Wisconsin River - Wisconsin

Date: July 8, 2021; Length: 10.5 miles; Duration: 3 hours 15 min

Put In: Pine Bluff Rd Landing

Parking space with a landing on the left side of the water making for an easy put in.

Takeout: Gilbert Park (Wausau)

Parking lot, with both a dock and a landing on the left side of the water making for an easy takeout.

Paddling Experience = 5/5

This stretch of the Wisconsin consisted of a solid current much of the way, plenty of water depth, no downed trees to avoid or portage, and some light rapids to run. All made for a nice and leisure paddling experience.

Natural Scenery = 5/5

One landing and bridge, a railroad running along the east side, and a few houses towards the end was the extent of human development. The majority of the surrounding scenery were trees, with some extending into bluffs. And from the vantage point of the fairly clear dark brown water with its orangeish/red boulders underneath.

Solitude = 4/5

For a pretty wide river and a takeout in a good sized town, I still had plenty of moments of solitude while out there. I only came across one other fishing boat but started to see people on land more often as I neared my takeout.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~3 feet per mile. It had a solid current most of the way, dropping off a bit towards the end of this section, but still plenty to make for easy paddling.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: 
The water level was never an issue, which isn't a surprise for the Wisconsin River.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: located just downstream of the dam in Merrill, WI, about 8 miles upstream of this trip's put in.):

  • USGS Number = 05395000
  • Discharge Rate = 1730 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 4.58 ft

Overall Experience

Planning: The Wisconsin River spans much of the state of Wisconsin, starting at Lac Vieux Desert by the border with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and taking a south by southwest path all the way to the Mississippi River.  Mike Svob has 20, mostly successive, trips of the Wisconsin River mapped and outlined in his books Paddling Northern Wisconsin and Paddling Southern Wisconsin.  I used his seventh trip in Paddling Northern Wisconsin to plan for a 10.5 mile trip from Pine Bluff road to Gilbert Park in Wausau.

Paddling: The river was wide and deep enough that scraping was never an issue.  Winding occasionally occurred but in broader bends.  The current was solid early on but dropped off a bit towards the end of this section.  A couple class I rapids also occurred, with big boulders to avoid and fun waves to hit with lots of open river to choose from in experiencing these rapids.

Observations: The river has decent clarity with a dark brown color and tint around the surface and a lighter orangeish red color to the sandy bottom.  There were some vegetation, rock beds, and boulders in the mix as well.  A good amount of big islands occurred in this section, while the river banks were consistently lined with trees, with some areas more dense and forming bluffs off of them.  Houses were uncommon until nearing the takeout and the city of Wausau, while only one landing and bridge were located in the 10.5 miles between put in and takeout.  A railroad also ran along the east side of the river.  When I was out there, I only came across one fishing boat and no other paddlers.  As for wildlife, I spotted two sandhill cranes, a bald eagle, an osprey, and three deer, with one swimming just downstream of me across the river from one of the big islands.

Reflecting: The year prior, I paddled a section of the lower Wisconsin river, so I was curious to experience a section much farther upstream nearer to the start of the state spanning river and was not disappointed.  The current was solid with some fun light rapids, plus some beautiful surroundings, nice access points, and so on.  I would definitely recommend this section of the Wisconsin and will continue to check out different sections of this river in future years.