Special High Water Bulletin and Warning

For much of June and now early July, rivers have been dangerously high.  There are exceptions (lakes, flowages, marshes), but generally speaking, paddlers need to stay off rivers when high.  Water has a lot of mass which translates into a lot of energy when high.  This excess energy can create dangerously fast current, undertows, strainers, and surprise rapids.  High rivers also tend to be dirty and can contain unpleasant bacteria from farm manure and overwhelmed city wastewater systems.  If you have any doubts about water levels, you can ask on this website and I’ll try to provide safe guidance.  Typically I provide depth guides for each review.   These are very helpful and can keep you safe if followed carefully.

Below are examples of kayak accidents that have happened so far in 2024.  Most happened because the kayaker chose to paddle a river that was too high.  Some were made worse by not wearing a life jacket.

  • 2024-07-07 – Four kayakers dumped by the covered bridge on the Waupaca River.  This river is currently too high currently for safe paddling.
  • 2024-07-06 – Three kayakers were rescued on the Fox River by the Wrightstown FD.  They were not wearing life jackets and were in distress because of the fast current.
  • 2024-07-05 – On the Sheboygan River between Rochester Park and Esslinger, two capsized and needed water rescue.
  • 2024-07-03 – A 53 year old female on the Sugar River by Belleville had her kayak overturn and was clinging to deadfall.  Rescue was successfully completed by local EMS.  The Sugar was way too high for kayaking.
  • 2024-07-03 – A life was lost on the Waupaca River.  Note, this actually may have been more of a medical incident, but regardless the Waupaca River should not be paddled when high because of its fast current and strainers.
  • 2024-07-01 – Paddlers almost got stuck trying to go under I-94 on the Pewaukee River.  Video was taken of the incident.  The Pewaukee is a very dangerous river to do when high because the I-94 tunnel is lower at the exit, and there are rough rapids downstream from it.
  • 2024-06-07 – A kayaker overturned on the Beaver Dam River near a significant logjam by the Davis Street bridge.  They self-rescued.  The Beaver Dam River was way too high.
  • 2024-06-02 – In three separate and “coincidental” incidents, kayakers launching from Lime Kiln Park overturned their kayaks on the Milwaukee River and had to be rescued.  Another story on the accidents.  The Milwaukee River is too high for paddling…especially the Grafton stretch.
  • 2024-05-27 – Two kayakers overturned on the Rock River-South Branch by Waupon.  Their rescue was recorded on video.  The South Branch was way too high.
  • 2024-05-19 – A reader comment mentioned that the Black River below Neillsville was “pretty brutal”.  The river was at 752 CFS and too high for rec paddling.
  • There are plenty more accidents that have occurred this year that I’m not including.  Long story short…stay off rivers that are high…especially fast woody rivers.  And if you absolutely must kayak a high river, wear a life jacket.

4 Comments to “Special High Water Bulletin and Warning”

  1. Considering Cedar Creek from covered bridge to Lion’s Park. Any reports on this stretch that we should pay attention to?.

    1. Hi Michael. I don’t have a first hand report to share with you, but the Cedar Creek gauge currently is at 213 CFs which is very high. I advise not doing the trip until things settle down.

  2. My buddy dumped on the crystal river unfortunately. There was a bottle neck of TUBERS, congregating by a log, clogging up the small line through. My friend had to wet exit when he got caught up on the tree/log and flipped upriver. Luckily he was ok and I retrieved his gear.

    WATCH OUT FOR THEM STRAINERS AND TUBERS!! Another group started to congregate there and we advised them to move. It’s sad people can’t realize that they are blocking the line through. Maybe the land owner will put up a sign or somebody will cut the log cause the “line” was only about two tubes wide.

    After that, we noticed some people emptying a kayak near a tree that looked impassable but asked them quick and said it was a go on the left. The person whose kayak was being emptied looked spooked and can only assume she had a bit of a rough situation. There was also a raft of some sort and a life jacket caught on a tree randomly. So yeah good to see the warning, I’ll try to update some comments from recent trips and observations.

    Appreciate your effort.

How did your trip turn out? Questions or comments? Feel free to leave your feedback.

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