We've officially called it quits for the winter. Reservations can now be made for the 2019 season starting in May!
Update: Water levels will come up a few inches over the weekend. Not enough to cancel trips but sandbars will be in shorter supply than usual. Everyone will have a place to camp (there's only about 14 seperate groups going out) you might just have to share the larger ones. === Our last regularly scheduled weekend of the season is upon us and it's gonna feel like fall. Crisp weather with sunny skies and highs in the mid 60s, lows in the 40s - ideal campfire weather. Water temps are still in the high 60s so while swimming probably isn't going to be great, you'll be fine if you accidentally go in. There is one area I'm keeping a close eye on though. We recently had a lot of flooding near Labor Day weekend and while the sandbars are back out, the water levels are still slightly elevated above normal levels. We've had a little rain this week and likely one more storm before the weekend. I don't expect it to cause any issues (all of the gauges and predictions look fine) but based on our freaky weather patterns this month, it's always possible things get weird. If that were to happen, there will be an update within hours of those updated river predictions - but again, as of right now all indicators look good and there's plenty of places for you to camp out.
Water levels continue to recede as expected. We'll have plenty of sandbars out for this Sep 15-16 weekend and with clear skies, highs in the mid 80s, and favorable winds, conditions will be about as good as they get. Now that we're past Labor Day expect to have most of the river to yourself. Our rental numbers drop 75% from peak season just two weeks ago.
What was forecast to be a small amount of rain has, once again, turned ugly. Over the past two days most of Wisconsin has been hit with multiple rounds of high rainfall storms. Current river projections look bad. Really bad. Our stretch of river is potentially looking at 50kcfs by the end of the weekend (we cancel trips at 15kcfs, normal is 5kcfs). As such, it's a safe bet that we will not be running trips this weekend. All of that said, the stationary front that has been causing all of this record flooding is finally moving out of our area. The next 10 days look to be sunny and warm which will allow the watershed to quickly draw down back towards normal levels. While this weekend is almost certainly out of the question, I fully expect water levels to return to normal levels before the following weekend. The current weather forecast is about the best thing we could hope for.
Current river forecast (we aim to be in the white area for good sandbar conditions)
We've picked up 3-6x more rain than normal over most of the state since 8/22/18
Despite all of the rain and flooding last week (and really the two weeks prior to that as well), we're looking pretty good for the weekend. Most of that rain was local or south of us leaving the vast majority of the watershed relatively dry. This means that while we were at high water over Labor Day weekend, it's already mostly drained out of the system. Sandbars will continue to emerge over the next couple of days even with the somewhat damp weather. Finally, by this weekend, the stationary front will begin shifting south and east getting us out of the line of fire. The only real concern left is the chance for a few inches of rain to fall over the central/northern part of Wisconsin today and tomorrow. If this is a fairly normal quick moving storm we won't have any issues with high water later in the week. We'll know for sure sometime Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, the actual forecast for this weekend has been improving quite a bit over the past few days so we're hoping that trend continues as well through the work week. Ryan
8:26am 8/29 Update: Another nasty storm last night in pretty much the exact worst place. We've cancelled all trips through Monday due to serious flooding. We'll see upwards of 18 million gallons of water per minute at its peak, 3 times more than what we'd normally cancel for. On the brightside, because it's so localized, it'll drain through the system quickly and we should be back in action with plenty of sandbars for next weekend if we don't see a lot of rain between now and then. I'll leave the graph down below so you can see what's predicted to happen. -Ryan === 11:40am 8/28 Update: The updated round of predictions is not great - upwards of 30kcfs just downstream of us which is double what we'd want to see. These forecasts also include any rain forecasted in the next 24 hours and we're predicted to get a 2" storm. If this storm goes south or is less than expected that should help bring down forecast levels substantially. Either way, we will know definitely by tomorrow (Wednesday) evening about official trip cancellations. === This one is gonna get us. Last night, central Wisconsin just got a repeat of last weeks flood producing storms with areas receiving up to 11" of rain. This was the exact same storm setup that knocked out the Middletone/Cross Plains/Mazomanie area except this time a lot of the rain occurred in the Wisconsin River watershed. Expect to see the Kickapoo River downstream of us at or near record flood levels. While it's a little too early to know exactly how bad it will be on our stretch of river, it will almost certainly be right to the limit of sandbar availability. There is currently a wall of water making its way downstream which will hit us over the next 24 hours or so. From there, flood predictions issued at 3:40am currently have water levels high enough to shutdown trips from this Thursday to Sunday. Because this is preliminary data and such a drastic change (5kcfs to 20kcfs) in only a couple days these predictions will be refined as the week progresses so don't be too quick to cancel any river trips you have planned. Luckily water levels have been at or below normal levels for the last month so we've got room to absorb quite a bit of this which should allow for a quick recovery. The higher waters also appear to be limited to Castle Rock about 48 hours upstream of us which will means it'll clear out fast. Watch the graph below for the most recent predictions (usually twice a day) - we're aiming to be below 13.5' in order to have sandbars available to camp on. We'll continue to issue updates as the picture becomes more clear. -Ryan
Quick update: The Arena landing is open for business again! Any trips that were scheduled for Arena are now operating normally. Mazomanie landing is also now accessible via Hwy 78 to Cty Y (~5 minutes further than going through town from Spring Green). We are now planning to use Mazomanie launch starting Friday. ===== Still waiting for water to drain off of the roads but in the meantime, these satellite photos of the river are from 11am yesterday. Black Earth Creek has overtaken the floodplain and is flowing into the Wisconsin River over the course of 3 miles. While out on the water, it'll be immediately apparent when you come across flood waters.
