We've got two weekends left and this one looks fantastic! Sunny and crisp with highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s. Plus it looks like we'll have the illusive east wind at our backs! Water levels continue to be great with tons of sand bars. Now that Labor Day Weekend is behind us river traffic will fall off substantially and you'll have no trouble finding a sandbar all to yourself.
We're looking at the perfect end to the summer! Highs in the upper 70s/low 80s and no chance of rain through Labor Day. On top of that, water levels are ideal. If you haven't made it out yet this year and were hoping to, better hurry! After this we've only got two more weekends left. Ryan
This late in the year we're seeing the usual late August water levels which means more sandbars than you'll know what to do with. The easterly winds play a little havoc with the Prairie Du Sac dam as the wind starts pushing the water around and the dam fights to keep those shifting water levels within a few inches of level. That means it's not unusual for the water levels on the river to go up 6" (or sometimes more) and then recede 6" (or more) in a 12 hour period. Basically, you should make sure your boat is pulled up at least a foot above water and keep an eye on river levels (the exact same things we always recommend you do). The weather forecast looks like Friday and Saturday will be great while a warm front moves in Saturday night kicking off some rain showers after midnight with a very small possibility of thunder/storms. Lots of clouds regardless. All in all, it could be way worse! Ryan
Sounds like the jet stream is heading south which means we're about to get warmer with more humidity sometime this week. That also means we're going to see more rain and storms come through which has been surprisingly uncommon so far in the last month. This Wednesday night looks to be the big one with an inch of rain expected. Friday night into early Saturday morning looks like up to 1/4". With both of these storms it's extremely unlikely we'd lose enough sandbars to have to cancel trips. Historically, that would have happened twice in over 100 years. A lot of the rain that falls will be sucked up by some thirsty plants leaving less for runoff so you can generally expect water levels might go up 6" or 12" (still 1-2' below sandbar level). Peak season is now more or less over so from here on out there will be fewer people out on the water. Enjoy these last few weeks of summer! Ryan
Water levels have dropped back near long term averages i.e. the sandbars are out in force. Long range forecast also looks excellent with only Thursday afternoon/evening having a chance of rain, everything else is sunny in the low 80s. This is downright ideal conditions. We're sold out this weekend and will likely sell out the following weekend but we're definitely coming down from peak season. While there are still a lot of people out on weekends, it's not quite what July is typically like. If you really want peace and quiet, go for a weekday camping trip or take off work on Monday and start Sunday. But really, the next 9 of 10 days look amazing. Ryan
Everyone says this every year but, summer is flying by. We've only got a handful of weeks left in the summer canoe camping season though people are certainly taking advantage, we've been sold out for the upcoming weekend since early July. Weather forecast could be better, but it could also be worse. Highs in the upper 70s most of the week with a few days expecting some scattered storms. At this point, Thursday looks like the worst of the next 5 days with another chance of rain Sunday. Nothing we'd cancel trips for (and water levels won't be significantly effected) but still not ideal. Pack a raincoat and pick up a few $10 tarps from your favorite big box store. It's amazing how much you don't mind rainy weather when you've got a dry place to hang out with everyone (10 man tents not withstanding). That all said, it actually looks like we'll be more dry than wet so this is more of a precaution. Happy camping! Ryan
First of all, have you guys seen the weather forecast? Freakin' amazing! Sunny, hot, not humid, minimal chance of storms, and low winds into the next work week. I don't think that's happened yet this season. As for water levels - little bit of rain today but didn't seem to be enough to cause any issues. There are a decent number of sandbars out currently that there shouldn't be much crowding outside of a few hot spots. As soon as the Baraboo River drops we'll see a ton more sandbars (likely Friday night or Saturday morning) so the weekend outlook is looking down right summery where there might actually be more sand than water (wouldn't that be a pleasant change of pace!). Ryan
Today looks like it'll be about as high as it goes and the reports we've heard back were all positive. Water levels at most points upstream are receding and with the dry forecast we should be out of the woods. Water level outlook above Portage in particular has been cut in half with a further reduction coming out of Castle Rock. It's still rough going for those downstream of Lone Rock/Gotham area but above that there are plenty of sandbars (i.e. us). Anything in the Prairie Du Sac to Lone Rock corridor (including Sauk City, Mazomanie, Arena, and Spring Green) won't have any issues with flooding on the Wisconsin River.
