Little Wolf River

This is one of the great paddling rivers of central Wisconsin.  Highlights include multiple Class 2 rapids that are a lot of fun.

Trip Reports

Ness Road to Wolf River Road

Date Paddled: October 2nd, 2021
Distance: 2.5 miles
Time: Expect ~90 minutes

This is an obscure stretch of the far upper Little Wolf.  While it doesn't have as many boulders and rapids as its more famous downstream neighbors, it's still a nice paddle.


DNR Parking Area to Big Falls Boat Landing

Date Paddled: May 15th, 2013
Distance: 7.5 Miles

The Little Wolf is one of the nicer rivers I have kayaked.  It has very nice scenery.  The forest is healthy and filled with ferns, hemlocks, and wildflowers.  Bird life is abundant.  There are several boulder gardens with some very large boulders.  Throughout the stretch, there were numerous riffles and a couple of rapids to […]


Wolf River Road to Big Falls Public Access

Date Paddled: June 22nd, 2014
Distance: 7.8 Miles
Time: 7 hours

This is a nice scenic river in which the whitewater is the highlight (or low-light). During the weekend of this trip, most rivers in south and central Wisconsin were flooded or too high to paddle (ironically, the Fever River was one of the exceptions).  One water trail on my prospect list that caught my eye […]


Wall Street to Kretchner Rd

Date Paddled: October 9th, 2021
Distance: 4.4 miles
Time: Expect 2 hours

This was the best 2021 paddle to date and is one of the premier paddles in central Wisconsin.  Highlights on this obscure stretch of the Little Wolf include fun rapids, incredible scenery, and huge granite boulders that dwarf a kayak.


Kretchner Road to Hwy 110

Date Paddled: July 22nd, 2022
Distance: 4.5 miles
Time: Expect 2-3 hours

This was a great trip with many scenic boulder gardens.  Rapids on this stretch are mild and suitable for beginners.  While nice, this leg isn't as top-notch as the Little Falls or Big Falls legs located upstream.


Sturm Memorial Library to Cty Road Bb

Date Paddled: August 29th, 2020
Distance: 3.9 miles
Time: Expect 2 hours

While not the best stretch on the Little Wolf, it was a pleasant paddle.  Highlights included large boulder gardens and long flowing strands of potamogeton.


County Road BB Launch to Hwy X

Date Paddled: July 4th, 2016
Distance: 7.7 Miles
Time: 3 hours 26 minutes

An ok stretch but not in the same class as neighboring water trails.  Some fun rapids and boulder gardens, but the sheer number of tubers was an annoying distraction.


Overview Map

Detailed Overview

Nearby Guages


0:02 - Log jam at launch
0:55 - Start of mile long rapids run
6:57 - Low hanging limbs in rapids
13:15 - Another low hanging limb over rapids
13:41 - Down tree over class 2 rapids
15:10 - Picnic Ledge
16:15 - Final Section of mile long rapids/Hwy J
17:50 - McNinch Road Rapids
18:44 - Toughest rapids with strainer
19:42 - Little Wolf Dells
22:14 - Big Falls Pond flowage & attractive granite
23:27 - Big Falls Dam


