This unbelievable run starts out passing through a cow yard (this is Wisconsin!), where you'll have to negotiate two fences crossing the stream. Not long thereafter you'll encounter the opening sequence of drops which wouldn't be out of place in the U.P. (Michigan), followed by a 'middle stretch' of swiftwater (littered with numerous snags to be negotiated), followed by a little sandstone gorge (Pewit's Nest) which contains a sweet set of drops.
Do not take these drops too lightly. Your only view of the drops is from well overhead (climbing on or jumping from rocks is prohibited). From that high-overhead vantage point, it is nearly impossible to get an accurate perspective as to what the drops are actually like at river level. If all goes well (on your run), it's just a quick flush rush! (A piece-of-cake.) If anything goes amiss, you are in a nasty spot. There is almost no way for any other boaters to provide much assistance if you have an 'out of boat experience'.
The creek is narrow enough through the two largest drops that there is no 'choice of a line'. You can choose your angle, choose your technique (try to boof, or just drop over and go deep), choose your boat (I recommend something not too short), but the only choice of a line is 'down the falls' or 'around the falls' (portage). Oh, by the way, at lower levels, be aware of major piton possibilities in the third drop in Pewit's Nest (the first of the two larger drops).
Pewit's Nest is a state designated "Natural Area", which has only somewhat recently officially opened to the public. (Unofficially, it has been accessed by local residents for years.) With designation as a State Natural Area, there is concern about preservation of the 'natural-ness' of the area. No food or beverage (no picnicing) is allowed, and there are the restrictions regarding climbing on the rocks, though I'm not aware of any specific restrictions on being in the gorge (I.E., boating). For those who may choose to check this out and boat it, please be on your best behaviour so as not to give anyone an excuse or reason to ban boating this little gem.
Besides the couple of photos on the 'Photos' tab here, there are some excellent photo collections available via Google.
Years back, there were folks who (looking only from high on the rim of gorge, at unknown flows) suggested "That looks class II at best." However, almost every report I've heard from groups who have run it include tales of carnage. The following video shows the largest of the initial (upper) drops, as well as the Pewitt's Nest sequence, and shows the damage the run can inflict -- in this case, a very bloodied hand and a swim (with rope rescue out of the gorge).
HWDAMF Skillet Creek from HWDAMF Chris Keller on Vimeo.
From the listed put-in, you pass through a cow pasture (probably encountering and having to deal with two fences), before a sharp bend to the left as you enter wooded banks and rocky bottom and shores. A short distance downstream, you pass under a private driveway bridge, and the river turns sharply right (westerly), then sharply right again (northerly). At this point, you will see a horizon line, and a house and yard beyond. You will probably want to get out to scout (river-left). The first pitch is a wide and stepped, sliding drop. A very brief pool, and a twist to the left, and the river drops across a short uniform ledge into another brief pool. (This one could be playable, or could develop a bit of a hydraulic if you happen to catch the creek running high.) Finally, for this sequence, there is a sweet low-angle slide (like an off-ramp) before this stretch of gradient eases back.
After a long, uneventful middle section of the creek (that is, no real drops . . . you may have to contend with deadfall, meanders, and other obstructions), you will see on river-right some open field areas. Not far beyond, you'll see the banks rise ahead, and come to a horizon line. This is the start of the Pewits Nest sequence. Get out and scout from river-right (if you did not do so before putting on . . . and perhaps even if you did!).
The first two drops are fairly short ledges, fairly wide, with decent pools beyond. The next two drops are narrow (barely more than paddle-width across), and drop quite steeply into swirling boiling pools. If you had enough water for the Skillet Falls sequence to be anything more than bump-and-scrape, the last two falls in Pewitt's Nest will be considerably 'meaty'. If you don't run them 'clean' (if your boat gets sucked back into the falls), you will be in quite a predicament, as there is not really any good way for anyone to set safety to help you! Do not take these drops lightly! They may look pretty simple from high overhead when you scout them, but they have caught a number of boaters who have tried this run.
The following YouTube video is a fine solitude of the falls at low water, giving a great view of the topology of the third drop:
12 years ago
Visual. Hike in to Pewit's Nest to best gauge water levels.
With a drainage area of less than 10 square miles, you must be ready to jump as soon as the area is hit with heavy rains. It is highly recommended to hike in to Pewit's Nest to carefully assess levels in the 'gorge' before deciding whether to put on. In the unlikely event that the level is too high, kill a little time and it should probably drop to a more reasonable level in an hour or so! If Pewit's looks marginal (low), don't even think about trying the full run -- you might want to just carry in to 'park-and-huck' the gorge.
Permits are not required for this reach.
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Pewitt's Nest, view from downstream
2nd of 3 drops in the upstream section
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