Rafting on the Peshtigo River
Class II-III, Class IV in Higher Water
First Drop Rapid
Class II-III, Class
IV in higher water
First Drop Rapid on the Peshtigo
River is a great play spot and a very exciting rapid. For the
uninitiated, this is where you are most likley to flip your raft.
Not to worry, there is a sizeable pool immediately downstream
of the rapid where you can be reunited with your gear. It is
really a blast. It is usually up to you if you flip or not once
you know the rapid.
Some prefer to blast right down the middle
and challenge the rapid outright. That is bold and a lot of fun.
Some of the best pictures and memories come from this. Some might
want to skirt it, but that takes a little effort. Paddle hard
or you wil be headed for the hole.
For it's size, First Drop is a fairly technical
rapid. It is a series of three ledges with a big side curling
wave in the center. The natural flow of the river takes you right
into the hole at most levels. At all but the lowest flows 50%
or more of the boats that go into the hole get buried or flip,
and frequently swims are in order. At some levels it much higher.
Understand, some of us do this intentionally..
After about a mile and a half of rock gardens,
the river turns to the left and then to the right. Just around
the corner is a short stretch of flat water. This is where you
will want to stow gear and make sure your helmet and life jacket
(PFD) are on. At the end of the calm stretch, the river turns
left. This is where you will see the yellow 51 sign. Right around
the next corner is the first drop. You will know you are there
by the horizon line.
When you see the gas
pipeline sign, you know that the rapid is about 75 yards ahead.
The river narrows at the top ledge of first
drop. The majority of water coming over the top ledge goes into
the hole. If you want to go there too, do nothing. Chances are
the river will take you there. Some swim, some don't. That is
the challenge. It makes for some great fun and stories after
the river. Some of the flips can be spectacular, some are hilarious.
If you make it past the hole, there are still
two challenges. One is a seam caused by the water from the hole
folding under the water in the left chute. It makes a deep hole,
and the unsuspecting often get dumped here.
At the bottom of first drop is a backrolling wave that
can catch the unsuspecting boater off guard. It is a popular
surfing hole for kayakers, and some of the guys surf inflatables
in there too. A some levels it gets pretty trashy, and you may
be in for a wild ride.
The trick to not swimming or at least not
going into the hole is to paddle to overcome the current that
is pushing you there. Usually a center entrance is the way to
the hole. If you enter on the left, a rock redirects the water,
and pushes you to the center of the rapid. Call it the redirect
rock. You can enter the rapid here, but you need to paddle hard
to stay to the left. The water will catch you off guard and push
you to the center.
This low water picture shows the redirect
rock. The current turns almost 90 degrees here. If you want to
cheat the rapid, paddle hard and stay left. If you want to hit
the hole, go with the flow.
In this overhead view, you are
entering the rapid at either position 1, 2 or 3. Number 1 is
to river right, and is usually a safe line. Usually.
Line number 2 will take you into
the hole. So will line number 3, unless you paddle hard, overcome
the flow, and run the cheater line.
It isn't as easy as it sounds,
but it sure is fun.
If you beat the hole, watch out
for the deep seam. It will get the unsuspecting paddler.
Another look at it.. #1 is the enterance on
river right. #2 is the redirect rock. #3 is the center line to
just blast the hole. # 4, 5 and 6 is a cheater line that works
in lower water. Number 7 is where you should be taking a breath,
because number 8 is the hole. Between 6 and 8 is the seam.
This picture, one Second Drop picture, and the redirect
rock picture were taken at low water to better show the structure.
Don't look at this and think that this is a mild rapid, The hole
can get 3-6' deep when the water comes up a little, even more
when it is really cranking.
Eventually there will be additional information about
some of the other 6 major rapids on the Peshtigo River. This
is an important one, so it gets far more detailed of a look than
the others will.
This is a tremendously fun rapid no matter how you
run it. Get out ther and have fun!