Less than 2" of rain fell last night. I don't know if that's good or bad, only that it could have been worse. We did see the dam at Prairie Du Sac come up 2kcfs which wasn't unexpected and I believe it's now leveled off around 12kfs. To put that number in perspective, 15kcfs is where we start cancelling trips. [kCFS = Thousand Cubic Feet per Second of water, 1 CFS = 7.5 Gallons per second] It's always hard to know what exactly is going to happen with local rainfall. We have access to river gauges at Muscoda below us and Prairie Du Sac, Portage, and Wisconsin Dells above us plus a few other spots on larger tributaries (Baraboo, Lemonweir, Black Earth) but because the rains happen so close it doesn't really have a chance to show up in the gauges at or above the Dells. That means our usual 2+ day notice on river levels gets fuzzy and I have to start doing mental math. For example, our current 4 day outlook is great. The most important dam at Castle Rock has been holding steady all week at ~5kcfs. That gives us enough room for 10kcfs more water between Castle Rock and Spring Green. Following down the river at Wisconsin Dells we've also been holding steady around 7kcfs which makes sense given the Lemonweir dumps into the Wisconsin above this gauge and adds just over 1kcfs plus the smaller streams and creeks. Coming another 12 hours downstream we hit Portage. There aren't any major tributaries between the Dells and Portage so I'd expect to see very similar numbers - in fact right now they are separated by .2kcfs. This is where it gets fuzzy. We've still got ~8kcfs of room to work with. The Baraboo River comes in below Portage and has a fairly large drainage area. This is also where we're getting into all of the recent rainfall. The gauge near where the Baraboo drops into the Wisconsin is currently ~3.5kcfs. This will likely go up to 4 or 4.5kcfs but that's still a long way from our 8kcfs of capacity. Now we come another 12 hours downstream to the Prairie Du Sac dam. This is where our longest overnight trips start and is just over 12 hours upstream of where all trips finish. As mentioned above, the dam at Prairie Du Sac is now running at 12kcfs (5kcfs above Portage) which includes most of that 3.5k from the Baraboo River as well as the runoff from the immediate area that you'll see immediately following a rainstorm. I expect the contributions from the smaller tributaries to fall off very quickly - the gauge at Black Earth creek is a good proxy for this given it's close proximity to the river. Looking at Wednesday's massive storm, the creek went from 60 to 600cfs in less than 12 hours. Less than a day later it was almost back to 100cfs. The Baraboo is going to move slower both going up and coming down but for the most part, I believe that will be a pretty close match with the small tributaries falling off in time with the rise in the Baraboo. All of this makes me pretty confident our 3kcfs of remaining capacity is enough to ensure we won't have any issues losing sandbars tonight. Going forward it gets a little more difficult. There's a chance that all of the small local streams combined with the Baraboo River could continue rising up to that 15kcfs cap on Monday or Tuesday. I'm still waiting to see the latest prediction out of the Portage gauge later this morning, and especially this evening, to see where the real professionals believe the river will crest. There's just too much variability to make any kind of prediction for midweek. That said, my feeling is that we'll be okay if the amount kicking out of Castle Rock holds steady (and I think it will based on their lack of rainfall). Ryan
Our "current river conditions" graphs are a little misleading as they measure water levels 30 miles downstream of where all of our trips end. The local rainfall that we got is filtering in through all of the tributaries and the vast majority of that increase is happening at or below our location which is why you're seeing the graph spike straight up. In particular, both the Pine River and the Kickapoo River dump into the Wisconsin below Spring Green whereas we've really only got a small handful of streams worth a couple hundred cubic feet per second (the Pine will top several thousand and the Kickapoo will likely top 10,000cfs). While the water is certainly higher than usual, we still have plenty of sandbars on our stretch between the dam and Spring Green. The best number to look at is the Prairie Du Sac flow rate (seen on the "next 4 days" tab) for a more accurate idea of what's happening in our immediate area. This reading is taken a mile upstream of our 25 mile trip. The dam output is responsible for 85%+ of our water levels and right now it looks fine upstream for at least the next few days. Things could get interesting in the middle of next week but that'll depend on what happens with the rainfall tonight. All this is to say that trips are happening this weekend and I'm confident there will be sandbars to camp on. Of course I could be wrong so it's still worth sticking a branch or paddle at the edge of your sandbar and checking it against river levels every few hours. Ryan