Put-in: Mill Street Landing (by Little Quinnesec Dam)
Take-out: Gravel Landing Near Piers Gorge Road
Distance: 3 Miles
Gradient: 12.5' per Mile
For the most part, despite it’s clean water and scenery, the Menominee River isn’t a super hotspot for canoes and kayaks. The issues are the many dams and the few rough rapids in between. One of the most popular sections is from Niagara, Wisconsin to Piers Gorge Park (roughly three miles). There is a trail system in the park that parallels the river, so kayaking/canoing is an option given careful portaging, but this is not recommended unless you are very skilled. The rapids get to be class IV to V and probably a more preferred solution is to take one of the local raft trips instead.
The one I took was from ‘Kosirs,’ which departs I believe two times a day and reservations are strongly suggested. The best waters will be in the spring when water level is the highest, but then the water will be coldest so there will be a trade off. The first ~mile is an easy float from just below the Little Quinnesec Dam down the river and runs along scenic bluffs. For the most part, my group played in the water while waiting for the current to get them to the rapids. At roughly the start of Piers Gorge Park, the rapids start up…nothing too serious at first (probably class II-III). These can be a problem in low waters, so you want to call in advance to make sure the river is runnable. The rapids are somewhat on and off for the next mile.
The highlight of the trip is the 10ft waterfall near the end. In fact it is such an highlight, our company (Kosirs) brought extra rafts so everybody could run it a second time. On our trip we “lost” 4 people and had a couple close calls on top of that. This isn’t so bad as there is usually calm water after the rapids, and people are easy to rescue. If you take the rafts, make sure you dig your feet under the seat as tight as possible. And don’t sit in the front unless you want to get bounced into the water. The front has no bracing (at least on our rafts) and it is highly suggested that you kneel down instead of sitting.
All in all, a very fun trip that I recommend. Besides the rapids, the scenery from the bluffs, clean banks, boulder gardens and clean water are very nice…and if there were less dams and less extreme rapids…this would be an elite kayaking prospect.
View Menominee River in a larger map