Waupaca River

This is one of the great paddling rivers of central Wiconsin.  Highlights include scenic boulder gardens and fun (mostly) safe rapids.

Trip Reports

Hwy 161 to Amherst Dam


Date Paddled: September 14th, 2013
Distance: 6 Miles
Time: 3 hours 20 minutes

A tributary to the Wolf River, this is a very nice river/stream that is often overlooked because of its popular neighbors (Little Wolf/Waupaca/Crystal/Wolf/Plover).  The Tomorrow never gets very big before it gets to Amherst and “magically” turns into the Waupaca River (an oddity, as Rivers don’t usually change names like this).  Despite this being September […]

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Mill Street in Amherst to Otto Road


Date Paddled: August 26th, 2018
Distance: 7.0 miles
Time: 6 hours 23 minutes (3.5 hours would be more typical)

One of Central Wisconsin's finest paddles with plentiful rapids and clear water.  The highlights are the boulder gardens which are among the best in the state.

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Buchholz Road to Stedman Park


Date Paddled: August 13th, 2016
Distance: 6.0 Miles
Time: 4 hours 54 minutes

An overlooked section of the Waupaca that offers amazing scenery, gorgeous boulder gardens and fun rapids.

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Hwy Q Canoe Launch to Brainard's Bridge Park


Date Paddled: July 13th, 2014
Distance: 7.8 Miles
Time: 5 hours 14 minutes

A classic water trail in central Wisconsin, the Waupaca River is a great prospect with striking boulder gardens, great water quality, and fun/safe riffles.  The river starts close to the city of Stevens Point and winds east before emptying into the Wolf River.  I’ve actually paddled the Waupaca before…well, kind of.  Last fall, I paddled […]

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Overview Map

Detailed Overview

Nearby Guages

Videos

For best quality, view in fullscreen and 1080p!"

Note, the videos are out of order. The first set are from my camera then at 8:20, Corbin's videos are shown:

