Well sh*t. The storms stalled out right over the central river valley and the dams up there have now started dumping water (~12.5kcfs right now). That water will start getting to us right around Friday evening and looks to last through the weekend at least. Our limit for trips is 15kcfs (when almost all sandbars are underwater) which we're likely to go over by the time all of the tributaries between here and the upstream dam are added to the mix so we're officially calling off this weekend.
You can see what's coming with the image below (forecasts typically update twice a day). Sandbars appear below 13.5' and this station is ~12-18 hours upstream of us.
Previous update: May 27 1:51pm
This upcoming weekend is looking excellent! Words I haven't used to describe a spring day in years... A high pressure system will be moving in Friday setting us up for a dry, sunny, high 60s/low 70s weekend and low winds from the south (i.e. mostly not headwind). As a bonus, this might be the last weekend of no mosquitoes for a while.
There is a small risk of rising water as the cold front associated with this high pressure system is expected to cause widespread rain tomorrow (Thursday) however it does appear to be sparing most of the river valley up north and soil conditions currently have room for about 3" of water before runoff picks up substantially (and thus quickly rising river levels). We've also got a lot of capacity to spare as sandbars are well above water at the moment. Long story short, I'll keep an eye on water levels over the next couple days but I don't think it's going to cause any trouble.
As for corona watch, buses are still limited to ~10 people and no gear so drivers only while all passengers and gear must be dropped off at the starting point for your trip (more details in your confirmation emails). Hard to say what the density of people might be on water given the lack of many other open alternative activities in the area. Memorial Day weekend had way more locals than usual but I have to imagine we'll be back to usual early season low numbers of people, especially with the cooler fall like weather.
To maintain social distancing requirements, our buses are currently restricted to ~10 seats per shuttle and no gear. Until restrictions ease, it is mandatory to drop off passengers and gear at the starting point before sending only the drivers to park and shuttle from the finish point. Only drivers and lap gear will be allowed to board the bus. To monitor capacity, our reservation system is limiting each reservation to a single shuttle seat though it's likely each group could have up to four drivers on the bus if able to maintain distance from other groups. If no room remains, those extra drivers will need to self-shuttle a car. If you want to self shuttle and avoid the bus completely, great!
As Wisconsin's restrictions are adjusted, we'll keep you updated through this page as well as pre-trip confirmation emails in addition to updating our reservation system accordingly. If you need to reschedule or cancel your trip we will default to issuing a full refund for any COVID related adjustments. Our normal full refund until 7 days before departure policy is also still in place.
If you have any questions or would like clarifications, please don't hesitate to send us a message (email is best given I can send those after hours - you know, because three kids under four).
For details on our disinfection process, read all about it on our COVID page.
What a weird way to kick off the year. While we've all been affected, it's been particularly unnerving from our side as I've watched web traffic remain 70% below normal, and not a single new reservation since early March - which I should mention is totally understandable and expected, Wisconsin Canoe Company is not essential. We also have the benefit of being a month away from when we would normally start our season so I'm not panicking yet.
At the moment, we're optimistic about a Memorial Day Weekend opening (these dates are bookable on the reservation page) but if the shutdowns and lack of demand push beyond May, we'll readjust to open later in June (updates to the system and front page of the website if/when that happens).
If, despite all of the unknowns, or maybe because of them, you're itching to spend a little time disconnected from the world on a sandbar this summer, we would love to see your reservation come in. Trips are fully refundeable at any time and you'll still get 15% off using the code "SOCIALDISTANCE".
Ryan (+Amy, Norah, Finn, & Inga)
PS: Anyone planning to run their own trip on the Wisconsin River over the next month or two should double check to see which access points are still available for use. The WI DNR has closed all of their parks, natural areas, and access points connected to the river while a handful of private and municipal landings remain available (required paddling distances will be significantly further than normal).
