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.
August 22nd, 2022
Expect 3-4 hours
This is a combo trip on the Popple and Upper Black Rivers. While it started a little slow and uninteresting, it ended on a great note with a lot of fun whitewater. By my count this trip included over 34 pitches of rapids! Read More...
June 5th, 2021
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. Read More...
October 9th, 2016
4 hours 14 minutes
A wonderfully scenic trip on the Upper Black River with plenty of whitewater and attractive granite outcrops. Read More...
June 8th, 2019
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. Read More...
June 27th, 2020
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. Read More...
August 1st, 2020
Expect 90 minutes
One of the best water trails in Wisconsin with spectacular scenery and top-notch rapids. Read More...
July 23rd, 2017
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. Read More...
July 13th, 2013
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 […] Read More...
September 4th, 2016
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. Read More...
July 27th, 2013
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 […] Read More...
August 27th, 2023
2.2 miles (+1.9 mile Roaring Creek side trip)
Expect 1 hour
A surprise landing closure resulted in a shorter than expected trip. This was a still a nice stretch with large sandbars, a few micro-waterfalls, one large sandbank, and an opportunity to explore nearby Roaring Creek which lives up to its namesake. Read More...
July 28th, 2018
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. Read More...
September 8th, 2012
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 […] Read More...
June 11th, 2023
Expect 2 hours
The second to last stretch of the Black features some fantastic sandbars, but it can get very shallow. Read More...
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 Popple River Mouth: (7.9 miles) This stretch has far fewer rapids than downstream legs with only a few minor rapids. It should still be pleasant though.
- Popple River Mouth to Reese Ave: (5.3 miles)
- Popple River Mouth to Warner Drive: (1.0 miles) This is a slower and less interesting stretch, but does include 4 Class 1's and scenic Hemlock Rapids which are Class 3.
- Warner Drive to Greenwood Park: (3.4 miles) A good leg with many rapids (3 Class 2's and 17 Class 1's).
- Greenwood Park to Reese Ave: (0.9 miles) A slower stretch with just 2 Class 1's. Part of this passes through the community of Greenwood.
- 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 Lost Falls Campground (2.3 miles) A popular stretch. Highlights include a few small outcrops, two tiny waterfalls, several impressive sandbars, and one large sandbank. A side hike to Roaring Falls can be arranged. Note Lost Falls Campground is private and you must purchase a pass from them to use their access.
- Lost Falls Campground to Grinde Landing: (6.4 miles) A popular section with some nice outcrops and a waterfall by Roaring Creek. Wolf Creek may also have a cool slot canyon. The river splinters into multiple channels, some of which may be quite shallow in later summer. As of 2023, Grinde Landing is closed because somebody stole the owner's deer stand.
- Grinde Landing to Melrose Landing: (3.9 miles) A shorter section but with a really nice rock outcrop before Melrose Landing. As of 2023, Grinde Landing is closed because somebody stole the owner's deer stand.
- 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: (4.0 miles) Goes through the Van Loon Floodplain Forest. This can be a shallow trip but features many nice sandbars.
- Lytle Road to Fred Funk Boat Landing (Mississippi): (5.0 miles) Multiple options because of the river delta.