This photo needs editing.
Difficulty I-II
Length 6 Miles
Gauge VERMILLION RIVER NEAR EMPIRE, MN
Flow Range 150 - 1000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 17 minutes ago ~ 59.4 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 04/14/2019 8:22 pm

River Description


An anonymous tipster provides:

When the creek is running well, there is a hole (and plenty of nice little drops and some good standing waves) about 2/3 down the run. This can be accessed from Sawmill Road if you stop and ask permission from a property owner where a corral fence leads you back to the railroad and the river. As long as you are polite and respectful of the privelege of crossing their land, they have generally been gracious in allowing that access. (Don't screw this up for the rest of us by abusing their generosity in allowing this access! Ask and receive permission, and be on your best behavior or go elsewhere!)

MnktoDave provides:
A short while after leaving the put-in at Hwy.8, you will pass a golf course on the left side. Soon after, the waves begin to build, and form long roller coaster haystacks that are a lot of fun to ride. When the river is at 4'+, these haystacks will go on for a long time, and are a real "hoot". They build, larger and larger, leading to Nelly's rapids, which has a series of haystack waves at this level, and can be recognized by a railroad bridge at the start of the rapids with grafiti saying "Nelly's Rapids".

There will be a pause in the action on the backwaters of a dam. The dam at Lagoon Park is fairly sizable, and most paddlers should portage, river-left. It looks runnable, and it HAS been run (along the very left edge), at certain water levels, but is not recommended. One mistake here could be very dangerous (even with safety being set). A very large backroller can develop here, and I would not want to be the one trying to explain to the cops if something went wrong. We have run this river many times, at many levels, and we always portage the dam (even though sometimes it looks so very tempting to run). It is a very short & easy portage on the left, with a simple put-in at the base of the dam.

Some of the best waves on the river are just ahead as the gradient picks up quickly. Immediately around the next right-hand bend, a long straight away filled with standing waves and haystacks (surfable), and eddies for repeat play. This continues for a few hundred yards, then the river curves hard left and goes under two bridges.  

After Rice Street bridge, there is still some active water for a short distance before the river turns to just moving water until you reach the take-out on river left at Lions Park (immediately upstream of the Hwy.169 freeway bridges). There is usually a port-a-potty in the small parking lot.

NOTE: Take-out location (Lat/Lng) is intentionally off-river, up on shore in the parking lot, to allow driving directions to work correctly.

Rapid Descriptions

Drainage: ~234 sq.mi.

Class - N/A Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Drainage area at Nelly's Rapids. (Calculation from USGS StreamStats Beta software.)

Nelly's Rapids

Class - N/A Mile - 3.7
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

A long series of large haystack waves, the beginning of which can be recognized by grafiti on the railroad bridge saying "Nelly's Rapids".

Dam

Class - N/A Mile - 4.8
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Recommended portage, river-left.

Haystacks

Class - N/A Mile - 5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

A long straight away (a few hundred yards) filled with LARGE standing waves and haystacks (surfable), and eddies for repeat play.

Painted Gauge / Rice Street Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - 5.3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

There is a gauge on the downstream center pylon of the Rice Street bridge. If you walk out on the northeast side of the railroad bridge, looking upstream, you can easily read the gauge.

  At 1.5' the river is fun and doable, but a little scratchy. At 4'3" it is BIG fun waves and some LONG wavetrains.

Comments

Gage Descriptions

No known USGS gauge, but NOAA has a gauge

Click here for tabular data.

MnktoDave provides:
There is a gauge on the downstream center pylon of the first bridge (Rice Street). If you walk out on the northeast side of the railroad bridge, looking upstream, you can easily read the gauge.
I've run the whole river from 1.5' on this gauge (fun and doable, but a little scratchy), to 4'3" (BIG, fun waves, and some LONG wavetrains).

Directions Description


Our anonymous tipster provides:

Get to put-in by driving a couple of miles up Hwy 21, then left at Hwy. 8, stop where Hwy. 8 intersects with the Creek, backup then turn right onto the gravel road that you just passed. Park and put in there.

MnktoDave provides:

Get to take-out by turning off of 2nd St W at the McDonald's (right before Hwy.169 freeway). Head north on Triangle Lane for about one or maybe two blocks. You will run straight into the parking lot take-out at Lions Park.

No Accident Reports

Alerts

News

article main photo

Penobscot River Dams to be Removed!

12/1/2003
Kevin Colburn

Atlantic Salmon and other imperiled fish species will soon have hundreds of additional miles of habitat. A recent decision between a power company, NGO's, tribes, and government agencies calls for the removal of two dams on Maine's Penobscot River and the bypassing of a third. American Whitewater applauds this huge win for rivers and is recruiting volunteers to assist with our work on the project. There is a public meeting December 2nd.
user-avatar

Rob

Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1197377 03/10/10 Rob Reset take-out.
1197744 05/27/10 Rob Updated description from MnktoDave
1197753 05/29/10 Rob Minor fix to gauge info.
1200430 07/18/11 Rob Fix broken NOAA link.
1201413 06/22/12 Rob Modify take-out location for shuttle.
1211908 04/14/19 Rob updated description
1211909 04/14/19 Rob updated description
1194944 04/15/09 Rob n/a