Location: Approximately 9 miles SE from downtown Green Bay, WI.
Character: Small creek with bedrock river-bed. A sheer vertical waterfall drops into a grotto. The creek caroms down sloping bedrock for the next mile or so.
Drainage area at put-in: approximately 14.8 square miles.
Nearby ('companion') runs (with drainages, for comparison): Baird Creek (15.7 sq.mi.), School Creek (15 sq.mi.), Devil's River (36 sq.mi.), Neshota/West Twin (43 sq.mi.).
Put-in is approximately 767' elevation.
Take-out is approximately 597' elevation.
Thus total elevation change is approximately 170'.General Overview
This is NOT recommended for anyone in a 'recreational kayak', and is NOT recommended for anyone without considerable whitewater skills and experience. This creek is narrow, with high banks, tight/blind curves, quite continuous action (especially in the early going), and has areas which are routinely completely blocked by deadfall. There is precious little margin for error. If you can't catch a 'one boat eddy' (or if you have no idea what that even means), then you should not even think about floating this stretch of river! At anything more than minimal flows, if you can't catch an eddy, if you can't self-rescue (if you can't roll your kayak), expect to swamp your boat, lose your paddle, and possibly lose your boat!
Boaters should be aware that the pool at the base of Fonferek Falls is very shallow, virtually never exceeding 2.5 - 3.0' in depth! Good boof technique (with unlocked spine) is mandatory here! While we are aware of successful runs, we are also aware of a nasty piton resulting in a painful break, with a resultant grueling ordeal to get across the creek, up out of the 'canyon', and to medical attention, and many months recovery and rehab.
We therefore have to suggest in the strongest of terms that running the falls is NOT recommended!
(Note: For this reason, gradient figures cited above exclude Fonferek Falls.)
Action is pretty continuous in the half-mile (give or take) below the falls. Not far downstream of the falls there is one ledge of sufficient size (a foot or two) to create a wave/hole (possible play at moderate flows, possibly sticky at some flows). It comes pretty quickly, as you head toward a wall of rock and the creek is diverted about 90 degrees to the right, at the location of a 'skylight' (significant overhanging caprock, well overhead, with a large hole in it). Downstream the creek gently bends a little further right before being diverted sharply left and into a fine II-III rips (solid III or better at moderate-to-high flows). Large slabrock litters the center and right of the channel down this swift pitch (right where the current is taking you). (This means likely major head banging if you flip, or body damage if you swim here!) This corner has often had overhanging branches, overarching trees, and occasionally other woody debris complicating the channel.Boaters are STRONGLY advised to scout this area before putting on! There will be virtually no eddies, and no way to safely get out of your boat to get around any problem here.
Not far beyond, the gradient eases a bit and you'll see signs (posted on trees onshore) that you are leaving the county park and entering private property. You could take out before the private property signs and carry back up to your car (or do 'laps' in the park) to avoid having to run a shuttle. The action eases up considerably for a while. There will be an area of serious deadfall and braided channel which will require significant skills and careful navigation (especially with the Bower Creek staff gauge at 9' or higher) to successfully pick a boatable route. However, there are still numerous areas of fine rapids (mostly class II, a few which may push into class III or better at some flows) to be found downstream.
Boaters who have looked at detailed maps may be inclined to shorten the trip utilizing a take-out at the end of a road which dead-ends near the creek on river right. However, it would be necessary to hike a quarter-mile or so, up a somewhat steep climb on a gravel double-track. The land is all privately owned, so permission to trespass would need to be secured. And, you would probably need to hike down to the river (after obtaining permission, as you set a shuttle vehicle here) to be able to recognize this alternative takeout from the river, since it will not otherwise be obvious from the creek. When there is adequate flow to run the creek, the float to the listed take-out will be swift. The float through the golf course is interesting and scenic, with no 'too-low' bridges to worry about until/unless boating at flows higher than 9.5-10'. Not far downstream of the golf course, the creek comes immediately adjacent to a side-road at the listed take-out for very convenient access.Special Note: The real HUC for this reach should be 04030204. It has been 'faked' below to allow this reach to 'sort' (when listing is pulled up 'by drainage') into the "Southwestern Lake Michigan" rivers, rather than the already bloated list of "Northwestern Lake Michigan" rivers. If this somehow causes problems for anyone using this listing, please send a message to the Regional StreamKeeper (which can be done via the "Add a Comment" button which should appear by clicking the "Comments" tab above).
A USGS gauge at CTH.MM (14.8 square miles drainage) was deactivated years ago. There remains a staff gauge which can (should) be read for actual level of this run.
From the gauge down to our recommended put-in (below Fonferek Falls) this creek traverses a bedrock streambed. There are places which (at boatable flows) develop some very sweet-looking waves. However, with Fonfereck Falls just downstream, only the most experienced, skilled, and daring of boaters will entertain any thoughts of testing them out for play.
Yes, this has been run ... multiple laps, even. However, be aware the landing pool is VERY shallow virtually everywhere, never more than 2-3' deep! Launch and land a solid 'boof', or expect sprained or broken ankles!
Most boaters will enjoy views of Fonferek Falls (from various vantage points) before carrying down a steep narrow muddy/rocky path (downstream of the falls and viewing areas). Either find a spot for seal launch into a rip-snorting start, or walk shoreline or rivers-edge upstream for a put-in as far towards the falls as you can, to stage for the run downstream.
With anything but minimal flows, this will be a freight-train rush, with very few eddies for the first 0.25-0.5 miles!
