Beaver Dam River - Wisconsin

Date: June 28, 2022; Length: 5 miles; Duration: 1 hour 30 min

Put In: Cotton Mill Park (Beaver Dam)

Park with open riverside access includes a small ramp to put in off of just downstream of the dam.

Takeout: County S Bridge

Bridge with side of the road parking and access off the rocks, requiring some improvising and balance.

Paddling Experience = 4/5

This stretch of the Beaver Dam started with fun rapids, while keeping narrow and winding a good amount for a nice paddling experience. A handful of shallow rock beds and downed trees to manage were the only downfalls.

Natural Scenery = 4/5

After the first mile passing through the town of Beaver Dam, the surroundings remain pretty natural, with a few bridges in the mix. The narrow and winding river aid in the natural feel as well.

Wildlife = 4/5

Wildlife consisted of small birds, a few blue herons, a handful of ducks, and several geese. A few jumping fish and a big snapping turtle entering the water were seen as well.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~10 feet per mile. The first mile consists of recurring riffles and class I rapids, with occasional ones and a good current the rest of the way.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: 
Recommended water levels for this section of the Beaver Dam were in the 150-250 CFS range. I paddled at around 200 CFS and found that the rapids were ideal, but had a handful of spots with brief scooting from shallow rock beds.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: Gauge located just downstream of the Cooper St bridge and the dam in the town of Beaver Dam and just upstream of this trip's put in.):

  • USGS Number = 05425912
  • Discharge Rate = 200 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 840.4 ft

Overall Experience

Planning: The Beaver Dam River is a smaller river formed off of the Fox and Beaver Dam lakes in southeastern Wisconsin and flows south before merging with the Crawfish River. Two years ago I paddled an 11-mile section of the Beaver Dam. This left a 5-mile section just upstream and a longer section just downstream to check out in the future. The 5-mile section is what I chose for this trip, with the riffles and class I rapids the main attraction. Monitoring the water levels, I was able to take advantage of an ideal level of 200 CFS and get on the water.

Shuttle: Just down the road from the County S bridge is Center Rd, which is a backroads straight shot into the town of Beaver Dam where only a few short turns are left before coming to Cotton Mill Park. I hiked this 4.8 mile shuttle, getting me from my car at the takeout to my put in in under an hour and a half.

Paddling: The paddling started out great with fun riffles and class I rapids in the first mile of the Beaver Dam town stretch. The current was good here and the remainder of the way, with scattered riffles and class I rapids in the mix. The river was also narrow and winding, making for more of an intimate paddling experience. The only downfalls were a handful of brief shallow rock beds to scoot by and a few downed trees to wind around, duck around, or in one case sit on top of a log and hoist my packraft over.

Observations: The water was light brown and not the clearest. The first mile passed through the town of Beaver Dam where buildings, walls, and bridges were frequent. The next four miles got back to more of the natural surroundings with trees just off the river banks and few houses or bridges in sight. While on the water, I didn’t come across any other paddlers but did pass by two different people fishing off the river banks earlier on. Wildlife consisted of small birds, ducks, groups of geese, a few blue herons, some jumping fish, and one big snapping turtle.

Reflecting: Since paddling first section of the Beaver Dam River in 2020, I was looking to return to the river for this rapids-filled section. It did not disappoint. If you are someone that enjoys light whitewater paddling and are in the area, this is a fun section of river to check out at the right water levels, which could be even a little higher than what I paddled of 200 CFS.