hydraulic and boiling currents can form at the mouth of the river, where power-plant outflow adds to the roiling waters.We strongly advise you to check Krueger Falls (upstream from the footbridge at the conservancy property) on your shuttle. Large branches and whole trees have been known to catch on the ledges. You would not want to just put in upstream and flush into this area unaware of what awaits you.
As an alternative to doing the full run (necessitating a shuttle as shown below), one can just do a 'park-and-huck' of the main gradient. Access is handy from the conservancy property, with a small roadside pull-off parking area along N. Moore Road (lat/lng coordinates 43.3946 -87.8823). Carry up a decent distance above the falls and iron-bar bridge (to have a good approach to the falls). You can either just run the falls, getting out at the stairs by the pedestrian bridge or (more likely) run the next rapids sequence. In this instance, generally the easiest egress from the creek will mean getting out (river-left) at the athletic fields behind the high school. You will have to boost up a short cement wall and (unless you take out early enough) drop down, around, and back up to get around a chain-link fence, before carrying up the sidewalk and the road back to the conservancy park.
Looking downstream from footbridge
Sauk Ck: Main Drop
WI, Sauk Ck, Waves
WI, Sauk Ck, Main Ledge
WI, Sauk Ck, Ledge at Footbridge
WI, Sauk Ck, Main Drop
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