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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Once again we find ourselves stuck in an unstable weather pattern with water levels predicted to spike next weekend (currently somewhere around 25kcfs, most sandbars go away at 15kcfs). This is a real repercussion of climate change in the Midwest as storm systems have become more erratic and intense.
The rate of warming in the Midwest has markedly accelerated over the past few decades. Between 1900 and 2010, the average Midwest air temperature increased by more than 1.5°F. However, between 1950 and 2010, the average temperature increased twice as quickly, and between 1980 and 2010, it increased three times as quickly as it did from 1900 to 2010. 1.5°F doesn't sound like much but it is a huge statistical movement. This is an absolutely massive amount of additional energy that needs to go somewhere, and often you'll find it driving more power into these storm systems.
These are the observed results of thousands of different observations and experiments. Even our own local USGS gauge readings dating back 100+ years has shown a noticeable increase in river variability and increasing periods of high water, particularly over the past 10-15 years. Long story short, expect our questionable spring conditions to continue, both this season, and all seasons thereafter.
Watch the graph below to see what might happen over the next week. Forecasts are updated twice a day during high water conditions. We're aiming to be at 13.5' or below.
No luck this time around. Water levels will stay high through the Memorial Day weekend and quickly start dropping Monday into Tuesday. Locally, we'll have a lot of rain all day Friday so Tuesday might slip into Wednesday but everything north of us looks good and that's where we get into problems as the watershed funnels down into our stretch of river. Long story short, this weekend is shot for canoe camping trips but next weekend is looking probable.
We still have day trips going out though it's worth keeping in mind that you'll be in the boat pretty much all day as the sandbars will be underwater. The silver lining is that you're able to paddle into the trees and down back channels of the river that aren't normally accessible. Either way, if you plan to head out on the river this weekend, you should have some basic paddling skills - I wouldn't recommend this as your first time.
The graph below will continue to update with the most recent river forecast. We aim to be under 13.5' and we've got a 12-24 hour lag as the water travels from this gauge to our location downstream.
5/21 7:07am Update:
Just waiting on this morning's river forecast update. Castle Rock about 36 hours upstream is still putting out a lot less water than expected given what is going on upstream of Castle Rock. This is not promising as I think it'll push elevated flow rates further into the weekend. That said, our current plan is that we will officially cancel overnight trips, day trips are still good to go, and while there will be no guarantees of places to camp, there should be at least a couple if water levels stay below 25kcfs (expected). So, if any overnighters want to give it a chance with the expectation that no legal places to camp (no shoreline camping!) means you'll finish as a day trip and we'll refund the unused days. (This part is still unofficially official, emails will go out later today confirming)
The most recent river forecasts are out and they aren't great. After taking into account the rain forecasted over the next 24 hours, it's expected that river levels will maintain their elevated status. Furthermore, our unstable weather system will remain in the area throughout the week, possibly right into Memorial Day weekend.
At this time of year, there isn't a lot of greenery to soak up all of that extra moisture so soils are quick to saturate and then everything runs straight off the land into the river system. That means even relatively small storms over a broad area of our watershed cause problems with putting sandbars underwater.
We won't make an official cancellation call for another few days, waiting until after the forecasts take account for actual rainfall, but it's not looking great. If you haven't already made plans to be on the river, you may want to hold off on this one. For everyone else with reservations, we'll be in touch via email.
To get an idea of how it's going, we aim to be under 13.5' at the Portage river gauge. The forecasts are typically updated everyday around 9am and 9pm.
Looks like our high waters won't quite be out of the system before this weekend so our first official day will be May 25th. Long range forecast has some rain/storms over the weekend but so far this appears limited to southern WI and lower which is great news for us and means I'm pretty optimistic about getting everyone out over Memorial Day Weekend (though we won't be confident one way or the other until next Monday or Tuesday).
As always, we're aiming to be in (or very near) the white area of this graph.