Because it couldn’t be that easy…

Update: July 20, 2019 7:04am

Water is beginning its drop and should be reasonable tonight (still fine as is at 12kcfs but will be happier below 10kcfs for extra sandbar availability). Forecast models look to be bringing a single storm through sometime this afternoon with some lingering rain and then clearing out for the evening/Sunday. Main concern is wind and it's interaction with your tent though given early afternoon timing, the bigger concern is probably not getting stuck on the water in the prestorm wind. If you feel it coming, settle for the nearest sandbar or just be ready to wait it out from shore and then continue on.

Update: July 18, 2019 1:11pm

Sweet baby Rodgers, it just dropped 3.5kcfs at Castle Rock which'll take ~36 hours to reach us. That translates to ~10-12" of extra sandbar height. This is great news for those of us camping out Saturday night. Friday night will be tighter but we've only got 12-15 different groups then so shouldn't be an issue.

Side note, if you see a group of 8 adults wrangling 10 tiny children on a sandbar Saturday and Sunday take pity on them. And then wave, that's us!

Update: July 18, 2019 12:51pm

We had quite the train of storms come through early this morning. It tracked more south than initially predicted which is good and bad. Good in the sense that it missed the area outlined in red on this picture. This amount of rain in that area would really shut us down as it would all concentrate just upstream of us. Bad because they were already dumping reservoir water up north in anticipation and now we've got that water plus a few inches of local rain all at the same time.

It's not enough that we're worried about cancelling trips but it does mean that sandbars will be smaller/fewer than initially expected so don't be surprised if you end up a little cozier with the group next door. All indications are that this will still drop quickly once they cut back up north so I'll be sitting here continuing to hammer the F5 key until I see that happen. Ideally it will still be in time for Saturday night but the drop may still be pushed back into very early Sunday morning.

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Things are on track for a solid weekend! It's a got it's quirks but a nice change of pace from the crazy we've been dealing with all spring.

Some of those quirks - 108 degree heat index for Friday. That's warm. I did a trip with three straight days of actual temps above 100 and we literally spent more time floating alongside our canoes rather than in them. When the sun came up at 5:30am, you knew. That picture of us sitting around the table in three feet of water? 8am and 95 degrees.

Luckily, the heat starts to give way over the weekend as a 'cold' front comes through our area. This may set off some scattered storms and a lot of (probably welcome) cloud cover but overall precipitation currently looks to be under an inch so no concerns about high water (but watch out for accompanying wind and prepare your tent with guylines or temporarily dropping the poles when the wind kicks up). Temperatures will be back into the upper 80s Saturday with reasonable sleeping weather that night and back up to just the low 80s on Sunday and a break from the humidity.

We're gonna have a quick rise in water levels Thursday and Friday then receding very quickly back down to seasonal levels through Saturday and into Saturday night as the reservoirs and dams in the central part of the state prepare for rainstorms predicted over the next few days up there. If you'll be out between now and Friday, give yourself an extra 6-12" of sandbar just in case.

Quintessential Canoe Camping Conditions

It only took half the season but we're finally into the idyllic summer canoe camping conditions. Water levels have returned to seasonal norms so sandbars are out in force. Water temps are like bath water but still cool enough to escape the 90+ heat. Forecast is typical mid-summer with heat, humidity, and chance of a storm rolling through. It's everything you imagine it is right now.

We're currently sold out and aside from a few updates here and there, will likely stay that way. If you see something come available, grab it - it's not gonna be there long.

