Black River

This is one of the best paddling rivers in the entire state of Wisconsin.  Highlights include huge boulder gardens, outcrops, root beer red water, and fantastic rapids.

Trip Reports

Reese Ave to Twenty Six Rd

Date Paddled: June 5th, 2021
Distance: 5.2 miles
Time: Expect 2-3 hours

A great stretch on the Upper Black River featuring granite bedrock and scenic boulder gardens.  Long, quiet stretches are interrupted by 18 rapids, including four Class 2s and one Class 3.


Hwy H landing to Hill Road

Date Paddled: October 9th, 2016
Distance: 8.0 miles
Time: 4 hours 14 minutes

A wonderfully scenic trip on the Upper Black River with plenty of whitewater and attractive granite outcrops.


Hill Road to Opelt Ave Launch

Date Paddled: June 8th, 2019
Distance: 6.6 miles
Time: 6 hours 4 minutes (3 hours would be more typical)

One of my personal favorite sections of the Black River.  Highlights include stunning boulder gardens, rugged granite banks and fun whitewater.


Hwy 95 to West Arbutus County Ramp

Date Paddled: June 27th, 2020
Distance: 5.1 miles
Time: Expect 2 hours

Lake Arbutus is a busy lake which can have heavy boat traffic and challenging waves.  However, the Black River immediately preceding and following the lake is incredibly scenic.


West Clay School Road to Powerhouse Road Landing

Date Paddled: August 1st, 2020
Distance: 3.2 miles
Time: Expect 90 minutes

One of the best water trails in Wisconsin with spectacular scenery and top-notch rapids.


Powerhouse Landing to Halls Creek Landing

Date Paddled: July 23rd, 2017
Distance: 4.0 Miles
Time: 5 hours 7 minutes (without side adventures, 2 hours is more typical)

Perhaps the best section on the Black River featuring Class 1-2 rapids and scenic granite boulder gardens.


Halls Creek Landing to Black River Falls Dam Landing

Date Paddled: July 13th, 2013
Distance: 6.2 Miles
Time: 3 hours 23 minutes

There are a number of nice prospects in the Black River area, but for this trip we did a more obscure segment that is probably only say the 4th/5th best route…yet was still very nice.   You can kind of divide the Black River in two.  Paddling above the dam at Black River Falls and paddling […]


Black River Falls Dam to Mason's Landing

Date Paddled: September 4th, 2016
Distance: 4.7 miles
Time: 6 hours 29 minutes ( 2.5 hours is more typical)

An overlooked tweener section on the Black River offers rapids, sandbars, gravelbars, granitebars, sandstone outcrops, scenic creeks and more.


Masons Landing to Irving Landing

Date Paddled: July 27th, 2013
Distance: 9 Miles
Time: 7 hours (with lengthy breaks!)

This route starts 4 miles downstream of the Black River Falls dam at Mason’s landing and goes 9 miles to the Irving landing.  You can put in earlier (see map for options), but that would have made a long trip IMO.  You can also take out at the campground (see map), which is close to […]


Melrose Landing to North Bend Landing

Date Paddled: July 28th, 2018
Distance: 10.1 miles
Time: 4 hours 47 minutes (canoers might take 6-8 hours)

A "Wisconsin River Junior" south of Black River Falls with fantastic sandbars, good livery services, and great camping options.  This is one of the better and more popular sections on the Lower Black.


Hwy 53 to Hwy 35 Landing

Date Paddled: September 8th, 2012
Distance: 8 Miles

While the Black River is one of the more popular rivers to paddle in Wisconsin, this downstream section close to the mouth is very rarely reviewed.  You can put in at a canoe landing located at Highway 93/53.  The landing is nice and has parking, but there are no bathrooms and it is a steep […]


Overview Map

Detailed Overview

Headwaters to Neillsville:

  • Upstream of Division Drive:  Likely too many logjams to be navigable.
  • Division Drive to Sawyer Ave:  (6.5 miles)  Rocky and a few light rapids.  Maybe 4 logjams.
  • Sawyer Ave to Hwy 64:  (2.5 miles)  Rocky and a few light rapids.
  • Hwy 64 to Bridge Road:  (14.4 miles)  Solid prospect reviewed by Mike Svob.  Some Class 1 rapids and nice gravel bars.  Intermediate access points at Bahnkes Ave and Hwy AT.
  • Bridge Road to Hwy X:  (6.0 miles)  Little is known of this section…likely pretty simple.
  • Hwy X to Colby Factory Road:  (6.0 miles)  Little is known about this section…likely some rapids and outcrops.  Intermediate alt access points at Hwy 29 and Hwy N.
  • Colby Factory Road to Warner Drive:  (7.9 miles)  Minor riffles prior to Popple mouth.  Afterwards, Hemlock Rapids is Class 2-3.  Alt put-in on Popple River.  
  • Warner Dr to Green County Park:  (3.4 miles)  Good prospect with many Class 1's and a Class 2.
  • Green County Park to Reese Ave/Greenwood:  (0.9 miles)  Mostly open leg, but does include 2 Class 1's.
  • Reese Ave to Twenty Six Rd:  (5.1 miles)
    • Reese Ave to Sladich Rd:  (0.7 miles)  A mostly nondescript wooded stretch.  The exception is Greenwood Rapids where an island splits the river.  The right side is scenic, but the left side has fun Class 3 rapids.
    • Sladich Rd to Willard Rd:  (1.6 miles)  A somewhat slow and relatively uninteresting leg.  Highlights include one nice outcrop, a few gravel bars and a 400' stretch of Class 1 rapids.
    • Willard Rd to Twenty Six Rd:  (2.8 miles)  A great leg with 10 Class 1's and 2 Class 2's.  Highlights also include scenic boulder gardens and a few outcrops.
  • Twenty Six Road to Hwy H:  (5.0 miles)  Multiple Class 1 & 2 rapids. 
  • Hwy H to Grand Ave/Hill Road:  (8.0 miles)  A great trip with several Class 2 rapids and scenic granite outcrops.