Jul 2nd, 2022 - Aaron from Dell Creek
I bike shuttled! I'm a big fan of bike shuttles. Otherwise you would likely need to bring a second car and car shuttle.
Jul 2nd, 2022 - Mary Iqbal from Madison
First thank u soooooooooooo much for the absolutely invaluable information on your site!! The links to google maps in particular snd the pictures! My question is… how do you get your boat up and down fro The car by yourself!
Nov 3rd, 2021 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Wilderness Tsunami 125. They still make it...but the new version is a bit bigger and heavier. I like the old version better.
Nov 2nd, 2021 - Lana McCarthy from Token Creek
Can you provide me with the make and manufacturer of the red kayak you show in your pictures.
Oct 10th, 2021 - Eric Guderyon from Wingra Creek
I did a short section from Big Falls to Kretchner Rd to 10/4/21, and had a fantastic time. The water clarity as well as the scenery were outstanding. (Unfortunately my camera died just after this trip, and I have not been able to retrieve any of the photos) The highlights of the trip were the numerous boulder gardens, especially impressive were many car sized boulders in and along the river. There were many small riffles and rapids as wellas a couple of decent class l rapids, and one good drop (class 2?). The river was rarely 1-2 feet deep and the rapids were fairly boney so probably not a river to do if you worry about putting a couple of good scrapes on the bottom of your boat. The trip was about 4.7 miles and took me just under 2 hours, but I was taking a lot of pics and playing in some of the rapids, so I would think 1.5 hours would be more typical. I did a bike shuttle, it was about 3 miles, and took me about 15 mins. The google maps will direct you to go on Hwy C all the way, but be sure to take a little detour to stop in the “town” of Little Falls to scout the rapids under the second bridge. Debris tends to accumulate here and you will want to check to see which of the three routes under the bridge are runnable. The town is really little more than a bar that used to be a resort, but there are some kitschy things to check out, a kinda scary suspension, mini zoo with peacocks, rabbits, and a few cages with…..(nothing I could see) and no signs, as well as something that looked like a hairless deer or a newly shaved llama??? The bar was closed and there was no one around to ask. The forecast was for rain on the day I paddled so I did this short trip, if I did it again I would continue another 4 miles down to Hwy 110 Put-in/take-out There is a small parking lot on Power House Lane, which is just south east of the Dam off hwy G. There is a small trail that leads to an easy put-in spot, there is also a porta-potty by the parking lot. The take-out is at Kretchner Rd, on river right just before the bridge. There is a small field with a partial driveway, I don’t know if it is OK to park there, but it appears to have been used to load boats in the past, and there is plenty of space to park along the road and by the bridge.
Aug 2nd, 2021 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks for all the information. The map/gallery hybrid idea is really cool!
Aug 2nd, 2021 - Eric Guderyon from Wingra Creek
We did the trip on 7/28/21,We did Ness Rd to Big Falls, 11 miles it took us 4.5 hours with a 1/2 hour lunch stop and many stops for photos. No blockages or portages and the levels seemed perfect, but unfortunately the USGS gage has be "discontinued" so it is hard to say what the level was. There is a good visual gage at Wolf River Rd bridge, on the upstream side there is a rock in the middle of the river, just the tip was showing when we did this trip (see photo). The parking lot for the put-in is not right on the river but just down the road, but there is room to pull over to unload. There is plenty of room for parking at both parking lots. We car shuttled but I have done it as a bike shuttle, a few hills and a county highway, but the shoulder is OK and there is not much traffic. Probably not a trip for absolute beginners, but I think anyone with decent boat skills would enjoy this trip at this level. I would rate the rapids as mostly class one with a couple of low class ll's, I was in a open solo canoe with no floatation, and my friend was in crossover kayak without a skirt, I got splashed and he got a couple of lapfulls, but nothing too serious. I used the Relive app to document the trip, here is a link to the video
May 28th, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks for the comment. Class ratings are indeed subjective. I think at the time there was a tricky set of rapids going through a partial logjam that I thought was a Class 3. I assume that is clear now. The other 3 was the Dells. While in most cases high water makes rapids more dangerous in some cases it does reduce their difficulty as they tend to get "filled in". That could be the case here. I'll have to do the Little Wolf again in the future and give it a fresh assessment (this review is 6 years old and likely outdated).
May 28th, 2020 - John Koeppe from Sugar River
