Difficulty II-IV(V) at this flow (IV(V) normally)
Length 2.4 Miles
Gauge PINE RIVER BELOW PINE R POWERPLANT NR FLORENCE, WI
Flow Range 250 - 2000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 10 hours ago 893 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 04/01/2019 11:52 pm

River Description


In just 2.4 miles of river, this dramatic whitewater reach features LaSalle Falls (20’ drop at class 4+ to 5), LaSalle Gorge Rapids (1/4-mile, Class 2-4 depending on flow), 1st drop of 5-Ridges near Halls Creek (Class 0-2 depending on flow), the 3 drops of Breakwater Falls (60’ total drop at Class 4+ to 5), and Breakwater Gorge Rapids (1/4-mile, Class 2-3 depending on flow).  Total drop for this 2.4 miles stretch of the Pine River is 146 feet.  As a state designated Wild River improved access to LaSalle Falls and Gorge is purposely limited.  There are 4 very different options for access to LaSalle Falls.  Two are carry-in (0.4-mile or 1-mile options).  Two are paddle-in options (both involve 4.1-miles, 1.25 hours, of paddling to the Falls).  Breakwater Falls and Gorge has good public access along river-right (WE Energies land).

As a culmination of a multi-year effort, in January of 2019, the Wisconsin Geographic Names Council accepted Breakwater Falls as the official name for the falls on the Pine River below the Pine Dam.  This name existed prior to the building of the Pine Dam (1922) but was lost because the river channel below the dam was dewatered for much of every year.  In 1995, FERC required run-of-river operation of the dam and a minimum flow release but, having lost its name recognition, the falls remained nameless and thus not on maps, guidebooks, or websites.  The Wisconsin Names Council has now forwarded the name, Breakwater Falls, on to the United States Board on Geographic Names for federal recognition.

 

Rapid Descriptions

LaSalle Falls Access Options

Class - N/A Mile - 0

As a state designated Wild River improved access to LaSalle Falls and Gorge is naturally rugged and purposely limited. There are 4 very different options for access to LaSalle Falls. Option 1) For the easiest, no-shuttle trip, put in at the flowage (public landings on northside (45.829455, -88.255353) or southside (45.828694, -88.258641)) and paddle ½ mile west, up the flowage, then ¾ mile upriver.  This upriver section is usually gently flowing flatwater but when flows are high (over 1500 at USGS flow station) you may need to do a short carry (river-right) around a river-wide, 2-foot standing wave caused by the submerged ledge just upriver from Halls Creek.  Takeout at the portage trail (river-right, signed, 45.829406, -88.285598) at the end of the Gorge Rapids and portage 0.4 miles up the trail to the falls. Option 2) Paddle 4.1 miles (about 1.25 hours) downriver from the Hwy 101 put-in to the signed, LaSalle Falls portage (river-right, 45.831951, -88.292100) for scouting.  This route involves a 10-mile shuttle.  Don’t seriously consider using White Ash Road as access.  It is a long, rugged road and often impassable in spring or with wet weather.  Option 3) Drive in to the trailhead parking lot for LaSalle Falls trail and carry in 1 mile to the falls.  This trip can have a 4.5-mile all-backroads shuttle if you hike in and out from the trailhead parking lot, or a 5.3-mile backroads shuttle if you take out at the generating station at the end of Breakwater Gorge.  Option 4) For an all-paved road option, when backroads are soft from frost or heavy rain, a put-in at Hwy 101 and takeout at County N makes for an 8.5 mile, all-river trip, with a 10.5 mile shuttle.

LaSalle Falls

Class - IV+ Mile - 0.1

At LaSalle Falls, the drop consists of a short entrance rapids leading into a dome type falls of about 20'. This has been run at quite a variety of flows, but there is a substantial hole at the base which is daunting for many boaters. Just for added measure, there is a major piton-rock in the midst of this hole. This is a beautiful spot, and definitely worth a look even if you don't intend to run it.

The put-in above the falls is good but the takeout from between the base of the falls and the start of the gorge rapids involves a rugged, steep climb.  At flows above 500cfs the gorge is filled wall-to-wall and the circulating eddy current at the base of the portage is strong.

 

LaSalle Gorge Rapids

Class - II+ Mile - 0.15

Below LaSalle is a 1/4-mile of LaSalle Gorge Rapids.  As a rock-walled gorge at about 1/3 the normal river width, flow is confined and intensity, especially through the steeper middle section, builds substantially (class 2-4) with flow rates over 500cfs.

There is a very good portage trail that is available for doing multiple runs.  The signed, downriver end of the portage starts on river-right, up a narrow crack in the bedrock, off of the large circulating pool immediately after the end of the rapids.

