Difficulty I(III) at this flow (I(II) normally)
Length 0.01 Miles
Gauge Fox (IL) Approximation at Case Eagle Park, Rochester
Flow Range 100 - 560 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago ~ 427.35 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 06/08/2020 6:51 pm

River Description


Quick Facts

Location: Case Eagle Park, Rochester
Shuttle Length: walk in, walk out
Character: A single wave in the outflow of a dam (and, alternatively, an area of shoals).

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Drainage Area: 767 square miles
Area whitewater Rivers with most Similar Drainage Area: Baraboo (609 sq.mi.), S.Fk.Flambeau (609 sq.mi.), Eau Claire (Little Falls to Big Falls, 760 sq.mi.), Milwaukee (in Milwaukee, 696 sq.mi.)
Nearest whitewater runs (alternatives/'daily doubles'): White (Lake Geneva), Root (Racine), Milwaukee (in Milwaukee)
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Flow through bottom-spill lift gates on a dam at Rochester may provide some (rare, odd) opportunities when all else has gone too low.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to know what conditions will be present without actually going for a first-hand look.
The 'virtual gauge' on this page is not completely reliable to determine playability at any of the features listed here.
It uses a USGS gauge many miles downstream, after a few substantial tributaries, and dams regulate or alter flows here and elsewhere before the gauge.
Furthermore, from about Nov.1 through March 1 (and also likely at times of high flows on the river) the gates on the Rochester Case-Eagle Dam will be wide open.
At those times, this area will be nothing more than featureless fast flow. (As a result, we will generally 'turn off' gauge listing during those months.)

From (approximately) March 1 through November 1, the following should hold fairly true:
At some lower flows (perhaps 150-300 on virtual gauge), expect fairly tame front surfs, side-surfs, and possibly flat spins.

At moderate flows (likely 300-400 on virtual gauge), the waves tend to be a bit more chaotic and less inviting. (More likely to flip you, thus more likely to suffer hard hits on shallow rocks!) (For this reason, you'll notice color-coding is green/'boatable' at lower flows and at higher flows, but shows blue/'too high' in this range.)

At somewhat higher flows (likely 400-600 on virtual gauge), the waves smooth-out again and allow exciting fast front-surfs.

Also at some higher flows (uncertain of values), there may be some surfable waves as the outflow heads into the pool, but when the river is higher, it is more likely the pool is higher, more gates may be open, and the whole area will be awash, with no defined waves or features.

As with a great many 'low-head' dams, to prevent scouring of the riverbed, there are large rocks throughout the outflow of the dam.
If you flip, it is extremely likely you will suffer a hard hit on one or more of them. Thus, it is hard to recommend playing these features unless you are a highly experienced playboater, justifiably confident in your ability to surf the features without flipping. We also might recommend a full-face helmet (chin-guard/face-guard), elbow/forearm pads, and maybe even shoulder pads for anyone opting to play here!

If you make the trip to Rochester's Case Eagle Park and find the feature(s) looking not inviting, you may wish to drive down to Calumet Street in Burlington to check out the "Calumet Channels". The action there is nearly always pretty lame/tame, but can allow some moving water practice, and at some flows a few small surfable waves can exist.

Failing interest at both locations, if you bring a bike with, you can ride the "Seven Waters Bike Trail". Much of this ~17-mile trail parallels Hwy.36 (thus suffers traffic noise, lack of solitude, and diminished scenery), however a 2-mile section departs Hwy.36, connecting Case Eagle Park and "Saller Woods", and features a scenic bridge over the Fox River. The only downside is a 0.25 mile piece of this is on CTH.W (which becomes Front Street in Rochester, and becomes North Browns Lake Drive as it heads toward Burlington). (There is a bike-lane, but it is still a good idea to keep an eye and an ear out to be aware of traffic until you return to the seclusion of the woods.)

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) maintains a gauge in Burlington. (It lies just downstream of the confluence with the White River and the dam on it which creates Echo Lake. Unfortunately, there is virtually no whitewater interest at or below that dam at any flows ... the riverbed is filled with rocks to prevent scour below the dam.) This NOAA gauge will be more accurate for flows in the "Calumet Channels" than our virtual gauge or than the USGS gauge downstream.
To see data from the NOAA gauge, click here: Tabular data.