Note, for more details on the Upper Black, I highly recommend “Indian Head Rivers” by Michael Duncanson.

Alternate Black River Trips – Neillsville to Black River Falls:

  • Grand Ave/Hill Road to Opelt Road Landing (6.7 miles)
    • Grand Ave/Hill Road to Hwy 10:  (2.2 miles)  Nice section with a handful of rapids.  These are mostly Class 1 at lower depths, but strengthen to Class 2 during high flow rates.
    • Hwy 10 to River Road Landing:  (4.3 miles)  Fantastic whitewater section.  Maybe six Class 2’s and two class 3’s.  Scenic boulder gardens and a few outcrops.
  • Opelt Road Landing to Bryan Ave Bridge:  (1.1 miles)  Not sure there is anything special about this stretch.
  • Opelt Ave Bridge to Hwy 95 (4.4 miles)  Ok…nothing special.
  • Hwy 95 to West Arbutus County Ramp/Hatfield Dam (4.8 miles)
    • Hwy 95 to North Arbutus Boat Landing:  (2.4 miles)  Includes a scenic gorge, boulder gardens and rapids including the Class 3 Red Granite Rapids.  River slows after rapids.
    • North Arbutus Boat Ramp to West Arbutus County Ramp:  (2.4 miles)  A large open water paddle on Lake Arbutus that can feature challenging waves on summer afternoons.
  • Hatfield Dam to West/East Channel Confluence:  0.2 or 0.3 miles.
    • West Dam to West/East Channel Confluence:  0.3 miles.  There is a large boulder field and Class 2 rapids below the west dam.  At the outlet of the west channel is a Class 4 drop.  This is easy to scout and portage.
    • East Dam to West/East Channel Confluence 0.2 miles.  Perhaps the most extraordinary rapids in the state with Class 4/5+ rapids.  The action starts below the dam where steep granite banks narrow the river significantly and force it down deep chutes.  The gorge starts with Class 2-3 rapids but ends with two significant drops.  American Whitewater warns “between the dam and this point lie some serious drops which contain near inescapable boiling cauldrons at moderate to high flows”. 
  • Hatfield Dam Confluence/West Clay School Road to Powerhouse Road Landing (3.1 miles)
    • Hatfield Dam Confluence to Hwy K:  (0.3 miles)  One of the most scenic paddling areas in the state with massive granite outcrops.  There is one set of Class 2 rapids.
    • Hwy K to Powerhouse Road Landing:  (2.8 miles) The first half mile by Hwy K is very scenic and contains one Class 3.  The second mile is mostly flatwater.  The third mile is almost continuous rapids and features one Class 3.
  • Powerhouse Road Landing to Halls Creek Landing:  (4.0 miles)  Scenic section with a few Class 2 rapids and a steep ledge.
  • Halls Creek Landing to Black River Falls Dam:  (6.2 miles)  Wonderful sandstone cliffs.

Alternate Black River Trips – Black River Falls to Mouth:

  • Black River Falls Dam to Mason’s Landing (4.7 miles)  A great little section.
  • Mason’s Landing to Irving Landing:  (9 miles)  A good section.
  • Irving Landing to River Road Boat Landing:  (8.7 miles)  A popular section with nice bluffs and a waterfall by Roaring Creek.
  • River Road Boat Landing to Melrose Landing:  (3.9 miles)  A shorter section but with a really nice rock outcrop before Melrose Landing.
  • Melrose to North Bend:  (10.1 miles)  Likely the most popular stretch with the best sandbars on the river, three sets of outcrops, and a few waterfalls.
  • North Bend to Hwy 53:  (13.3 miles)  Likely a nice paddle with sandbars, large sandbanks and maybe a few outcrops.  Unfortunately it is very long.
  • Hwy 53 to Hwy 35 (8 miles)  A nice section with epic sand banks.
  • Hwy 35 to Lytle Road:  (3.97 miles)  Goes through a protected floodplain forest.
  • Lytle Road to Fred Funk Boat Landing (Mississippi):  (5.0 miles)  Multiple options because of the river delta.

Nearby Guages


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Jun 30th, 2021 - Aaron from Dell Creek
It would be doable...but I wouldn't do the river when it is high as a sit-on will lack the maneuverability to get through the bigger rapids.
Jun 30th, 2021 - Robert Putrich from Joliet, IL
Love the Black River. Have been fishing it on and off over the last 16 years or so. How do you think a SOT would do on this stretch of the river? Thanks!!
Jun 13th, 2021 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks for the kind words! The Lower Black after being high all these years is on pace to be pretty low this summer...this should be perfect sandbar camping season.
Jun 13th, 2021 - Vicki Lynn Ramsay from Kickapoo River
Thank you for such a descriptive and thorough report of the river trips you took! What a joy to read and help me remember my countless trips on the Black River that are now a bit of a blur. Heading out today to do the Melrose to North Bend section, camping on a sandbar somewhere. Your information was so helpful in planning. Loved your pictures and video too! Nice work.
Jul 31st, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Good idea! As for the Black, this is a great section and a great paddle.
Jul 31st, 2020 - Gary Kutzler from Rock river
Definitely on my list. Beautiful area. There are quite a few Amish and Mennonite communities up there, I see signs on the cork-board in some of their stores for rides as some need rides to doc appointments etc.. This could be a good shuttle option.

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

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