First off - the Wisconsin River is 100% unaffected by the flooding nearby. Well, 85% unaffected would be more accurate. The majority of the rainfall was in the Rock and Sugar River watersheds. Only a relatively minor tributary of the Wisconsin (Black Earth Creek) is affected. While this creek peaked at several thousand CFS, it is now quickly dropping through 600 CFS on it's way to a normal 50 CFS. To put this in perspective, the Wisconsin River is currently running at 7,000 cfs (normal late summer levels, i.e. low) and wouldn't affect sandbars until 15,000 CFS. Black Earth Creek enters the Wisconsin below Arena and would only contribute to water levels on the last 8 miles of your trip. Not completely irrelevant, but mostly. Road closures are where this has caused some real headaches that we've never actually had to deal with before. Right this minute we're unable to use anything on the south side of the river as Hwy 14 is the main thoroughfare and has been shut down. Our access to the Arena boat landing has been hit and miss over the past 24 hours but I suspect it'll be out of the picture for a few days as the road to the landing goes right over Black Earth Creek (or more accurately, under Black Earth Creek right now). The Mazomanie landing is technically accessible via the long way around the river but that detour is substantial and will also be trouble for anyone trying to drop off gear ahead of time. Prairie Du Sac is operating as normal. For now, we've made alternative arrangements for groups going out through Thursday. If your trip starts Friday or Saturday, check back here for updates sometime tomorrow afternoon. We'll also send out a text message/email update with any official adjustments in launch points. For now, here's what we're expecting to do for the following trips: Prairie Du Sac/VFW - nothing has changed Mazomanie - expect to use the Sauk-Prairie Canoe Launch across the river (but right off of the Hwy 14 detour) - https://goo.gl/maps/VKnPqZGJu2y - the trip adds a mile by river (17 miles total) and there's a lot of sand from the parking lot to the river but it's better than nothing. If you don't want to drag your boats, you may want to consider switching to the 25 mile PDS trip. Arena - if you're going overnight, consider taking a longer trip out of the Sauk-Prairie launch. If a day trip, you'll likely have to put on at Hwy 14 for a very short 2 miles and/or paddle upstream to the railroad bridge or into Tower Hill State Park to add some time. Either way, this will be a short trip if we can't get into the Arena landing. You're also welcome to cancel the trip entirely for a full refund (not a bad option given the weather outlook for Friday). Hopefully by Saturday the creek will have dropped enough to get us back over the bridge into the Arena landing.
No word on how long it'll take to fix the approach but for the foreseeable future, plan to get to Spring Green via Hwy 12/60 through Sauk City or Hwy 151/23 through Dodgeville. Hwy 14 is out. ===== Quick update: I forgot we still have to be able to get you on the river once you get to us. Currently our only accessible landing is PDS. Mazomanie looks to be out of the picture for at least a day or two. Arena may or may not be accessible in the next few hours. We’ve made backup plans with the trips going out today and will update if we need to move everyone to alternate landings through the rest of the week via text/email. Hwy 14 is completely impassable between Black Earth and the entire town of Mazomanie. -Ryan ====== Last night brought record breaking rains to the area between Spring Green and Madison – up to 13″ in a matter of hours. One of the tributaries of the Wisconsin, Black Earth Creek, peaked at it’s highest level in recorded history. Actually, that’s an assumption at this point since the water is so high it’s gone above and beyond what the USGS gauge can measure. Luckily for us, this rain was fairly localized and will not affect the Wisconsin River or it’s sandbars beyond a temporary 6-12″ of water rise and we’ve got plenty of capacity to handle that so no need to worry about trips being cancelled. What may be tricky is the road closures between us and Madison. The majority of you would be traveling down Hwy 14 however it’s currently closed in a number of places. I’ve heard rumors of at least one washed out bridge but it hasn’t been confirmed. Mostly there are trees and standing water so I’m optimistic the highway will be open at least by this weekend if not later today (pending something catastrophic like a bridge out). For now, I’d recommend keeping an eye on 511WI.org for up to minute updates. If Hwy 14 is still closed, you can head south on 151 out of Madison through Verona and Dodgeville, then up Hwy 23 to the landing (shouldn’t add more than 10 minutes to the drive).