Already made reservations and getting ready for you trip? Here's what I'd recommend above and beyond the usual for this week:

  • Shade! Sun hat, umbrella, sun shade, tarp tied between sticks? Bring it all. The sun is intense and the canoes/sandbars will be cooking during the daytime hours. If you don't have it, Walmart sells some basic 10'x10' sun shades for under $100. Bonus if they have a screen for sunset mosquitoes. Lots of sun screen goes without saying.
  • Drinking Water - grab a couple gallon size jugs now and make room in your freezer. You'll thank me after a full day in the sun and your friends are all drinking boiling water. Bonus points for adding dry ice to your cooler for extra cold, and if you put your grapes/oranges near it, they'll carbonate (Hyvee sells dry ice in convenient blocks).
  • Storms - it's always possible to have some big storms come out of nowhere when there's so much moisture and energy in the atmosphere. They are a fact of life in the wilderness (which this technically is) so be prepared for one.
    1. Read up on how to be safe on the river and be careful of your tents. The biggest risk in a storm isn't the lightning but the wind. The big gusts that come right before the rain can shred a tent and snap poles if it isn't properly set up.
    2. Use those guylines (long lines attached to the tabs half way up the side of your tent), or even drop the poles temporarily while the wind is up even if it means getting a little wet. This is more important for weaker fiberglass poles than metal ones. The bonus here is that your tent won't up and fly away like mine may or may not have done 10 years ago on a guided trip...
    3. Only have tiny tent stakes and a lot of sand? Don't panic. I've had very good luck scraping away the top layer of loose sand and driving the stake into the firm wet stuff below at a significant angle away from the tent. Cover it back over with the loose sand and repeat 4 -10 times. Want to go full hurricane mode? Tie your guylines around sticks, paddles, rocks, even a canoe, and bury them to create deadman anchors. Throw the water jug in the tent for good measure.
  • Alcohol and life jackets - Last thing I'll mention, given how hot it is and the amount of time you're likely to spend in the water with a drink in your hand: wear your life jacket! While rare, people do drown out here. If you can muster the last of your good decision making brain cells to put on the life jacket before lounging in the water off a sandbar 7 margaritas deep, you might thank me.

With all of that out of the way, have a great trip this week! -Ryan

Shallow sandbars on the Wisconsin River

Finally! Great Conditions

I rate this coming July 12-14 weekend a solid 7.5 out of 10. Sandbars are popping out left and right today and water levels will continue their big drop for the next few days at least. They could be a little lower (thus the 2.5 point deduction) given this will be one of the three busiest weekends on the river but you shouldn't have to be camping on top of people.

Everything else is great! Water temps are in the high 70s. Air temps will be in the high 80s but not nearly as humid as it's been. Sleeping in tents will be pretty pleasant with drier air in the upper 60s. Winds will be calm and low chance of storms. And since this is only about the third time sandbars have been above water this spring, all of the beaches should be very clean and well washed.

Get after it! -Ryan

A few more days and we’ll be there

[Quick update: 7/8 1:47pm - Flow rates up north have dropped by half (18kcfs to 9kcfs) so by Wednesday afternoon we'll be in the clear with sandbars coming on strong shortly after]

The weather forecast looks amazing (finally!). The next 10 days are mostly sunny with highs in the mid 80s. Water levels are still high but will be dropping quickly on our section. Sandbars should be back out as soon as Wednesday with more appearing daily after that. The bulk of the past two weeks of rain is through the system and lower levels in the northern half of the state plus full summer vegetation and the clear forecast all make for a very quick turnaround.

Not expecting any issues for this coming weekend - which is great because we're 98.9% sold out.

Wait just a dam minute

Update: 1:12pm 7/5/19

Water is back up (about 6" too high), overnight trips are cancelled but day trips are still on. Should be good to go for overnight trips by early next week. This time of year, water will drop quickly to low levels and lots of sandbars.

Update: 10:56am 7/2/19

Well this just got interesting, albeit the timing could have been better before we sent all those cancellation announcements. All of a sudden, flow rates at arguably the most important dam on the river have been cut dramatically despite the most recent river predictions. If this new flow rate holds, trips should be good to go by Friday (still small and limited sandbars though). Graph below - 12kcfs is okay, less than 10 is great. The water at this gauge takes ~36-48 hours to reach us.