However, the put-in for running just the gorge-rapids is challenging.    Which side of the river you choose to put in on can depend on flow.  The river-right put-in has a large, strong circulating eddy which, from shore, can be challenging to escape from.  At flows below 500CFS, having to paddle free of the upriver eddy-current can be avoided by hiking along the narrow edge of land at the base of the vertical rock wall and launch just past the eddy.  The downriver entrance into the gorge rapids starts on river-left so put-in on river-right requires a ferry-maneuver across the outflow current from the falls.  With flows above 500 CFS, the large, strong circulating eddy, on river-right, fills right up to the rock wall leaving no land to walk out beyond the eddy.  In such cases, it may be desirable to put-in at the base of the falls on river-left.  The river-left put-in is rugged and has no established trail.  To put-in on the left, paddle across from river-right to river-left well above the falls (above the small island) and take-out somewhere that landing is safely possible.  The bushwhack-carry is along the shore and down 2 rock ledges to a somewhat precarious, step-off, put-in near the river-left base of the falls.  Put-in at this location makes starting the gorge rapids more directly downriver than put-in on river-right.

 

1st Ledge of 5-Ledges near Halls Creek

Class - II Mile - 0.94

Just before Halls Creek enters on the right, 0.6 miles downriver from the end of the LaSalle Gorge Rapids is a minor ledge that is mostly submerged in the backwaters of the Pine Dam and quiet.  However, at flows over 1500 cfs, a 1-2 foot high, river-wide, standing wave-train will develop.  Also submerged beneath impounded waters are 4 more minor ledges above and below the entrance of Halls Creek, then starting about 300 feet above the dam, the submerged river bed starts a 15-foot descent over bedrock that continues below the dam as rapids in the river’s approach to Breakwater Falls.

Campsite Landings on Flowage

Class - N/A Mile - 1.73

Just above the Pine Dam, there is boat ramp access to the impoundment at the WE Energies campsites on the north side (45.829455, -88.255353, campsite #34 by Pine River Rd.) and south side (45.828694, -88.258641, campsite #24 by Pine Dam Rd).  Both north and south access roads are backwoods-gravel and can be rugged but the road in from the north tends to be the better choice in early spring or when roads become soft after heavy rains.  The Southside landing does have a hikable path to Breakwater Falls.  

Access and Portage Options for Breakwater Falls and Pine River Dam WP146

Class - N/A Mile - 1.92

There is no establish put-in but the river-right bank below the Pine Dam is on WE Energies land and open to the public.  A significant stretch of mowed lawn and riverside rock (45.828489, -88.254102) is available to choose where to launch from.  The most common access to Breakwater Falls is to park near the generating station (45.826598, -88.248065, do not block utility access).  The service road is publicly available for walk-in access to Breakwater Falls.  There is a closed vehicle gate by the generating station but there is an open man-pass on the right end of the gate.  Carry 1,800 feet up the gravel service road.  Continue to the right, on the mowed slope down to the river when the service road goes left, up to the top of the dam.  There is no easy access to put-in on river-left. The river’s flow over Breakwater will not be the same as at LaSalle (or what is posted by the USGS for the Pine River).  The best indicator of flow over Breakwater Falls is at: https://accel.wisconsinpublicservice.com/environment/hydrodata.aspx

Portaging around the Pine Dam is the thru-paddlers route to Breakwater Falls.  The portage trail is very clearly marked once you get there (45.828146, -88.255984) but it is in a small bay and coming downriver across the flowage, the location of the portage takeout cannot be seen.  The takeout is on river-right just before the dam’s perimeter exclusion cable with orange buoys.  The total portage trail is 2,700 feet but after the 600-foot trail through the woods there is a metal walking bridge over the diversion canal that delivers water to the penstock pipes/generating station.  Coming off of the metal bridge, turn right and continue along the gravel service road.  At the generating station, there is a closed vehicle gate with an open man-pass on the right end of the gate, leading directly to a parking area (and public outhouse).  On the river-side of the parking area signage directs you down 52 wooden steps to a narrow landing.  The put-in is in the very small eddy just below 3 metal stakes just off the shore.  The takeout at County N is 2 miles downriver (mostly swifts) on river left immediately after the bridge.  There is a large parking area and outhouse (during peak summer-use) at the County N landing.  The USGS flow station is river-left just above the County N bridge.  The visible staff gauge on the downriver middle support for the bridge is not what is reported on the USGS website as gauge height.  The USGS gauge is not publicly viewable.

Breakwater Falls, First Pitch

Class - IV+ Mile - 1.97

Immediately below the dam, the river continues its descent over bedrock for 350-foot of class 2-3 rapids leading to Breakwater Falls.  The 45 feet of descent at Breakwater is across a series of three very significant, class 4+ to 5 pitches.  The first pitch has two substantial back-to-back drops.  The 2nd of these drops has a major keeper of a hole on the far right.

