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Black River – Hwy 35

Date Paddled: September 8th, 2012
Put-in: Hwy 53/93 Landing
Take-out: Hwy 35 Landing
Distance: 8 Miles
Water Level: Black River @ Galesville 380 CFS (tad too shallow)

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 decline down to the landing (not that bad).  About a half mile into the trip, you should come to a major fork in the river.  The Black River does something odd here as it divides into two and forms a massive island (five miles long?)  in the middle (called, I believe, the Van Loon State Hunting Grounds).  You definitely want to follow the main channel to the right.  When I went in the summer of 2012, the water level was so low that the left channel was closed by a large sandbar.  The divergence of water here actually gives the Black a smaller river feel as it loses a lot of volume to this and other tributaries (a good thing IMO).   While there are sandbars sprinkled throughout this section, the best are on the first third of the trip (important to consider for lunch).

After you pass the main river divergence, you’ll come across some small bluffs.  Nothing major and can’t compare to the more famous upstream sections but they are nice.

After a couple of miles, you’ll come across a decent sized creek running into the Black and the first of three mega-sand banks.  These banks are quite cool and are the highlight of the trip.  The creek itself is navigable and pretty clean…but I was only able to make it up a little ways before hitting a log jam.

Continuing on with the ‘middle third’ of the trip you’ll encounter the other two mega-sand banks.  After the third bank, the Black splits off into a creek (that goes straight to the Mississippi) and the Black loses a lot of volume.  I didn’t really encounter any serious low water level issues on the first two thirds, but I did have my share of hang-ups on the last third of the trip.  It wasn’t too bad because for the areas where I couldn’t ‘hop’ over logs and had to get out wading was easy because of the sandy bottom.  From what I understand it was much worse earlier during the height of the drought.

You’ll take out on Highway 35 on your left.  Again, nice landing, but no bathrooms.  If you are willing to go four more miles to ‘Lytle Landing’ you can get pretty close the Mississippi.  I don’t know what the river is like down there or if there are any decent access areas on the Mississippi/Lake Onalaska.

Alternate Black River Trips

For a map overview of water trails on the Black River watershed, click here.

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.  Afterwords, Hemlock Rapids is Class 2-3.  Alt put-in on Popple River.  
  • Warner Drive to Hwy G/Greenfield:  (4.4 miles)  Multiple Class 1 rapids and a Class 2.  Alt access at Greenwood County Park.
  • Hwy G/Greenfield to Sladich Road:  (0.8 miles)  Includes a Class 3 in Greenwood Rapids. 
  • Sladich Road to Twenty Six Road:  (4.5 miles)  Multiple Class 1 & 2 rapids. 
  • 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.  Reviewed Oct 2016.

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 Hwy 10:  (2.2 miles)  Section with good potential and several Class 2 rapids.
  • Hwy 10 to River Road Landing:  (4.3 miles)  600′ hike through arboretum trail to reach the water by Hwy 10.  Several Class 2 rapids and two Class 3’s.
  • River Road Landing to Opelt 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.  Partially reviewed in my Wedges Creek Review.
  • Hwy 95 to Russell County Boat Ramp:  (2.3 miles)  Scenic Class 3 rapids in Red Granite Rapids, followed by some slower flowage paddling. 
  • Russell County Boat Ramp to Hatfield Dam:  (2.4 miles)  Probably uninteresting lake paddling on Lake Arbutus.
  • Hatfield Dam to Powerhouse Road Landing:  (3.3 miles)  Popular section for serious whitewater paddlers.  Includes a Class 3 & 4.  Alt put-in by Hwy K. Reviewed by American Whitewater.
  • Powerhouse Road Landing to Halls Creek Landing:  (4.0 miles)  Scenic section with a few Class 2 rapids and a steep ledge.  Reviewed Jul 2017.
  • Halls Creek Landing to Black River Falls Dam:  (6.2 miles)  Wonderful sandstone cliffs.  Reviewed Jul 2013.

Alternate Black River Trips – Black River Falls to Mouth:

  • Black River Falls Dam to Mason’s Landing:  (4.7 miles)  A great little section.   Reviewed Sep 2016.
  • Mason’s Landing to Irving Landing:  (9 miles)  A good section.  Reviewed Jul 2016.
  • 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 Hwy VV Landing:  (10.8 miles)  A classic stretch with three sets of nice rock formations.
  • Hwy VV to Hwy 53:  (127. miles)  Likely a nice stretch 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.  Reviewed Sep 2013.
  • 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.

Alternate Black River Trips – Noteworthy Tributaries:

  • Robinson Creek:  One of the best paddles in all of Wisconsin.  Reviewed here.
  • Halls Creek:  Also one of the best and with amazing sandstone walls.  Reviews: Part 1 and Part 2.
  • Morrison Creek:  Very scenic creek with some fun whitewater.  Reviewed here.
  • Wedges Creek:  Great paddle with amazing boulder gardens.  Reviewed here.
  • East Fork of the Black River:  Some fun riffles and unique granite geology.  Reviewed here.
  • Perry Creek:  Shallow but a super scenic creek.  Reviewed here.
  • Roaring Creek:  Very scenic creek with a great waterfall at the mouth, but might be a challenge to paddle.
  • Dickey Creek:  An intriguing prospect if the logjams ever get cleared out.  Reviewed by American Whitewater.
  • Beaver Creek:  Some fun rapids and amazing sandstone in Galesville, but logjams at the end.  Reviewed by Rick Kark.
  • Popple River:  A shallow whitewater river reviewed here.
  • Vismal Creek:  Super scenic but has a lot of logjams and is shallow.  Requires very high water conditions.
  • Plus countless small creeks that are too small to paddle but quite fun to explore by foot.  If you know of viable paddling options, let me know!  Am very curious to know more about Douglas Creek, Levis Creek, Arnold Creek, O’Neal Creek, Crawley Creek, and Rock Creek.


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How did your trip turn out? Questions? Comments? Or just say hi.

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