Thanks for a nice review of the Little Wolf. Your description is for the most part quite good. I agree strongly with you about wearing a life jacket and keeping it fastened snugly. A part of your description that I would disagree with is the rating. You say that the L Wolf has parts that are Class III in high water. There is nothing on the Little Wolf that is class III, even in high water. My wife and I have run it as high as 1200 cfs on the Royalton gauge, and it was still class II. When the river is high (1000+ cfs), then the rapids before the Cty J bridge become about 1.5 mi of continuous class I and mostly class II - which would (as you note), not be recommended for a rec kayak. Even the 'dells' near the end is class II at high water. Whitewater boats and skills would be recommended for those levels. Another note on the gauge: As you know that gauge is well downstream, and thus only a good approximation to the water levels on this stretch. We've run the river when the gauge said 1000 cfs and actually had more water on this run than another time when the gauge read 1200 cfs.
Jul 5th, 2017 - Jamee Hubbard from Plover River
Correction to my last submission: the drop was not with the Hwy B bridge but instead was before Hwy 110. There is an island there, with rapids and a drop on both sides, with the right (west) side seeming more wide open and more easily navigable and the left side having more boulders to navigate.
Jul 5th, 2017 - admin
Thanks for the update! I'll have to check it this upstream section and it sounds really nice.
Jul 5th, 2017 - Jamee Hubbard from Plover River
We paddled the Little Wolf with our 7 and 10 year olds, from Manawa to Hwy 54. Manawa was a great easy put-in; Hwy 54 has a trail on the SW side of the bridge that leads to a small road-side park. We had to carry our kayaks up the trail, which is fairly steep. We were new to rapids, and our kids were new to maneuvering around boulders. The kids had been on plenty of inland lakes and a pretty easy section (Iverson Park to McDill Pond) of the Plover River before, so we thought that they (and we) were ready for that next step. There was a sizable (for us) drop under Hwy 10 that we didn't expect, so we didn't take chances with the kids and decided to portage it. There is an island there, with rapids and a drop on both sides, with the right (west) side seeming more wide open and more easily navigable and the left side having more boulders to navigate. On the next set of small rapids, not associated with a bridge, one of our kids panicked (it was our first time navigating any rapids), and he ended up against a rock and capsized his kayak. One of us was able to wade through the water (not too fast for this) and get him and his kayak. Bilge pump was very handy! My 7 year old did fine, but by sheer luck! As we paddled through the slower areas, we talked more about looking farther ahead and what to look for to determine where to go through the rapids. On the next couple of rapidy areas, they did a great job, better than me, even! I would say for kids that mostly like a relaxing paddle and fishing but enjoys the occasional excitement of small rapids, this is a great spot, but for kids that like that adrenaline rush (my 7 year old) and get bored with too much flat water paddling, this river is almost too sluggish. He enjoyed the rapids and maneuvering around boulders but got bored on the slow parts. It was also a long paddle for kids. Even my other kid that likes the relaxing steady paddling was getting tired by the time we got to Hwy 54. Just an FYI, our kids were using 8 foot Pelicans that originally had no foot braces, but we installed aftermarket foot braces in them to give them more leverage. I think without these, the kids would not have been able to do this entire river. These little 8 foot kayaks are obviously not the most expensive kayaks, but for our kids, we have found them to be stable, trustworthy, and very easy to maneuver around boulder fields and through rapids (with foot-braces were installed). As far as OUR (the parents') experience, we though the river was really beautiful, the rapids and riffles were fun (and we now have the confidence to do the first drop next time), and the 8 miles and 3 1/2 hours was just right for us recreational kayakers (but we paddle every weekend). My arms were getting a bit tired by the time we got to Hwy 54. It was a great first experience for anyone new to rapids. I hope this helps anyone considering this part of the Little Wolf River, especially with kids! I also forgot to mention that the river gauge was at 433 c.f.s., which worried me, but it ended up being just fine.
May 31st, 2017 - James Welch We are open hope to save you the shuttle hassle $2 a mile $10 to wolf river rd.
Jun 4th, 2016 - admin
Ugh...I messed up. The correct put-in is actually Wolf River Road, which I have subsequently updated.
Jun 4th, 2016 - Jamie from Little Wolf
You said you put in at McNinch Road Public Access and traveled 7.8 miles. McNich road is only maybe 1.5 miles of river prior to Big Falls. Is there another access point called McNich that is much farther up?

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

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