Waupaca River - Wisconsin

Date: June 25, 2021; Length: 10.5 miles; Duration: 3 hours 45 min

Put In: Nelson Park (Amherst)

Parking lot with stairs by the downstream right side of the bridge leading down to the water, making for a manageable put in.

Takeout: Stedman County Park (County DD)

Parking area with a path leading down to the right side of the water, which also happens to be in the middle of the class I rapid making for a little tricky of a takeout.

Paddling Experience = 4/5

It had a solid current, good water level, and some light riffles and rapids in the mix. There were also plenty of downed trees to just barely squeeze by on the already narrow river. This combination kept me on my toes paddling.

Natural Scenery = 4/5

There is definitely a human presence at times, with open grass banks for people's houses and several bridges. Wires hung across the river on multiple occasions as well as some litter here and there on the banks. But other times the narrow river was lined with trees, improving the natural scenery.

Accessibility = 4/5

Accessibility wasn't an issue on this stretch of the Waupaca. My put in and takeout both had areas to park and clear areas to access the water. Two other solid access points occurred in this 10.5-mile trip, giving some options in desired paddling length.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~10 feet per mile. Solid current most of the way, with some riffles and a few class I rapids in the mix.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: 
The water level was good. I wasn't scraping in the calm stretches and the rapids had enough for smooth runs and drops.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: the closest one was discontinued in 2020. The rapids at this trip's takeout could be a good indicator of water level though.):

Overall Experience

Planning: The Waupaca River is a small river located in east-central Wisconsin and flows southeast into the Wolf River.  In his book Paddling Southern Wisconsin, Mike Svob has three trips of the Waupaca totaling 21 miles, with one being called the Tomorrow River.  I followed his first trip of the Waupaca to plan for a winding and riffly 10.5-mile stretch from Amherst to Stedman county park.

Paddling: The river had a narrow width to it, with a ton of winding and plenty of downed trees to avoid.  Thankfully somebody or some people helped clear out enough space to each of these for paddlers to get through without portaging.  Even with clearings, the solid current and common occurrence of riffles would often take my momentum into the trees and branches in the water, requiring some hands on navigating to ease and pass through.  There were also a few class I rapids, with one being a river wide drop at a bridge early on in this section and the other being a rapid just before the takeout.  Both were fun and manageable with enough water at this level.

Observations: The river was a lighter brown color and pretty clear, showing a sand and rock bottom.  There were several islands, with both sides good options for passing through.  Beyond the water, were banks lined with trees and some open grass to go along with people‚Äôs houses here and there.  Several bridges, from footpaths to major highways, occurred, and other human development signs like wires hanging across the river multiple times and foul smells in the first mile or so just below the dam in Amherst.  As for wildlife, I spotted an osprey, three bald eagles, and a deer as it was crossing the river.

Reflecting: This was a fun paddling experience.  The current and riffles to light rapids surprised me for how small the river is, which also kept me on my toes, doing my best not to crash right into the downed trees the current was guiding me right into.  I would recommend this section of the Waupaca river to other paddlers and hope that downed trees continue to lessen or at remain open enough to sneak on through while paddling.