Breakwater Falls, Second Pitch

Class - IV+ Mile - 2.03

The second pitch is 175 feet of fast water downriver from the end of the first pitch.  It is one, 15-foot drop that is similar to the first in having a major keeper hole on the far right.

 

Breakwater Falls, Third Pitch

Class - IV+ Mile - 2.05

This 15-foot pitch follows closely after the second pitch but is more of a bullnose drop.  Because the river widens out across the length of this drop it tends to need more volume (over 400cfs) to support a fluid passage.

 

Breakwater Gorge Rapids and Takeout

Class - II+ Mile - 2.3

Below the three-pitch drops of Breakwater Falls, a boulder-bed, class II-III rapids fill the river about a quarter-mile down to the powerhouse.  Put-in to run just the gorge rapids is on river-right just after the third pitch of Breakwater Falls.  Getting to the river from the service road involves turning towards the river at a point (45.828728, -88.251927) where the large cement blocks are on the uphill bank just off from the service road.  The descent to the river is steep.  At the river, there is not marked put-in spot.  Launch adequately upriver from the downriver island to allow a cross-river ferry maneuver.  Shortly after entering the left channel the river is narrowed and larger waves develop as it passes a very large boulder sticking out from the left bank.  As the river widens again, take the right channel.  The left channel does not have a usable exit.  Near the generating station is the final bit of bigger wave action.  Immediately after the waves, there is a large, calm-water eddy on river-left but in high flows crossing both the river and the outflow of the generating station to get to the takeout landing on river-right may not be possible.  If you do takeout at the generating station (45.826767, -88.247734), the take-out landing is unmarked from the river.  The takeout is in a very small eddy just below where 3 metal stakes were probably placed I the river there with the hopes of providing a small bit of calm water.  At high flows the takeout is in fast flow.  The takeout at County N is 2 miles downriver (mostly swifts) on river left immediately after the bridge.  There is a large parking area and outhouse (during peak summer-use) at the County N landing.  The USGS flow station is river-left just above the County N bridge.  The visible staff gauge on the downriver middle support for the bridge is not what is reported on the USGS website as gauge height.  The USGS gauge is not publicly viewable. It is on river right, immediately after the generating station (across the outflow from the station).

Beyond Breakwater Gorge Rapids

Class - N/A Mile - 4.3

The takeout at County N is 2 miles downriver (swifts for most of the way) on river left immediately after the bridge.  There is a large parking area and outhouse (during peak summer-use) at the County N landing.  From here the river continues (with swifts) as what locally and is called the “Oxbow” (very popular for tubing in summer) because 3.5 miles downriver from the County N landing is a takeout landing (45.843301, -88.224323) from where it is a 10 minute walk back to a car parked at the County N landing.  There are no significant rapids downriver except one set, a half-mile up from the confluence of the Pine and Menominee Rivers, that was submerged when the Ford Dam was built on the Menominee River for power at the nearby Ford Motor Company plant in 1923.  There are two landings on the Pine River at 2.3 miles and 5.84 miles beyond the Oxbow takeout and eventually a landing on Cowboy Lake off off of the Menominee River about 8 miles past the Oxbow takeout.

 

Comments

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tony catania
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4 years ago

A very substantial (almost) river wide hole/side curler forms at the top of Lasalle at above 500cfs. The Hole can definitely be punched but one would not want to be violated and flipped as the falls is a freight train with a violent hole at the bottom center! The trail hike from the parking area to falls is a solid mile...so if you are considering hucking Lasalle bring your boat and gear.

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Andrew Lovering
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13 years ago

A crew of UW Hoofers ran LaSalle Falls at 250cfs. One of the paddlers "found" a piton rock at the bottom of the falls. This piton rock is at the bottom of the middle line of this drop. The middle line will put you in the "munchiest" part of the hole. It was run successfully by the rest of our crew just to the right of the "muchiness." No left line runs were attempted.

Gage Descriptions

The USGS flow station for the Pine River is 4.3 miles downriver from LaSalle Falls.  The Pine Dam is operated as run-of-river so USGS data is a usable estimate of flow at LaSalle Falls.  The flow for Breakwater Falls will not be the same as for LaSalle Falls.  Water is diverted from the impoundment, around Breakwater, and returned to the river at the end of the gorge.  Based on two years of daily tracking of flow data, the maximum diversion is generally about 625cfs.  However, variation is too substantial to make subtracting 625cfs (or Penstock capacity of 640cfs) from the total (USGS) flow a reliable indicator of flow in Breakwater Gorge.  The best indicator is the WPS/WE Energies Hydroelectric Data website: https://accel.wisconsinpublicservice.com/environment/hydrodata.aspx   On that site, scroll down to the Pine River.  Under Pine River the “Bypass Flow” is a more reliable indicator of flow being released down Breakwater Falls.  There is a required but unusable, minimum flow of 30cfs released down Breakwater Gorge to support fish survival (and sightseeing) but, again, USGS flow reports under 640cfs does not mean that flow in the Breakwater Gorge is 30cfs.  Check the WPS/WE Energies Hydroelectric Data website for flow.  

