Flow Rates around the Great Pinery Heritage Waterway

Flow rates play a crucial role in determining the conditions of rivers for canoeing, kayaking, and paddling activities. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced enthusiast, being informed about flow rates is essential for a safe and enjoyable experience on the water.

USGS Hydrograph

NOAA Hydrograph

USGS Hydrograph

NOAA Hydrograph

River conditions and water levels

The Wisconsin River is subject to fluctuating water levels influenced by rainfall, dam releases, and other natural factors. Understanding water levels, typically measured in cubic feet per second (cf/s), is crucial for planning trips and ensuring safety. Here’s a breakdown of water levels and corresponding river conditions:


  • <3,000 cfs: Shallow river, ample sandbars; suitable for maneuvering downstream.
  • 3,000-10,000 cfs: Typical summer conditions, numerous sandbars, easy navigation.
  • 10,000-15,000 cf/s: Limited sandbars available; camping spots may be scarce.
  • 15,000-17,000 cf/s: Few sandbars, limited camping options; caution advised, especially for inexperienced paddlers.
  • 17,000-20,000 cfs: Scarcity of campsites, most sandbars underwater; overnight trips not recommended.
  • >20,000 cfs: Challenging conditions, no sandbars available for camping.

Background information

Understanding the relationship between flow rates and river depth is crucial for assessing safety and suitability for paddling. High flow rates indicate pushier and potentially more dangerous river conditions, while low flow rates offer gentler currents and ample sandbars for camping. Flow rates above 17,000 cfs on the Wisconsin River may render camping trips unsafe, while flow rates below 10,000 cfs provide ideal conditions for paddling.

Water alerts

Utilizing resources like the USGS WaterAlert feature allows paddlers to receive real-time updates on water levels, enabling better trip planning and monitoring of river conditions. By setting up alerts based on specific parameters, paddlers can stay informed about changes in water levels and make informed decisions about their trips.

Understanding flow rates is essential for safe and enjoyable paddling experiences. By staying informed about water levels, interpreting flow rate guidelines, and utilizing resources like water alerts, paddlers can plan their trips effectively and mitigate risks associated with fluctuating river conditions. Whether navigating gentle currents or facing challenging rapids, awareness of flow rates is key to enjoying the beauty of rivers responsibly.

Live flow rate data for each trail segment

Hat Rapids Dam to King’s Dam

Camp New Wood County Park to Alexander Dam

Alexander Dam to Riverside Park Landing

Riverside Park Landing to Brokaw Mill Landing

Brokaw Landing Mill to Gilbert Park Landing

Gilbert Park Landing to Oak Island Park Landing

Oak Island Park Landing to Rothschild Dam

Rothschild Dam to Chuck’s Landing

Chuck’s Landing to Lake DuBay Dam

This water trail is made possible by generous donations from local organizations and community members. Learn More →


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