Date: June 16, 2021; Length: 7.5 miles; Duration: 2 hours 45 min
Planning: The Eau Claire River is located in northeastern Wisconsin and flows southwest into the Wisconsin River. In his book, Paddling Northern Wisconsin, Mike Svob has two successive trips totaling 27 miles, which I used to plan for a 7.5 mile stretch from Bear Lake road to the Dells County Park Campground. A handful of class I-II rapids occur in this section, with the takeout just before the dam and the Dells rapids.
Paddling: There was a nice mix of flat water and riffles to class II rapids, while the river remained fairly narrow with some winding and a good amount of islands. And downed trees were never an issue. The issue came with the low water level, leaving the river with little to no current, even when it came to the rapids which became pretty boney at Ledges specifically.
Rapids: The main two rapids to this section of the Eau Claire, were called Ledges and Three Rows Falls. Ledges was a constricted run of scattered boulders, which was slow and easy to maneuver through at the low water level. Three Rows Falls had a series of three short drops or falls as the name indicates. The first one was basically a fun slide down at this low level, while the final fall was a steep drop. This steep drop was slow but also somewhat difficult to keep from nose diving too much, with the lack of water flow and momentum.
Observations: The river was reddish brown and had decent clarity, where sand, rock bottoms and boulders were common sights. Banks were typically grass, with some high sand ones and rocks walls towards the end of this section. From here, trees occurred on both sides of the river. Houses were few and scattered, while typically off the water a ways without overly altering the river landscape. As for wildlife, I spotted a variety, from geese, ducks, blue herons, osprey, and bald eagles to a snapping turtle, beaver, two deer, and a house cat.
Reflecting: This river trip on the Eau Claire is one I’d like to come back to for the potential that it has at a higher water level. The paddling and rapids experience would improve greatly. So it is a river trip that I’d recommend if you can make sure the water is at a good level. I plan to come back to paddle a section just downstream of this trip’s takeout, past the dam and majority of the Dells rapids.