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

DNR Parking Area to Big Falls Boat Landing


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

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 […]

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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 […]

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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.

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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.

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Overview Map

Detailed Overview

  • Ness Road to Wolf River Road:  (2.5 miles)  Interesting prospect but likely a few downed trees.
  • Wolf River Road to Big Falls:  (7.7 miles) 
    • Wolf River Road:  (3.6 miles)  Scenic section with some strong Class 2 whitewater.  Good put-in.
    • Hwy J to Big Falls:  (4.1 miles)  Also scenic and with whitewater, with perhaps a Class 3 by the Dells.  Good launch by Hwy J. 
  • Big Falls Dam to Hwy 110:  (8.7 miles)
    • Big Falls Dam to Big Falls South Landing:  (345')  After the dam is Big Falls, a popular stretch for whitewater paddlers and can be Class 4.  Access below or above Big Falls is available from a landing on the east. 
    • Big Falls South Landing to Hwy C: (1.7 miles) Good prospect which includes "Little Falls" (Class 1-2).
    • Hwy C to Kretchner Road:  (2.8 miles)  A good prospect.  Scenic picture of Hwy C from Google Maps.
    • Kretchner Road to Hwy 110:  (4.2 miles)  A very good prospect with many boulders visible from satellite.  Might be a ledge to deal with. 
  • Hwy 110 to Hwy 22/Symco:  (8.0 miles)  Unimproved bridge put-in but should be ok.  This section likely has some deadfall issues (not sure how much though).
  • Hwy 22/Symco to Manawa Dam:  (5.9 miles)
    • Hwy 22/Symco to Bridge Road:  (2.0 miles)  Looks like a nice section with some rapids and boulder gardens near Symco.  Good put-in at Symco.
    • Bridge Road to Manawa Dam: (3.9 miles)  Likely a mediocre section with some flowage paddling at the end.  Some of the flowage paddling can be avoided by taking out at Waupaca Park.  Bridge Road is a good put-in.
  • Manawa Dam to Road Bb: (3.9 miles)
    • Manawa Dam to Hwy B:  (1.9 miles)  Honestly an uninteresting section with slow current and bland flood-bottom woods.  Aquatic weeds are an issue (thanks to the Manawa Septic plant).  River does get a bit more interesting after the railroad tracks and features a small boulder garden.
    • Hwy B to Hwy 110/B:  (0.9 miles)  A  good stretch with some boulder gardens and good clarity.  There are Class 2 rapids by the "Rapid View" island.
    • Hwy 110/B to Rod Bb:  (2.1 miles).  A great stretch with several impressive boulder gardens and a few minor rapids.
  • Road Bb to Hwy X: (7.6 miles)
    • Road Bb to Royalton: (3.5 miles) Very good put-in.  Nice clarity and boulders until the South Branch joins (almost doubling the river).  Very nice boulder garden and rapids 2/3rds in. 
    • Royalton to Ostrander:  (2.7 miles)  After the brief rapids under Hwy 54/O, the Little Wolf goes back to sleep, with pleasant but monotonous scenery (the highlight being sporadic boulders). Finally, maybe a half mile prior to Ostrander Road, there is another set of rapids (Class 1) and an attractive boulder garden.  Paddlers will have to deal with many tubers.
    • Ostrander Road to Hwy X:  (1.4 miles)  Busiest tubing section probably in the state.  Very nice boulder gardens and rapids at end.  Public landing NE of Ostrander Road.
  • Hwy X to the Mouth (Junction at Wolf River):  (2.0 miles)  Part of the Mukwa Bottomland Forest SNA
  • Mouth to Dey Road/Shaw Road Boat Ramp:  (0.8 miles)  A short stretch on a now large Wolf River.

Nearby Guages

Videos



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

Comments

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
https://www.facebook.com/bigfallskayakrental/ 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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