Offseason ('Ice') gauge correlations (subject to revision):
2.00 = 181cfs
2.25 = 248cfs (suggested minimum)
2.50 = 326cfs
2.75 = 410cfs
3.02 = 500cfs
3.57 = 700cfs
4.27 =1000cfs
5.21 =1500cfs
6.01 =2000cfs
6.72 =2500cfs
7.00 =2700cfs (official 'flood stage')

Directions Description


As a state designated Wild River improved access to LaSalle Falls and Gorge is naturally rugged and purposely limited. There are 4 very different options for access to LaSalle Falls. Option 1) For the easiest, no-shuttle trip, put in at the flowage (public landings on northside (45.829455, -88.255353) or southside (45.828694, -88.258641)) and paddle ½ mile west, up the flowage, then ¾ mile upriver.  This upriver section is usually gently flowing flatwater but when flows are high (over 1500 at USGS flow station) you may need to do a short carry (river-right) around a river-wide, 2-foot standing wave caused by the submerged ledge just upriver from Halls Creek.  Takeout at the portage trail (river-right, signed, 45.829406, -88.285598) at the end of the Gorge Rapids and portage 0.4 miles up the trail to the falls. Option 2) Paddle 4.1 miles (about 1.25 hours) downriver from the Hwy 101 put-in to the signed, LaSalle Falls portage (river-right, 45.831951, -88.292100) for scouting.  This route involves a 10-mile shuttle.  Don’t seriously consider using White Ash Road as access.  It is a long, rugged road and often impassable in spring or with wet weather.  Option 3) Drive in to the trailhead parking lot for LaSalle Falls trail and carry in 1 mile to the falls. The route in is by LaSalle Falls Rd off of County C, then follow the signs.  This trip can have a 4.5-mile all-backroads shuttle if you hike in and out from the trailhead parking lot, or a 5.3-mile backroads shuttle (follow the signs) if you take out at the generating station at the end of Breakwater Gorge.  Option 4) For an all-paved road option, when backroads are soft from frost or heavy rain, a put-in at Hwy 101 and takeout at County N makes for an 8.5 mile, all-river trip, with a 10.5 mile shuttle.

The most common access to Breakwater Falls is to park near the generating station (45.826598, -88.248065, do not block utility access).  The service road is publicly available for walk-in access to Breakwater Falls.  There is a closed vehicle gate by the generating station but there is an open man-pass on the right end of the gate.  Carry 1,800 feet up the gravel service road.  Continue to the right, on the mowed slope down to the river when the service road goes left, up to the top of the dam.  There is no easy access to put-in on river-left.  Portaging around the Pine Dam is the thru-paddlers route to Breakwater Falls. 

 

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Alerts

News

article main photo

Breakwater Falls and Gorge-Rapids of Pine River (WI) to Flow All Summer!

5/24/2018
Evan Stafford

From June 1st through the fall of this year, the Pine River (Florence, WI) will offer a rare opportunity for Wisconsin whitewater.  During the maintenance drawdown, no water will be diverted around Breakwater Falls and gorge-rapids below the Pine Dam.  The 12-foot lowering of water level, (started 5/21) will also expose additional rapids and both twin falls just upriver from the flowage.

article main photo

Midwest Hydro Successes

6/26/2004
Thomas O'Keefe & Angie Tornes

Working in close partnership with AW since the first flow study on the Pine River in 1991, the Rivers and Trails Program has assisted us in obtaining significant benefits for whitewater recreation through the FERC licensing process. Several projects in the midwest have benefitted from this productive partnership.
article main photo

Pine River Relicensing

1/5/2004
Thomas O'Keefe

Whitewater boaters participated in the relicensing of the Pine River hydro project.
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Rob

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John

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Matt Muir

Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1204224 02/24/15 Rob minor edit
1211644 04/01/19 John updated image position
1211514 03/25/19 John updated stats
1210875 01/23/19 John Changed order to insert additional Reach
1211353 03/05/19 John updated name
1211377 03/08/19 John update pf description and flow
1211403 03/12/19 John Update description and flow
1211512 03/24/19 John directions to the river
1211513 03/24/19 John directions to the river
1192725 09/28/08 n/a n/a