Difficulty I(III) at this flow (II-IV normally)
Length 0.3 Miles
Flow Range 900 - 2000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 32 minutes ago ~ 318 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 04/02/2019 12:25 am

River Description

Quick Facts:

Location: downtown Sheboygan Falls.
Shuttle Length: 0.3 mile (carry up)
Character: Wide riverbed consists of bedrock and ledges to provide some 'in town' fun.

Put-in is approximately 660' elevation.
Take-out is approximately 620' elevation.
Thus total elevation change is approximately 40'.

General Overview

A dam (potentially runnable far left, but landing very hard and very shallow (therefore not recommended); completely inadvisable anywhere else) precedes a stretch of shallow-bedrock warm-up rips leading to a short (1-2') ledge immediately under a highway/railroad bridge in the heart of town. Just downstream, a taller (6-8') ledge combination is encountered. River left is more gradual, center river is slightly more steep and stepped, while river right is a taller and more abrupt combination (I.E., looks painful). More sloping bedrock leads to final shorter ledge (2-3'), which could form a sticky hole to river left (where most of the water will be, and the slightly right-to-left-sloping riverbed will try to take you).
While a handful of waves develop down the course of this short run, most are catch-on-the-fly. The shallowness of the bedrock, the swiftness of the water, and the lack of significant eddies make repeat play dependent upon not being blown downstream too far, and paddling back up the current to regain the wave. Aggressive playboaters will find places for surfs, spins, and grinds, but others may just enjoy carrying up to repeat this run for the sheer joy of 'getting some air' (launching a boof off a ledge of any size, a rarity in S.E. Wisconsin).

Shuttle will typically be via carrying upstream via sidewalks in town.

Rapid Descriptions


Class - N/A Mile - -7.0001
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The "River Description" (above) covers the section of highest interest to whitewater paddlers. All of the following "Rapids Descriptions" (below) provide miscellaneous info about other areas of the Sheboygan River, either upstream or downstream of the 0.3 mile section in downtown Sheboygan Falls.


Johnsonville Dam

Class - N/A Mile - -7
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Just a FWIW, there is a small dam up in Johnsonville (right near the Johnsonville meat (brats) plant), which can be run, and could offer some play at some flows. (Not sure what might be the best flows -- not enough experience with it.) There is some (very little) additional minor play possible between the dam and the road.

Distance listed is 'crow flies' distance (from parking at Sheb.Falls), not river or road distance.

USGS lists a sampling site (at the bridge) with drainage area of 194 square miles. This suggests flow at this point might be less than half (0.464*) the active Sheboygan gauge.


Class - N/A Mile - 0.5
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Some paddlers may prefer to use a parking area very near the river (about 0.2 mile downstream of the final ledge). Doing so avoids the steep carry-up or steps to the parking right at the falls. However, it also significantly reduces the liklihood of 'doing laps' (for those who may wish to carry up to try alternate routes down the main falls).

Confluence w.Onion River

Class - N/A Mile - 0.7
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

The Onion River comes in from the right. Well upstream, there is a short stretch which has bedrock and minor gradient which could be fun, but there is no convenient public access for miles upstream or down. There is unlikely enough there to make the long run worthwhile for true whitewater boaters. It could be an interesting float trip for novice and recreational paddlers.

Dam 1!

Class - N/A Mile - 2.7
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The first of two dams downstream of Sheb.Falls, this dam has a very short drop, but a nasty reversal at most flows, making it a highly recommended ("mandatory") portage. With proper scouting and safety precautions (partner on shore with a throw rope at the ready), it may be runnable at some flows. Again, it is such a short drop, it won't really be any significant thrill when you can run it, and the potential dangers of being recirculated far exceed the potential thrill of running the drop.

Dam 2!

Class - N/A Mile - 4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

This dam is taller than the first, has a stepped face, a cement splash-block, and a short trip-wall just downstream. Again, most of the time, most paddlers (canoes/kayaks) should consider this a highly recommended ('mandatory') portage. This is not to discount the possibility that someone (properly experienced boaters, in the right (whitewater) boat, at some flows) might be reasonably able to run this drop. At some flow, it may even provide some play. However, by and large, we have to recommend extreme caution here. Expect there to be fishermen present at certain times of year.


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8 years ago

i think this is runnable when the guage is well past 3k. the sticky hole on the last drop flushes on river left and i think you could just straight up run it there at all levels.

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Philip Cook
9 years ago

It was just above 700 that day.

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9 years ago

I ran it. The first drop is fine, but the second one can have a little bit of a shallow landing so I would be careful if the levels were low. I don't remember what it was running at, but it was pretty boney everywhere besides the pools.

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bryan foster
10 years ago

Has anyone ran the far river right side where the 2 upper drops are closely spaced? At what levels and how did it go?

Gage Descriptions

The indicated gauge is about 8 miles downstream. One quite substantial tributary (100 sq.mi. drainage area) and a couple smaller tribs contribute their flow to this gauge reading. Actual flow in this reach, therefore, may average about 75% of USGS figure reported. Expect that localized storms may hit the watersheds unevenly and cause the gauge reading to be completely inaccurate for this reach at those times. Thus, the best 'gauge' will be onsite inspection.

With the above as disclaimer, the listed minimum is a guess. While it may be possible to float at lower levels, the wide riverbed and fairly uniform bedrock will require fairly substantial flows to create depth sufficient to not be scrapey.
Listed 'maximum' is pretty much a level above which any playable featuers are likely to get beefy and hard to catch. The stretch will remain runnable if you have the skills and desire to fire it up.

Gauge/flow analysis (based on gauge data 1950-10-01 to 2008-09-26 ):
Drainage area at gauge: 418 sq.mi.
Minimum mean daily flow during gauge period: 5.3 cfs (1958.08.04)
90% of time flow exceeds: 39 cfs
10% of time flow exceeds: 629 cfs
Maximum mean daily flow during gauge period: 6,850 cfs (1975.03.22)
10/90 ratio ('flashy-ness'): 16.1 (under 3 is fairly steady, over 10 is quite 'flashy')
Average days per year over recommended 'low' threshold: 22
Average days per year over recommended 'high' threshold: 4

Directions Description

Shuttle will generally be by walking the sidewalks in town for repeat runs of this short reach. However, use the text box to input your home (or other) address to get drive time, distance, and directions to this location.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2004-06-20 n/a Fatality Failed Rescue Read More






Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1203048 02/03/14 Rob Minor edit.
1208714 01/10/18 Rob remove table from gauge description, putting info into simple statement/paragraph form.
1211663 04/02/19 Rob updated image position
1193261 12/06/08 n/a n/a
1196698 11/22/09 Rob Fix/remove broken links.
1200598 09/03/11 Rob Add feature photo.