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We’ve peaked!

Today looks like it’ll be about as high as it goes and the reports we’ve heard back were all positive. Water levels at most points upstream are receding and with the dry forecast we should be out of the woods. Water level outlook above Portage in particular has been cut in half with a further reduction coming out of Castle Rock. It’s still rough going for those downstream of Lone Rock/Gotham area but above that there are plenty of sandbars (i.e. us). Anything in the Prairie Du Sac to Lone Rock corridor (including Sauk City, Mazomanie, Arena, and Spring Green) won’t have any issues with flooding on the Wisconsin River.

Today and beyond

Less than 2″ of rain fell last night. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, only that it could have been worse. We did see the dam at Prairie Du Sac come up 2kcfs which wasn’t unexpected and I believe it’s now leveled off around 12kfs. To put that number in perspective, 15kcfs is where we start cancelling trips. [kCFS = Thousand Cubic Feet per Second of water, 1 CFS = 7.5 Gallons per second]

It’s always hard to know what exactly is going to happen with local rainfall. We have access to river gauges at Muscoda below us and Prairie Du Sac, Portage, and Wisconsin Dells above us plus a few other spots on larger tributaries (Baraboo, Lemonweir, Black Earth) but because the rains happen so close it doesn’t really have a chance to show up in the gauges at or above the Dells. That means our usual 2+ day notice on river levels gets fuzzy and I have to start doing mental math. For example, our current 4 day outlook is great. The most important dam at Castle Rock has been holding steady all week at ~5kcfs. That gives us enough room for 10kcfs more water between Castle Rock and Spring Green. Following down the river at Wisconsin Dells we’ve also been holding steady around 7kcfs which makes sense given the Lemonweir dumps into the Wisconsin above this gauge and adds just over 1kcfs plus the smaller streams and creeks. Coming another 12 hours downstream we hit Portage. There aren’t any major tributaries between the Dells and Portage so I’d expect to see very similar numbers – in fact right now they are separated by .2kcfs.

This is where it gets fuzzy. We’ve still got ~8kcfs of room to work with. The Baraboo River comes in below Portage and has a fairly large drainage area. This is also where we’re getting into all of the recent rainfall. The gauge near where the Baraboo drops into the Wisconsin is currently ~3.5kcfs. This will likely go up to 4 or 4.5kcfs but that’s still a long way from our 8kcfs of capacity. Now we come another 12 hours downstream to the Prairie Du Sac dam. This is where our longest overnight trips start and is just over 12 hours upstream of where all trips finish.

As mentioned above, the dam at Prairie Du Sac is now running at 12kcfs (5kcfs above Portage) which includes most of that 3.5k from the Baraboo River as well as the runoff from the immediate area that you’ll see immediately following a rainstorm. I expect the contributions from the smaller tributaries to fall off very quickly – the gauge at Black Earth creek is a good proxy for this given it’s close proximity to the river. Looking at Wednesday’s massive storm, the creek went from 60 to 600cfs in less than 12 hours. Less than a day later it was almost back to 100cfs. The Baraboo is going to move slower both going up and coming down but for the most part, I believe that will be a pretty close match with the small tributaries falling off in time with the rise in the Baraboo. All of this makes me pretty confident our 3kcfs of remaining capacity is enough to ensure we won’t have any issues losing sandbars tonight.

Going forward it gets a little more difficult. There’s a chance that all of the small local streams combined with the Baraboo River could continue rising up to that 15kcfs cap on Monday or Tuesday. I’m still waiting to see the latest prediction out of the Portage gauge later this morning, and especially this evening, to see where the real professionals believe the river will crest. There’s just too much variability to make any kind of prediction for midweek. That said, my feeling is that we’ll be okay if the amount kicking out of Castle Rock holds steady (and I think it will based on their lack of rainfall).


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Why We’re The Best Canoe Company Ever

The Best Equipment

Our entire fleet of 150 Discovery canoes, Manitou kayaks, and Riviera kayaks are less than 4 years old. These boats are made of a heavy duty polyethylene composite that is very quiet, doesn’t heat up in the sun like the standard aluminum boats, and are essentially indestructible. We also provide everyone with comfortable, ski-style life jackets and outfitter grade paddles.


The Best Shuttle System

We transport you upriver at the beginning of your trip where you then paddle back to your car. This way, there’s no need to fast paddle back to a shuttle only to be packed into a bus full of sweaty, sandy people for a long ride back to your car. Instead, when you go with us, you’re free to canoe the river at your own pace, and because your car is already at the end when you finish, there’s no need to wait around. You just pack up and go.


The Best Communication

Your entire reservation can be completed online, we’ll send you reminder emails, give you waterproof maps to take on the river, and if something goes wrong, we have staff on the emergency line 24 hours a day. In the meantime, we are always available via phone, email, text message, and facebook – even twitter if that’s your thing (but really, please don’t use twitter). You can also check our current (literally up to the second) availability when planning your trip and get a guarantee that we’ll have every single one of your boats ready and waiting for you on the shuttle you’ve chosen for the days you’ve reserved.


The Best Atmosphere

Wisconsin Canoe is a bunch of kids living the dream and avoiding the real world. We’re out on the water having fun, same as our customers, which means we tend to be very laid back and approachable. If you have a question or you’re unsure of something, we’ll help and probably won’t even judge you.



What Our Customers Say

Everything about our trip was excellent, and Wisconsin Canoe Company lived up to their website’s claim. The canoes were in excellent condition, all of the equipment was well-maintained, the shuttle was exactly on time and we were on the river within ten minutes of being dropped off. I’ve canoed with my own equipment on the James and Roanoke rivers in Virginia, and honestly I would rather enjoy the convenience of such a well-run rental and shuttle. They even welcomed our yellow lab on the canoe and shuttle, and she had a wonderful day out on the river. These are great folks that love their job!

Keith Brick

What a great experience with Wisconsin Canoe Company. I have rented from a lot of other day trip places on the Wisconsin River and this place is by far the best. The online reservation system was so nice, the canoes were great, the bus was clean and the staff was friendly. Can’t say enough great things. Won’t even think about researching another place in the future; will go right to this place.

Sara Ward-Cassidy

Excellent service, friendly staff, easy to use online site and simple instructions. My friends and I took an overnight during the weekend of the 4th and absolutely loved it! The entire experience was hassle-free and totally relaxing. Definitely a repeat on my bucket list! Thanks WCC! Long live Big Burrito

Lesly Boey

Behind the Scenes

Ryan Schmudlach

Given his degree in Economics from UW-Madison, it was inevitable that Ryan would be put to use on the business side of the canoe operation. Doing fancy things with spreadsheets is a secret passion for someone that is more often found miles from civilization.

    Norah Schmudlach

    Norah is our first solution to the annual staffing shortage. While she’s got a steep learning curve ahead of her, she’s already shown progress grabbing canoe paddles and assisting Amy with check-in at the landing.

      Amy Schmudlach

      Baking extraordinaire, cancer survivor, and the nicest person you will ever meet. In between collecting life jackets and greeting customers, Amy finished her degree in Rehabilitation Psychology at UW-Madison. More importantly, she has the uncanny ability to put up with Ryan for years on end.