Rapid Descriptions

Waterford Rock Dam (Left Channel)

Class - N/A Mile - -2.4

The left-channel (in Waterford, around a large island filled with condos) has a uniform-lip cement wall/dam, from which water spills into a shallow, rocky outflow. Since pool height is regulated by the main dam (in the other channel), there would rarely (if ever) be enough flow here to cover the considerable amount of shallow rock to allow any chance at passage (or any sort of play) in any paddle-craft.

Waterford Dam (Main, Right Channel)

Class - N/A Mile - -2.3

The main dam has two releasable lift-gates. Water sheets horizontally across the cement slab of the dam, then pours off that slab into the pool. Air pockets form behind the flow (creating a lighter root-beer-colored effect) before it meets the pool below. This 'curtain' of water pouring into such a chaotic 'hole' in the pool would make for extreme likelihood of flipping. The entire pool is filled with large rocks which will be just below the surface at virtually all flows, meaning all experience-levels of boaters should never consider playing the outflow from this dam. While the wave/hole might (at some flows) look like it could be surfable/playable, any flips would almost certainly result in bodily impact with rock.

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Canoeists and recreational kayakers often put-in below this rocky area to paddle the 'pond' between Waterford and Rochester, and (posiibly) to paddle an 'up-and-back' on the Wind Lake Canal which enters the (Illinois) Fox just upstream of Main Street, about a half-mile upstream of the dam in Case-Eagle Park/Rochester.

Rochester Dam (Case Eagle Park)

Class - N/A Mile - 0
Case Eagle Park in Rochester (about 0.38mi. downstream of CTH.D / Main Street) has a dam with four main release gates (which are controlled by Racine County).

The left-most part of the dam has a shallow cement shoulder with a series of generally evenly spaced (narrow enough to barely fit a boat through) metal rods standing vertically from the cement slab. (In the past, on occasion, these supported planks standing up edge-wise, to increase the pool height just a bit). Between that area and the release gates lies an area of somewhat higher cement slab. The down-slope of this part of the dam is filled with large rocks making passage by any watercraft impossible (or, at least, strongly inadvisable, as it is likely to cause boat damage and bodily harm).

Water passes under the gates (to whatever extent any are raised), and sheets swiftly across cement before hitting the pool below. At times, sweet looking wave/holes form where the flow hits the pool. However, the riverbed immediately downstream (in the swift outflow) is littered with large boulders (to limit scouring of the riverbed). Any whitewater boater attempting to play the outflow will regularly encounter these rocks with their paddle and likely with their boat. Any flips or swims here would be brutal! Thus, whitewater playboating here is very highly NOT recommended unless you are sufficiently skilled and justifiably confident of staying upright!

Generally, I have found some play here when the Burlington NOAA gauge reads from about 250 cfs to about 450 cfs. (Using the virtual gauge, possibly between 100-150 cfs, more likely from 150-300 cfs.) Recently, it allowed fine fast surfing at 800 cfs. (Using the virtual gauge, this should likely be somewhere in the 400-500 cfs territory, possibly up to 600 cfs.)

There are times that wave/hole gets a bit 'frothy', increasing dramatically the likelihood of flipping and suffering a 'close encounter of the worst kind' with the aforementioned rocks in the outflow. Each paddler must decide their comfort level ... you may wish to wear a full-face helmet, elbow-pads, shoulder pads, hockey gloves, ....

NOTE: From November 1 until March 1 (more-or-less), the four gates on the dam are wide-open to draw-down the pool to reduce ice-damage in winter. As a result, during that time, there will be absolutely no chance for any playable feature at this location. Similarly, at times of high flows (floods), all four gates on the dam are likely to be open, and (even with the elevated flow) the 'pool height' downstream comes up enough to generally make nothing here but swift currents.

Calumet Street Channels/Burlington Shoals

Class - I Mile - 7
Just beyond downtown Burlington (9.25 miles downstream from the dam in Waterford, 7 miles downstream from the Rochester Case Eagle Park dam), the Fox River spreads wide (approximately 110 yards/330 feet) as it threads between islands and passes under a (defunct) railroad bridge.