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Update: 10:16pm 7/2/19

It happened. Lots of rain dropped right on top of the watershed over the past two days at the worst possible place. Overnight trips are cancelled through at least Sunday. There's still quite a bit of shakey weather to come so it's entirely possible this gets pushed out longer before sandbars come back in reasonable numbers (graph below will continue to update daily).

We're still putting out day trips but you're looking at a small handful of wet sandbars to stop at so the option to cancel an existing reservation will be there. On the other hand, lots of access to backwater routes you otherwise couldn't get into very well with the extra foot of water depth. Worth keeping in mind that currents will be a little faster and with fewer places to stop so I wouldn't recommend this as a first time trip.

More updates to come as this very hot, humid, and unstable week unfolds.

-Ryan

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Central and southern Wisconsin have been getting hit pretty good these past two days. Enough so that we're now flirting with water levels above our sandbars again. For the next two days we'll be right at our self imposed limit for overnight camping. Day trips shouldn't be a problem as everything currently sits. Overnight trips should be fine for Tuesday and Wednesday but it's questionable for Thursday-Sunday.

We're a little limited on foresight with this one because most of the rain has fallen very close to our location. The increase doesn't show up on river forecasts until it's already on top of us so it becomes more educated guessing. My guess is that the disconnect between Castle Rock and every dam above it (10kcfs differential when 3-4kcfs is normal) means river managers are trying to stay ahead of our moist forecast. I don't think the rain we've already had quite justifies what we're seeing (but I could be wrong). Long story short, if this is the case and our forecast holds steady or improves, I think this weekend will be doable (albeit with small sandbars). If we end up getting a few storm trains, we're probably underwater.

The graph below is going to be your best bet to know what's coming in the PDS-Spring Green area. It doesn't account for the Baraboo River tributary but it's been holding around 1kcfs for the past few weeks, i.e. mostly inconsequential. Further downstream of us you've got a few big tributaries like Otter Creek in Lone Rock, the Pine River in Gotham, and the Kickapoo River in Wauzeka plus lots of smaller creeks that were hit hard yesterday and will likely make anything downstream of Muscoda not campable regardless of what happens this coming week.

We're aiming to be near or below 13.5' to send out overnight trips. I don't like 14' but it is doable for groups that are dead set on camping out. Again, day trips should be fine unless something crazy happens.

Officially Summer

We're looking at a week of highs in the upper 80s and humid, i.e. summer! Water levels look to be receding back to their long term averages and sandbars are coming out in force. Long story short, this coming weekend looks great!

Who wants to flip a coin?

6/19/19 Update:

We won the coin flip! Water levels 36 hours upstream have now dropped below where we need them to be and will continue to drop over the weekend.  That means all trips Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are officially on.  Water levels are still above normal and sandbars will be smaller than usual but, while you may have to share some of the larger ones, there will be places to camp.

The weather for this weekend is still less than ideal but could be much worse.  Temps are in the mid 70s with a helpful east wind.  There is a continuing chance of pop up storms pretty much all weekend.  An unstable weather pattern will be in place so impossible to know what's gonna happen until you look at the radar day of.  Either way, plan to get at least a little wet and ride out a storm or two for an hour.  Read up on safety tips if you're nervous.

                  -Ryan

6/18/19 Update:

I'm not promising Friday is doable, but the water has definitely been going in the right direction.  Saturday and Sunday are looking better and better water wise.  The weather forecast is another story with an unstable system and chances for isolated storms throughout the weekend.  That said, I'm told it'll be more dry than wet.  We'll make the call for Friday trips tomorrow night.  Rest of the weekend will be called one way or the other Thursday.

                  -Ryan

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More rain than expected over the weekend (up north, it was actually pretty great right around us) but with the already elevated river levels and lots of still empty farm fields, we're looking at another bump in water levels.

Sandbars are out of the question now through roughly Friday. I say 'roughly' because 5 days is still a lot of time for things to change. If the current statewide forecast continues to improve as it has been, we should be in good shape for the weekend, maybe even Friday. If it doesn't improve or (shoot me now) gets worse, we'll have to call off another weekend (our 4th of a 14 week season).

