Manitowoc River – Union Rd to Manitowoc River Access Park
The Manitowoc River is a fast moving river with many Class I and II rapids on its descent towards Lake Michigan. It’s the river with the most “action” in the Lake to Lake region.
From Union Road, the river moves at a fast clip with some riffles to start out with. The water moves fast even in areas that do not have riffles or rapids. There’s occasional light rapids up until the confluence with the Branch River. After that point, the river continues to move rapidly with occasional riffles up until Logwood Lane.
After passing the Logwood Lane access, the river picks up with a long stretch of Class I and II rapids. The river passes underneath I-43 which is the most exciting portion of the trip.
After about a couple miles, the pace of the river slows down after an island and a bend near Rapids Rd. The river then passes under Hwy 10 and Michigan Ave. The river continues at a slow pace with a few occasional rapids up until the access park which is at the end of Mill Road.
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Alternative Manitowoc River Trips from the Webmaster:
- Upstream of Collins: The river splits into multiple sections (North Branch, South Branch, Killsnake River, and Cedar Creek). Much of which is navigable but I know little about these parts.
- Hwy PP to Hwy W: 9.0 miles. Technically this upper part is mostly the North Branch. This is doable for paddling, but likely less interesting (broad, straight and slow).
- Hwy W to Quarry Road: 4.0 miles. Likely a simple marsh paddle. Launching from the Collins Marsh dam and Mud Creek is a nicer way to start this leg.
- Quarry Road to County Road JJ: 3.2 miles. Likely a simple, slow, and less interesting section.
- County Road JJ to Leist Road: 2.6 miles. River narrows and becomes much nicer.
- Leist Road to Clark Mills/Dam: 2.2 miles. Shortly after Leist is Upper Cato Falls, which is a fun Class 2 run. After that, the river becomes a slow flowage due to the downstream dam.
- Clark Mills to North Union Road: 6.2 miles. A great section.
- Clark Mills to Hwy S: 2.7 miles. Terrific section with near non-stop riffles, several dolomite outcrops and Lower Cato Falls (a scenic Class 3 ledge).
- Hwy S to North Union Road: 3.5 miles. Good section with many riffles, attractive wooded banks, and a few boulder gardens.
- North Union Road to Manitowoc River Access Park: 11.3 miles.
- North Union Road to Michigan Ave: 9.0 miles. A great stretch with a nearly mile-long section of Class 1-2 rapids under I43. Michigan Ave is a sketchy take-out (you may have to park your vehicle further away from bridge), but it should be doable. For alternate launch options on the Branch River see AmericanWhitewater.org.
- Michigan Ave to Manitowoc River Access Park: 2.4 miles. River is slower with less rapids but should still be nice.
- Manitowoc River Access Park to Lake Michigan/Maritime Drive Beach: 4.5 miles. Nice prospect through downtown Manitowoc. Highlights include the ship building factory, the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, and the mouth on Lake Michigan. If you’re lucky, you can see a ship go under one of the drawbridges. Several alternate landings include Henry Schuette Park and Manitou Park.
One of the biggest tributaries to the Manitowoc River is the Branch River which looks like a good prospect as well.