Wednesday Afternoon Update
It's official - sandbars will be gone for a few days starting Friday
Dams upstream just started pumping out more than enough water to shut us down and it's likely to go higher yet. We'll have great conditions until early Friday morning (water will start rising overnight) but by Friday night there will be few sandbars and they'll be getting smaller by the minute.
Current river forecasts have us getting back to normal around Tuesday though this could vary a bit based on what happens with the unsettled forecast this week. I'll continue to post any substantial changes in the situation here. In the meantime, I'd recommend keeping an eye on the graph I've left down below.
For the time being, we'll continue running day trips. While there won't be many places to stop, the higher water levels do give you a chance to explore some of the lesser seen back channels and even paddle through the trees. I'd recommend having some basic paddling experience and (as always) wear a life jacket as there won't be many good options for getting back in your boat if it goes over in the middle of the river.
Wednesday Morning Update
We're definitely going to lose our sandbars. The question now is when. Overnight trips ending Sunday aren't looking good. Overnight trips ending Saturday are still questionable.
Tuesday night update:
It just never ends this year. Northern Wisconsin got hammered by rain again today. Given that it wasn't quite back to normal after the heavy rains last week, it's likely we'll get a lot more run off from this one. The Tuesday night NOAA river prediction center forecast has us out of commission late Saturday through Monday. This forecast also takes into account the predicted storms tomorrow (Wednesday) so it's not unlikely this could change (tomorrow's weather forecast doesn't have a high certainty level).
It's too soon to say which way it might go but cancelling overnight trips this weekend is a real possibility. At the very least we'll have smaller sandbars more typical of early June than mid July. The picture will be a lot more clear tomorrow night and especially Thursday morning so definitely check back later.
The graph below will be updated roughly twice a day with the latest river forecast. We want to be at or below 13.5' to have a decent number of sandbars. [For some perspective - last weekend was about as busy as it gets and the ~400 people on the river were all able to find something to camp on]
We'll be 100% back to normal by Wednesday, even if I can't say exactly how long they'll last. Water levels will take a substantial dive in about 36 hours though we're also expecting rain over most of the state tomorrow. Initial forecasts look okay so at this point, I'm not overly worried about it raising water levels too much but I'll keep an eye on it.
Beyond tomorrow, the weather forecast has us moving into an unsettled pattern with chance of rain/storms with a lot of heat and humidity through the weekend. All in all, not half bad for mid July.
Saturday afternoon update: Storms held off today, that was nice! Water levels up north have peaked and should start receding down here on Monday evening into Tuesday. If the current forecast holds, we should have plenty of sandbars for this coming weekend.
Thursday's rainfall was substantial and statewide. Water levels have come up quite a bit over the past 24 hours and will level off near the upper end of our overnight trip limit for sandbar availability. All overnight trips ending by Sunday shouldn't have much trouble though sandbars will be quite a bit smaller than usual and the larger ones should expect to have multiple groups camped on them (but still better than camping in a state park campground).
Beyond Sunday into the first few days of the week, it's likely we'll rise above our normal limit for overnight trips. That said, while there will be substantially fewer campable sandbars, there are even fewer paddlers. For reference, we've got 7 total canoes going out overnight between Sunday and Thursday compared to 116 canoes between Friday and Sunday. All of this is to say that while water will be cresting ~6" above our limits, there will be places to camp during the week. We should be back below those limits by Thursday.
If you're a larger group going out this weekend, the following satellite images were taken at similar water levels earlier this season. Good, campable sandbars have been highlighted. Any of these should hold 10-20 people *based on current river forecasts*. Mazomanie to Arena | Arena to Spring Green
Saturday afternoon will be worth watching for weather. Looks like a line of storms could rise north out of Illinois for a few hours in the afternoon. If that happens, be prepared for wind - if you've got a cheaper tent with fiberglass poles and no guylines, keep your tent down until the initial gusts of wind pass through (you should be able to get the tent back up before it starts to rain). Use paddles as deadman tent anchors buried in the sand. Tie your tent to a canoe or at least keep an eye on your canoes in case one tries to launch itself into the river. Wind is the biggest cause of problems on the water but it's easy to mitigate if you're ready for it. Even just parking your boat under a tarp along a tree lined piece of sand will let you ride out just about anything.
Final update: River forecast issued, we're okay through Sunday and overall levels should stay low enough that weekday overnight trips can continue given the handful of groups going for the handful of sandbars (you guys will get a more detailed email).
Friday morning update: Numbers up north are holding steady which will get us to Sunday morning at least. I'd still like to see the latest River Prediction Center update later this morning but for now, while it's close to our self-imposed limit, overnight trips should have enough islands to camp on though expect to share the larger ones. If you're on a trip this weekend and want to hold off for another weekend due to the continuing uncertainty, that's fine, just let us know. Will post another update in a few hours once that river prediction has been released for our area.
Thursday night update: those 'isolated storms' turned into a massive slow moving affair that drowned basically the whole Wisconsin River system. Water levels look to rise up to a foot by Saturday evening which will make camping tight but doable. Beyond that, the river prediction center is calling for another rise in water Sunday night that will put most sandbars under for a few days. I'll know the timing better on that by Friday afternoon. For now, we're still planning for all trips through the weekend as a go but I'll continue to update tomorrow as this storm shakes out.
Great weather continues with the extended forecast. Well, mostly. Thursday could be wet with isolated storms but those will finally clear out a lot of the excessive humidity just in time for the weekend and the drier weather should stick around well into next week.
Water levels are perfect, hovering around the long term average for this time of year. Tons of (big) sandbars but not so many you'll be running aground every 10 minutes (it'll be more like every 20 minutes - if you don't know what you're doing).
This Friday-Sunday is on track to be a perfect 10 out of 10 weekend, no exaggeration. Even the sunset mosquitoes haven't been terrible. Of course it also coincides with the peak of peak season. We're already sold out for the next two weekends so if you're looking for a boat, you'll want to check back every day for any cancellations (pro-tip, they tend to happen around 8-10am and 8-10pm).
If you want real solitude, head out on a weekday (even Sunday-Monday). As busy as the weekend is, there are maybe 20 people on 25 miles of river on any given weekday.