As long as the weather is miserable and we're all quarantined, (hopefully) working from home, maybe have some kids bouncing off the walls, I figured we might encourage thoughts of warm sunny days on your own personal sandbar. We rarely (and by rarely I think once in the last 7 years?) have coupon codes but given the circumstances...well, here we are. So, for the next few weeks, book any trip using the coupon code "SOCIALDISTANCE" and get 15% off.
Now go wash your hands. -Ryan
We're all done for the 2019 season! All in all, we've had better. The decade plus of increasing ground water levels (thanks climate change!) contributed to a lot of compounding problems with the higher than average rainfall (3 years running). The consistently high water forced us to cancel 9 weeks of a 20 week season. Not great. In fact, there hasn't been a single day of below average water levels since February. Fingers crossed we'll have a reversion to the mean in 2020! -Ryan
Update: 9/19 8:55am
We're right on the edge of our threshold for sending out trips Saturday and if we didn't have rain right now, I'd say it's on. But since it is raining, I have to err on the side of caution and officially cancel trips.
Really wanted to get out? Water levels out of the dams upstream are dropping as expected so if you don't mind the rain and keep an eye on the river, you could still get out there. I'm guessing less than 10 people camping on the river this weekend so the few sandbars that will be well out of the water are likely to be yours for the taking.
Our high water is receding though it's unclear if it will go down fast enough to get trips out this weekend. Keep an eye on the graph below - we want to see levels below 13.5' on Friday to send out trips Saturday. There will be a warm unstable airmass in place starting Thursday through the weekend and conditions will really depend on whether or not any heavy rainstorms come out of it since we'll be pretty close to our limit.
On the bright side, while the forecast calls for chance of scattered storms/rain over the weekend, total precipitation is currently under an inch with highs in the 70s.
Update: 9/11 10:51am
That came on fast. Latest river forecast out of NOAAs river prediction center has us completely underwater this weekend. It won't even be close. We stop trips at 15kcfs and are now expecting 30kcfs this weekend (normal is 5-7kcfs). Beyond the forecast, the actual numbers we're seeing up north already have us above the limit and we're still expecting 3-4" of rain across most of the state and our watershed (river forecasts only include the next 24 hours of predicted rainfall).
If you're looking for a last minute alternative and don't mind the extra travel times, the Kickapoo River might be okay. Camping is pretty limited to smaller groups though (I can personally recommend Kickapoo Wild Adventures in Ontario). You could also try the Manistee River in central Michigan or the Jack's Fork/Current River (personal favorite) in the Ozarks which should be better for larger 20+ groups.
Update: 9/10 8:12am
Yuck. South central Wisconsin (the heart of our watershed) took quite the hit last night and there is still another 3" of rain predicted for the same area of the state Wednesday and Thursday. Keep an eye on the graph forecast below, we want to stay at or below 13.5' on Friday and Saturday to put trips out. Either way, sandbars will be much smaller than they are right now which normally wouldn't be a concern except that we've got a few larger scout troops heading out this weekend. If you're one of those groups, we'll get you the high water satellite image from earlier this season that will help you pinpoint the location of sandbars able to accommodate your groups. The good news, given this is the second to last week of the season, is that there are very few total people actually going out so if we've got sandbars, it's shouldn't be a struggle to get one.
Looks like we're coming to the end of our great month of weather/water levels. Statewide forecast is calling for a couple inches of rain over the next two days. If this happens, we'll see water levels rise just in time for the weekend. Shouldn't be enough to shut us down but it does mean we'll have smaller sandbars and a little faster current. More updates to come as the forecast turns into reality and we see what falls where. At least the weather looks great for this weekend!
Rain across the northern part of the state will push our water levels up a foot over the next couple days at least (though we've got plenty of room to work with). Forecast calls for temps in the mid 70s with lots of clouds and chances of mild precipitation. Saturday should start out pleasant with the weather potentially getting a bit dreary Saturday night into Sunday.