Black River - Wisconsin

Date: July 19, 2022; Length: 4 miles; Duration: 1 hour 15 min

Put In: County K Bridge

Small pull out area on the downstream right side of the bridge. Trail takes you under the bridge where a steep sandy route goes down to the water for easy access once you're down there.

Takeout: Brickyard Rd Landing

Flat rocks off on the right to use for access in the middle of a rapid. A path takes you back up to the parking area and from there Brickyard road.

Paddling Experience = 4/5

It was a good and quick paddling experience especially with the mix of rapids. The only downfall making this not a 5-star were the issues with shallow rocks to avoid. Otherwise this section of the Black has the makings for a great paddling experience.

Natural Scenery = 5/5

The river is fairly clear with banks of forest on both sides the entire time besides a few open spots, one being the Powerhouse. So the majority of the time is spent surrounded by trees on the wide river, without houses or bridges in the mix.

Rapids = 4/5

The rapids were fun, with three sticking out of the Island Drop, end to Stairway, and the one right at Brickyard landing. The water level was good for these but could have been higher for some of the lighter rapids and riffles to have less shallow rock dodging.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~17 feet per mile. Several riffles and up to class II rapids.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: The water level was good for the strongest of the rapids (Island Drop, Stairway, & the one at Brickyard) but could have been higher to have less scraping and necessary rock dodging with some of the lighter rapids and riffles.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: Gauge located off the highway 10 bridge in Neillsville, over 20 miles upstream of this trip's put in, with Lake Arbutus and a dam in between.):

  • USGS Number = 05381000
  • Discharge Rate = 375 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 3.9 ft

Overall Experience

Planning: The past two years I have paddled on the Black River with sections just upstream of Lake Arbutus and one that ended at the dam in Black River Falls. Mike Svob has several trips of the Black River in his book Paddling Southern Wisconsin and one trip aways upstream in his book Paddling Northern Wisconsin. I chose to plan for paddling the rapids-filled 4-mile section from County K – Brickyard Landing, which is in between the two previously paddled sections. I was ready for this trip but had to wait for the opportune time with water levels, which occurred because of what looked like a scheduled dam release a few days prior.

Paddling: The river was wide and had a mix of calm stretches and moments of riffles to class II rapids. Rocks and boulders were prevalent in the latter, but also contributed to scraping issues since the river is wide and slow moving making the rocks and boulders just under the water surface hard to detect. But I’ve experienced much worse and on this very river. And the rapids managed to make up for the struggles of rock dodging and occasional scooting.

Rapids: The riffles and light rapids could have used some more water at times but the more notable class II rapids of Island Drop, Stairway, and the one at Brickyard did not disappoint. Island Drop is in sight of County K bridge with the right channel of the island the course to take. I stayed far right when running this rapid, with another possibility being middle left at this level. It went smooth and was over like that. A few miles later some lighter riffles and rapids led up to a quick turn and Stairway rapids. Shallow rock dodging was the start of this rapid but finished with some fun wavy drops. The rapid at Brickyard also came on the right channel of an island with the biggest waves to hit on the left side of it, while my takeout of the flat rocks was off on the right making for some rapid paddling back against the flow at the end.

Observations: The water was pretty clear with boulders and rocks almost always in or on the edges of the water, with banks of nearly uninterrupted forest on both sides. No houses occurred but I did pass the Powerhouse building, while the only bridge is at the put in. I didn’t see any other paddlers or people off the water while out there, but did see a few blue herons, bald eagles, and hawks.

Shuttle: The shuttle was just under 5 miles of back and county roads. The back roads leading to County E had next to no traffic especially compared to once I turned onto County E and then County K where some road work was taking place. All in all I made it back to my vehicle in an hour and a half to end my trip this time around instead of starting it with the shuttle.

Reflecting: This was a short trip but one that took a good amount of driving to do so, but worth it with the rapids I was able to paddle. I would recommend this section of the Black River to those that enjoy paddling some fun whitewater and could see myself returning in the future at a higher water level to experience the differences there.