Comments

Oct 3rd, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks for the update Sarah. That might be one of the better fall water trails in the Central Wisconsin.
Sep 26th, 2020 - Sarah from Waupaca River
We did this section of the river today, 9/26/2020. Water level was probably on lower side but we did not have to get out at all. Impressed with the path that someone clearly made through the deadfall with a chainsaw - it was not an issue, no portaging necessary. The last stretch of this (last mile?) was the best - the boulder gardens and white pine and fall colors were beautiful. No issues with takeout at Otto Road.
Jul 20th, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek
That's great news! The Waupaca did endure some nasty wind storms...and this stretch is truly special. It does amaze me that the nearby Crystal River is packed with a crazy amount of people when the next door Waupaca is just as scenic.
Jul 20th, 2020 - Jane Dumke from Mill Creek
We did from Amherst to Otto Road today and it was absolutely awesome. No other paddlers, not a single Portage was necessary, as someone had cleared a path through all of the snags. Not a paddle for novices, but we are far from expert, and still had a blast navigating through and around all the cut areas and the boulder Gardens. I couldn't get the grin off my face.
Jun 28th, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks Eric for the update. Note NOAA has taken over some of the gauges discontinued by USGS. For example the Waupaca gauge can be found at: https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=grb&gage=wpcw3 Your trip was done at 2.59' which should be roughly 600 CFS (which yeah is high). Unfortunately NOAA usually doesn't use CFS...so I'll have to convert all my estimates to feet eventually). Great to hear you didn't portage...I feared the worst after last year's storms.
Jun 28th, 2020 - Eric Guderyon from Wingra Creek
I did this trip on 6/25/20 with a bike shuttle. Since the USGS is no longer operating a gauge on this river I don't know the exact level, but I think it is safe to say it was high as there had been a decent amount of rain in the last week, the river looked high, and the few fisherman we saw all agreed it was relatively high. We had a fantastic trip, the water was surprisingly clear, rootbeer colored, but clear. The current was fash, bordering on pushy, but as there were no complete blockages, it was just challenging in a fun way. There were several tight duck unders, and a lot of maneuvering around and through branches, trees, and other obstacles,in a pretty decent current, so we needed to stay on out toes and have good boat control, but we never had to get out of out of our boats. A great trip, but probably not for beginners or longer boats. The trip took us about 2 hrs and 15 mins, and the bike shuttle was about 25 mins with the only big hill being right at the take out. The next section down looks intriguing including a class II-III drop at the DD Bridge/Steadman Wayside park that looked runnable at this level
Jun 10th, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks for the updates and pictures. So you put in upstream of what I did...yet didn't have any logjam issues which is great news. I'll have to put the Tomorrow River on my "redo todo" list...
Jun 10th, 2020 - Eric Guderyon from Wingra Creek
I did a slightly different section of this trip (Rolling Hills Rd to Cate County Park) on 5/21/20 and would highly recommend it to anyone. The river is pretty enough to keep experienced paddlers happy and easy enough that beginners should have little problem. There is an easy put-in on river left on the downstream side of the bridge, there is shoulder parking for several cars as seems to be a popular place for fishing and kayaking/canoeing. There were no blockages thanks to the obvious work of other working to keep the river clean. There is one really low farm bridge that required an easy portage. Lots of wildlife with the highlight being eagles on and near a nest just before the take out. The take out at Cate park is easy to miss so be sure to check it out during the shuttle, or as someone had done when I was there to a piece of flagging/marking tape on a tree. Taking out at Cate park saves a boring paddle on the flowage, and since it is right on the bike trail makes for an easy bike shuttle. The trip took about 2.5 hours and the bike shuttle took about 25 mins with a stop for ice cream. Here is a link to some of my photos from the trip and the shuttle https://1drv.ms/a/s!AjC8S6n5i35Vggdp5IuMqYModZxY
Jul 29th, 2019 - Aaron from Dell Creek
That stupid storm caused so many problems...many rivers in central Wisconsin are in bad shape because of it. I appreciate your update.
Jul 29th, 2019 - Marty Anderson from Yellow River
My wife and I ran the section of the Waupaca from Keener Road to Otto Road on July 29, 2019. The storms from a bit more than a week ago really changed this section. Many, many downed trees that you have to portage around. It was still fun, but a lot of work. I would avoid this section of river for now.
Sep 25th, 2018 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Appreciate the update!
Sep 24th, 2018 - Jon from Starkweather Creek
Paddled this stretch on 23Sept2018, 320 CFS at about 2ft. Good level, only minor scraping. Minor dodging of trees and rocks, but didn't need to exit our boats. Aside from blue herons and kingfishers, we didn't see much wildlife. Nice paddle, but next time will likely combine it with Little Wolf and/or Crystal River for a two day trip.
Oct 5th, 2017 - admin
I don't know myself. I think it would be doable, but likely taking out at the lake would be a better bet.
Oct 5th, 2017 - Eric G. from Wingra Creek
Can you take out at the bike trail?
Apr 27th, 2017 - admin
Hi Aaron, The Upper Rock (both branches) have some whitewater which I've reviewed before. For more classic whitewater, you'll want to migrate to central Wisconsin. Most rivers there have at least some whitewater. The lower Eau Claire would be a great starter prospect. When you get more experience you could take on the upper segments. For serious whitewater, checkout: https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/state-summary/state/WI/ . Another fun option is the whitewater park in Wausau during a release which can be a great learning experience.
Apr 26th, 2017 - Aaron from Near Puchayan river
My wife and I are looking for a few good spots to kayak with rapids... We just got whitewater kayaks and have been training to use them. Do you have any recommendations near puchayan that would be worth checking out? Thanks!
Oct 5th, 2015 - admin
Thanks for the reply Tim. Glad you enjoyed the trip as yeah it was cold this last weekend. I will respectfully disagree in regards to taxing paddlers. In my opinion a nice natural area (lake, river, forest) is a public good. What makes it special is not proportionate to the amount of user fees it generates (be they hunting fees or otherwise). Devil's Lake for example was cool before any human experienced it or "improved it". Hunting also differs from low-impact sports in that it creates a void when a fish or animal is caught, and thus in my opinion needs to be treated, regulated and rationed quite differently than an activity that leaves no impact on a state natural area (like kayaking). Iowa and Minnesota require paddlers register their boats over a certain length, but to me that seems overbearing and discourages a sport that more should be encouraged to partake in.
Oct 5th, 2015 - Tim M from Baraboo River
Thanks for the review of the Tomorrow River. We enjoyed kayaking from the Mill to the State trail this past weekend despite temperature in the 50s and windy but we also were able to stay out of the icy cold water. You do have to know how to steer your boat around obstacles though. We were able to kayak under the cow bridge! I would make a comment about the "rant" of the above reviewer regarding fishing potentially taking prioroity over kayaking. As both a kayaker/hiker and a hunter/fisherman, I do know for a fact that 98% of the money and efforts put in to the conservation of wild areas in WI come from hunters and fishermen, not we kayakers and hikers. I am a freeloader, even when I am on public land where hunters and fishermen are not allowed yet they exist because of the dollars and efforts of these sportsmen. Perhaps it is time for we kayakers and hikers to also buy an annual license and pay taxes on our kayaks/gear to help fund the conservation efforts of hunters and fishermen in our state?

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

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