Current WI River Conditions
The graphs below are the result of data collected in real time by the US Geological Survey. We've provided the gauge height (river depth), flow rates (current), water temperature, and area precipitation. This should give you a better idea of what kind of river conditions to expect on your trip and provide a point of reference for anyone concerned with river levels.
The flow rate (measured in cubic feet per second - cfs) is the most important indicator we use. This is the amount of water being funneled downstream and is directly related to the amount of current you'll come up against while on the river. Higher flow rates mean a faster experience, shorter trip times, and more dynamic river conditions (shifting sandbars, trees and other water hazards).
For beginners, flow rates above 17,000cfs on the Wisconsin River can be intimidating because there are very few sandbars to stop on when water levels get this high, and rates above 25,000 shouldn't be attempted as the current can approach speeds of 5-6mph. That said, if you know how to hold a paddle and manage your canoe, high flow rates can be pretty exciting and give you access to a lot of places within the riverway not normally accessible.
On the other end of the spectrum, flow rates below 10,000cfs will mean plenty of sandbars to choose from and a very gentle current in the range of 2-3mph. Anything below 5,000cfs means more sandbars than you'll know what to do with (but still more than enough water to make it down the river). Because of federally mandated minimum flow rates, it is extremely rare that you would ever not be able to paddle because of low water.
High water usually works its way through the system in 4-6 days. The higher the water level, the faster it drains out. If we're above 20,000cfs with a dry forecast, expect to be able to get back on the river in under a week.
Flow Rate Guidelines | average size sandbar camping capacity
<3,000 | Lots of sandbars, you'll be doing quite a bit of manuevering downriver - 150+ people
3,000-10,000 | Typical summer conditions, plenty of sandbars and easy navigating - 100 people
10,000-15,000 | Massive sandbars become scarce, you'll likely have to share on busy weekends - 30 people
15,000-20,000 | Campsites are scarce, sandbars underwater, overnight trips not recommended - 10 people
>20,000 | Challenging conditions develop, experienced paddlers only - no campsites
Note: All reservations cancelled due to river conditions are refunded in full. If conditions are near or above our limits, you'll receive a notification from us 2-3 days before your trip with an updated status report.