We make this call at ~15kcfs which probably means way more to me than almost all of you. To give you an idea of what 15kcfs looks like on the river, here's a shot from last week when we were just under it:

You'll notice there are actually a decent number of sandbars out there. It's a little deceiving because you're still seeing a fair amount of sand that is at or just below water line, i.e. not campable. Most of the rest are still only a few inches above water (which is why we've also gotta see stable or downward trending water levels). Regardless, there are places to camp at 15kcfs which is exactly what I mean when I write "if we send trips out, it's because there is a reasonable expectation that everyone will have a place to camp".

If we're cancelling trips, yes, there are still technically places to camp, but it's not gonna be ideal conditions. This is where we might push that 15kcfs limit if it's a slow weekend and every other indicator looks good - trips are still cancelled by default, but you'll get an option to make it happen anyway if you know what you're getting into. That's the situation I'm foreseeing this coming weekend.

Keep an eye on it with the typically twice daily forecast updates on the graph below. We're aiming for at or below 13.5 feet.

Nice while it lasted!

It's a breezy one today. Gusts to 30mph - the kind of wind you hunker down in and wait for the evening calm to make any progress. Luckily, it calms down Saturday and Sunday with light winds from the South (less helpful) turning East (very helpful). The biggest event of the weekend will be the solidifying chances of a storm rolling through around 4-6pm Saturday evening. Storms are expected to be isolated and variable. There's no risk of widespread severe weather but with the uncertainty of the front, it may build a bit bigger than expected so good bet to watch the weather radar. Either way, the front will push all of the wet/warm weather south into Illinois by Sunday morning and any strong storms should be over in an hour or two. Total rain accumulation is still around 1/4". [Reminder: We don't cancel for storms/rain but if you're going out on a day trip tomorrow (Saturday), check the weather radar in the morning - if it looks like something you don't want to spend the better part of the day in, send us a message by 7am and we'll issue full credit to come back another time] Now for the bad news. A sizeable rainstorm up north today and more rain in the forecast has pushed river predictions up into no sandbar territory starting around Monday afternoon and lasting through the week. Too soon to know if it'll come down for the weekend as it could go either way at the moment and a lot of these numbers appear to be based on the forecast more than what's actually fallen. Given our (lack of) luck so far this season, I'm not terribly optimistic about getting everyone out this coming weekend.

Did summer just show up to the party?

Lots of sun this past week and some hot and humid temps to go with it. This has been great for water levels as they continue to come down. We've got a small amount of rain in the forecast this week but it shouldn't really have any impact. Overall, levels are still above normal but there will be sandbars out throughout the week and into the weekend. Speaking of the weekend - we're looking at a pretty reasonable one for mid-June. Highs in the middle/upper 70s with good sleeping weather in the 50s. Chance of a passing rainstorm or two on Saturday but total rainfall accumulation is currently less than 1/4" i.e. mostly dry. Water temps are already above 70 so the swimming isn't bad either. Currently, the biggest downside is the swarm of mosquitoes. With an extremely wet spring, who would have thought? Luckily, there's a near constant breeze on the water so in the main channels during the day you won't notice them. Once sunset rolls around, be prepared for war. Or build a really good fire. Same goes for any ventures into the woods.

Water levels coming down quickly this week, good to go this weekend

Only a few weeks late, it looks like we'll be able to get rolling with the 2019 season. High water will be receding all week with sandbars coming out just in time for the weekend with some room to spare. Combined with a mostly clear forecast statewide, we're in great shape for June 7, 8, and 9.

Behind the Boats

Ever wonder what life is like running a canoe company? Some people do. I've gotten questions ranging from "How many times have you been to the Boundary Waters?" (one) to "What do you do in the Winter?" (it depends) and my personal favorite "You must love paddling" (paddling is #4 on the list).