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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Rushing rapids set your heart racing! © Robert Queen

April 2001

Wisconsin Traveler
Flush with spring

It's the perfect time to run a Wisconsin river.

Rushing rapids set your heart racing!
© Robert Queen

Who cares if that blasted groundhog saw his shadow or not, whenever it was, six or eight or 52 weeks ago? Surely you are not the sort of person who lets a mere woodchuck – a common rodent, for Pete's sake – dictate the progress of your seasons. No. TRAVELER suspects you are the proactive type. Someone who snatches the mail from the postal carrier's hand before the beleaguered civil servant can even slip it into the box.

In other words, you'll have those paddles ready when the ice melts in the state's rivers and streams and the water is running faster than Marion Jones.

Early spring is an exciting time to haul out the canoe, kayak or raft and ply Wisconsin's waters. Flush with snowmelt, rivers and streams offer challenging action and great fun. Top-notch rapids lie in wait for the bold, the brave and the bumptious.

If rapid wrangling isn't for you, there are plenty of slower stretches to provide quiet recreation and fine opportunities to watch birds and wildlife. You'll get a jump on summer's boating throngs, too.

Those in search of liquid intensity will find the Bois Brule, the Wolf and the Peshtigo rivers worthy adversaries. The almost continuous rapids on the lower stretch of the Bois Brule, south of Hwy. 2 in Douglas County, will put your advanced paddling skills to the test. (If your courage should fail, take heart in knowing there are portages around the Class III-IV rapids at Lenroot and May Ledges.) Novices should stick to the river north of Hwy. 2, where the rapids are more...genteel. (715) 372-5678.

You'll howl with glee as you tumble down more than 20 miles of Class I-V whitewater rapids on the Wolf River. The unruly Wolf, designated as a National Wild and Scenic River, cuts a lively swath through Langlade County. Do your best to take in at least some of the scenery while you're hurtling downriver. 1-888-526-4523.

Put your paddling skills to the test on a wild Wisconsin river. © Robert Queen
Put your paddling skills to the test on a wild Wisconsin river.
© Robert Queen

If the Wolf wasn't enough to send you crawling back to your den, try the Peshtigo River in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Marinette County. It's been said the Peshtigo's Class II-IV rapids offer the best whitewater in the entire Midwest. With rapids named "Toothache" and "Veg-O-Matic" it's difficult to doubt the veracity of that claim. When you've had enough thrills and spills, calm down in the river's quieter stretches near Crivitz. Check Peshtigo River water levels at

If you're in need of an outfitter to furnish canoes, kayaks, rafts, tubes, guides and courage, visit the Wisconsin Department of Tourism website, which has a complete list by region:

Take an extra measure of precaution when you're out on the water in spring. You will, of course, wear a PFD – personal floatation device, and a helmet if you're plying rapids. A spill in cold springtime waters may be momentarily bracing, but can lead to hypothermia. Notoriously unpredictable spring weather kicks up wind and waves. Dress in layers, keep your wits about you, plan your trip with a group, mind the weather and you're sure to enjoy the ride!