From the recommended put-in (below Fonferek Falls), the river slides down sloping bedrock, forming numerous small waves. As you head toward a cliff/wall ahead of you, you'll encounter a steeper slide into a small ledge. Overhead at this location, there is a 'skylight' -- a hole in the overhanging (high overhead) cliff wall. At some flows, this could get 'sticky'. At some flows, there may be some play possible here, since there is a bit of a pool and eddies. However, the creek takes a sharp turn to the right so the outflow does head strongly toward the wall, meaning that if you flip, you had better roll quickly or you'll be against the wall, and flushing out of the pool into the next sequence of gradient.
Just downstream of Skylight Ledge (where the creek did about a 90-degree right-turn), you'll head toward a blind, 90-degree left-turn. The water will accelerate down a fine set of rips through a bit of a dells area.
At low flows, this will be rather shallow. The streambed is littered with slab rock, meaning anyone upside-down or out of their boat will likely be punished and pummeled severely. There are (no doubt) plenty of spots where foot-entrapment is a possibility (for anyone who tries to stand in the stream).
At moderate-to-high flows, there will be strong current leading into this bend, and even stronger as soon as you round the bend. There will be no eddies, and no reasonable way to exit the river. This area has been prone to having overhanging branches or over-arching trees, and can have wood hung up on shore and rocks. For this reason, it is virtually mandatory to hike down to this point (before putting on) to scout this whole area to be sure of safe passage.
Just after leaving the county park (there are signs on the river banks indicating you are entering private property), the creek encounters an area of braided channel and massive deadfall which blocks almost all downstream paths. Proceed with maximum caution, especially at higher flows.
(Location is approximate, as creek is obscured, and I'm uncertain about how far down feature is.)
After a good straightaway and clearing, just as the creek heads into more wooded banks, a large erratic boulder lies to the side, and back-to-back waves will be encountered. At low-to-moderate flows, they may not be too noteworthy, but at high flow, there is some meat here!
It is possible to shorten the trip by taking-out at the end of Mayline Road, which dead-ends near the creek on river right. However, to do so means hiking about 240 yards up a somewhat steep slope on a gravel double-track. The land is all privately owned, so permission to trespass would need to be secured. And, you would probably need to hike down to the river (after obtaining permission, as you set a shuttle vehicle here) to be able to recognize this alternative takeout from the river, since it may not otherwise be obvious from the creek. (It should come very shortly after a decent side-creek enters from the right. And, if you get to the golf course, you've gone about a quarter-mile too far.)
When there is adequate flow to run the creek, the remaining ~1.8 miles (to the normal, listed take-out) will be swift. The float through the golf course is interesting and scenic, with no 'too-low' bridges to worry about (until/unless boating at flows higher than recommended -- above 9.5-10' on the Bower Creek gauge at the road above the put-in). The creek comes immediately adjacent to a side-road at the listed take-out for very convenient access on a public road right-of-way, so all-in-all, just as well to use that take-out.
The creek enters the Green Bay Country Club. Fortunately all of the golf cart bridges are far enough over the water as to not be a problem at virtually any sane boatable flow.
Sorry, this is not a whitewater feature. One hole on the course is on an island in the creek. Carefully work your way around one side or the other, then be ready for a bit of swiftwater (but no real rapids) downstream.
A USGS gauge on Bower Creek has been in and out of service, and appears to be inoperative (unfunded) at present.
There is a stick gauge at that USGS gauge location on the upstream river-right side of the bridge on Dutchman Rd (Co.Rd.MM). Boaters are strongly advised to check level on this staff gauge.
10'+ --- Crazy High --- Should not be attempted without walking the entire stretch of river which lies in the park (down to where there are signs on shore indicating you are entering private property). There are often overhanging trees or deadfalls which would be unavoidable, and there will be very few (virtually no) eddies at this flow.
9'-10' --- High --- Will require very experienced whitewater skills (akin to class IV creek boating experience).
8'-9' --- Moderate --- May be reasonable for those with solid class III skills.
7.5'-8' --- Low --- May be reasonable for those with class II-III skills.
7.0'-7.5' --- E.L.F. (Extreme Low Flow) --- May be possible, but likely to be rather bump&thump. (You're not likely to do it twice at this level.)
below 7.0' --- too low ---- Serious boat & paddle abuse.
Since gauges on Bower Creek and nearby Baird Creek are both defunded/offline, we are linking to a 'reference gauge'.
Do not assume or report the reference gauge readings as being the stage or flow on this creek! On-site readings from the staff gauge at the bridge as listed above (which should generally be in the 7-10' range) are the only meaningful number to track or report!
Correlations to the reference gauge are not assured, best levels are unsubstantiated, and min/max are purely WAGs (wild a**ed guesses).
Both creeks will flash up and down quite rapidly, often defying the lag in time for the gauges to be updated online (when they are operative). As a result, the better 'gauge' is to watch weather reports and rainfall patterns, and be ready to jump on it when there is water.
Gauge/flow analysis based on data from former gauge on this section from 1990.08.31 through 2008.10.27 (with gaps in data):
Drainage area at gauge: 14.8 sq.mi.
Minimum mean daily flow during stated period: 0.0 cfs
90% of time mean daily flow exceeds: 0.0 cfs
10% of time mean daily flow exceeds: 16 cfs
Maximum mean daily flow during stated period (1993.06.18): 525 cfs
Based upon current guesses about minimal runnable levels, correlating with historical gauge data, one might expect this to be runnable (on average) only about 7-8 days out of the year!
Permits are not required for this reach.
For shuttle directions from the alternate take-out, enter 44.443, -87.9496 into the text-entry box below.
Otherwise, as always, you can enter your home or other starting location into the text-entry box to get drive time, distance, and directions to this river (put-in).
Bower gauge at Dutchman Road
Fonferek Falls, close-up
Blind Left Bend, typical wood worries!
Blind Left Bend, slightly downstream
Boulder Waves (wide shot)
Close-up of 2nd hole on Boulder Waves
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