This area is accessible on river-right (West bank) from the end of Calumet Street, where there is parking for a fenced-in dog-walk area. (Hmmm, does that make this a 'bark-and-play' spot?) Alternately, on river-left (East bank) this is accessible from Bushnell County Park, using a round-about/cul-de-sac parking area for a (single) ball diamond and open field area (occasionally used for soccer). Walk along a shallow 'draw', toward the river, on an unofficial path trod through the brush to get to the defunct railbed.

As of summer, 2016, a defunct railroad bridge crossing the river here has been fenced off at both ends (likely due to a combination of vandalism, time, and neglect, resulting in concerns regarding liabilities). This makes it extremely difficult to scout this area before just boating it. Anyone who bothers to boat this area (I.E., to explore it fully, not just downriver passing through), will likely find it necessary to beach on various islands and shores to carry up and then (at the end or your attempted play) to return to whichever shore you began, to carry back to your vehicle.


The river is split into a number of channels -- three more-or-less 'main' divisions made by islands before the bridge, with each of those channels then split in two or three by bridge piers. A total of 7 bridge piers make 8 channels (though at least one of those is exclusively a high-water/flood channel which will be dry land most of the time).

Each channel contains a different amount of the flow of the river (obviously) and has differing rock/rubble clutter, creating differing potentials for play. Some channels are relatively tame (worthless) at virtually all flows. At low flows (under 500 cfs on New Munster gauge, or under 250-275 cfs on our virtual gauge) there is not likely enough water in any channel to provide any play (or much depth -- you will scrape across the rock and gravel bottom through most of these channels). The whole area washes out at high flows (above 1000 cfs or so on the New Munster gauge ... around and above 550 cfs on our virtual gauge), making virtually no reason for being there. Levels between (roughly) 500 and 1000 cfs may provide some minor play, but don't expect too much out of this area.


The right-most channel (actually, pair or channels, split by a bridge pier) contains the greatest flow (perhaps nearly 30-40% of the flow of the river). The eddy behind the bridge pier here has pretty fair depth (for possible vertical moves -- bow stalls, stern squirts). Downstream, a couple minor riffles may exist before the river runs across wide shallow shoals.

The left-most channel (again, actually, pair or channels, split by a bridge pier) probably is the second largest (perhaps 25-30% of the flow of the river). Rocky constriction (under the railroad bridge) and shallow bottom combine to create strong current through here. A potentially surfable wave may form at flows in the higher end of our 'recommended flows', but at low-to-moderate levels the shallow rocky shoals not far downstream will virtually preclude any repeat play here.


The remaining 'middle' channels are all much smaller (10-15% or less of river's flow). These are likely to be the better play available (such as it is) at this location, as they (surprisingly) have a bit more of a 'pool' immediately below the bridge (allowing for easy repeat play) and generally lack the shallow rocky shoals found in the larger right and left channels. At the lower range (of cited 'runnable' flows) they may provide some easy surfing opportunities (front-surfs, side-surfs, and flat spins).


It may be noted that (upon a few visits here, years back) there was some evidence of modification ('rock stacking') in some of the channels. These manipulations will be nearly futile here, as any attempts to pool-up or constrict flow in any channel (to modify and create a playable feature) mostly just results in the other channels getting some additional flow. Even more relevantly, any rock capable of being moved by human power will, with virtual certainty, be moved by the river (especially every spring, at 'ice-out', as massive sheets of ice bulldoze their way downriver). As well, any rock-dam creates 'scour' immediately behind itself (especially here, since there is mostly soft, erodable riverbottom). In what is likely to be a very short timeframe, this erosion will cause the rock-dam to collapse into the scour pit. (Your rock-dam will create it's own demise unless you also ‘armor’ the river bottom downstream of it with substantial rocks, which you are unlikely to do!)

