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 directly related to river depth. The deeper the river, the exponentially higher the flow rate goes as more volume fills in low lying areas. You'll often see most data reported as flow rate-CFS rather than water depth.
For people planning to camp out on the river, flow rates above 17,000cfs (~4.0' deep) on the Wisconsin River generally result in very few sandbars above water and camping trips shouldn't be attempted. Day trips are generally okay up to about 30,000cfs (~5.5' deep) at which point it becomes more difficult to stand up in the river and find a place to get back in your boat if you've capsized. That said, if you know how to hold a paddle and manage your canoe/kayak, 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 (~3.0' deep) 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
<3,000cfs (<1' deep) | Lots of sandbars, you'll be doing quite a bit of manuevering downriver - 150+ people
3,000-10,000cfs (1'- 3' deep) | Typical summer conditions, plenty of sandbars and easy navigating - 100 people
10,000-15,000cfs (3'- 4' deep) | Massive sandbars become small to medium size sandbars, it's possible you'll have to share one on busy weekends - 30 people
15,000-20,000cfs (4'- 5' deep) | Campsites are scarce, most sandbars underwater, overnight trips not recommended - 10 people
>20,000cfs (>5' deep) | Challenging conditions can develop - 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.
Generally speaking, the graph below will give you an idea of what will happen on our stretch of river in the next 12-24 hours.