Comments

Gage Descriptions

The "virtual gauge" uses a USGS gauge in New Munster, and applies a ratio of drainage areas (drainage area at USGS gauge is reportedly 811 square miles, while drainage at Rochester/Case Eagle Park Dam is 446 square miles). Actual flow may differ (perhaps dramatically) depending upon relative contribution of various tributaries and (likely seldom, but possible) regulation from various dams. Thus expect the gauge to be VERY UNRELIABLE for actual conditions. First-hand visual inspection will always be the only reliable determinant of whether you will have any opportunities here, so be prepared for possible disappointment!

A NOAA (non-USGS) gauge in Burlington (listing drainage of 767 square miles) may be a more accurate tool for the flow in the Calumet Channels.
Assuming proportional contribution to flow, that would imply a ratio of about 95% of the flow on the USGS gauge being present at the Calumet Channels. (We have not yet confirmed that this comes close to reality. In fact, at least during winter, with ice affecting flows, recent values on the NOAA gauge have been more nearly just 70% of the USGS gauge, a significant deviation.)

While we are unable at present to poll the data from the NOAA gauge to display it and color-code this reach using it, we can display the graph, as should appear below. Note the graph shows results in local time, while associated data are "UTC", Coordinated Universal Time". To convert to local time, CST (Central Standard Time) is UTC minus 6 hours. In summer, CDT (Central Daylight Time) is UTC minus 5 hours.


Click here for tabular data which shows cfs, using Central Time.

This is one of the larger drainages in S.E.Wisconsin, so the river itself will contain adequate flow for flatwater paddling almost any time the river is not frozen.

Gauge/flow analysis (based on USGS data, 1939.10.01-2008.11.15)
Minimum daily mean flow during record period (1958.09.09): 35 cfs
90% of time flow exceeds: 130 cfs
10% of time flow exceeds: 1,300 cfs
Maximum daily mean flow during record period (1960.04.01): 7,100 cfs
10/90 ratio ('flashy-ness'): 10 (under 3 is quite steady, over 10 is quite 'flashy')

Directions Description


As far as whitewater interest goes, this is best done (such as it is) as individual 'park-and-play' areas, so shuttle is on foot. Therefore, we have set the info below to show distance, time, and directions from your home area. We have also set put-in/take-out coordinates for this section to be within the Case-Eagle Park, since this is the most likely (of the three areas listed) to hold any actual whitewater interest. Use maps and smart-phone apps to work out directions for other locations, if/when desired.

You can use the text entry box below to enter your home or other starting address (not just zip, but an address in virtualy any format, including lat/lng) to get more specific drive time, distance, and directions to the Case-Eagle Park.

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Matt Muir

Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1213851 11/03/19 Rob updated stats
1213853 11/03/19 Rob updated description
1213905 11/15/19 Rob updated description
1195761 08/12/09 Rob Tweak descriptions.
1195774 08/13/09 Rob Mnor tweaks to flows/descriptions.
1206793 08/31/16 Rob minor edit
1213964 12/03/19 Rob updated description
1214709 04/18/20 Rob updated description
1214710 04/18/20 Rob updated description
1214711 04/18/20 Rob updated description
1196564 11/19/09 Rob
1200386 07/09/11 Rob Fix broken AHPS link (gauge page)
1209049 03/12/18 Rob fix a few typos
1200387 07/09/11 Rob Fix broken link AHPS data (gauge page)
1206796 08/31/16 Rob more minor changes
1206860 09/15/16 Rob note gated bridge
1215206 06/08/20 Rob updated description
1200426 07/17/11 Rob Minor edits on gauge analysis.
1210036 07/11/18 Rob remove redundancies
1208746 01/15/18 Rob minor reformat
1211603 04/01/19 Rob updated image position
1213287 07/11/19 Rob updated description
1213429 07/30/19 Rob updated description
1213430 07/30/19 Rob updated stats
1213434 07/30/19 Rob updated description
1213433 07/30/19 Rob updated description
1213443 07/31/19 Rob updated description
1213753 09/27/19 Rob updated description
1194915 04/13/09 n/a n/a
1195478 06/17/09 Rob
1195625 07/10/09 Rob Minor 'tweaks' to suggested flows (still very tentative).
1195623 07/10/09 Rob Minor 'cleanup' of text errors.
1195624 07/10/09 Rob Minor text edit.