Wisconsin Whitewater Rafting in Marinette County

The Peshtigo River

Structure and Ratings

The Peshtigo River is world famous for its five miles of continuous class II, III and IV whitewater. The exciting Roaring Rapids section of the Peshtigo River includes three rock garden stretches and six main rapids, including ledges, waterfalls, and the legendary First Drop and Horserace Rapids.

According to the river guidebook "Whitewater/Quietwater", the Peshtigo averages 40 feet per mile of gradient in this section.

Here is an aerial view of the layout of the river.


The Put-In


Rock Gardens


1st Drop Rapid


2nd Drop Rapid


Rock Garden


3rd Drop & Joey's Hole


5 Foot Falls


Horserace Rapid


S-Curve Rapid


Rock Garden


Flat Water


Kosir's Take-Out at Hwy C
(under the bridge)

The two types of rapids on the Roaring Rapids section of the Peshtigo River are the rock gardens, and the ledges or falls. The three main rock gardens provide the technical boater endless play spots, and a great place to practice eddy turns, ferries, peel-outs, and other basic and technical maneuvers.

Rock gardens at low water
This picture was done at very low water to show structure. Usually there is 8"-2' more water, and all but the largest rocks in this picture are under water.

For the weekend rafter, these are splashy fun spots that warm you up for the main event. At lower levels, these rock gardens can get pretty bony, and inexperienced rafters may get stuck if they do not put some effort into steering the boat.

The art of river reading is a must through here if you want to have the best trip possible. I do cover technical maneuvering and river reading in a later section. It is something that will make your trip a lot more fun at any level, but especially at lower water.

The ledges and falls of the Peshtigo are a wild ride. As the water levels rise, huge waves and holes form. Check out Second Drop Rapid at about negative 6" on the left, and at +28" on the right. It goes from a mild slide down the rocks to a huge standing wave. It doesn't seem that impressed by our 16' raft on the right. Third Drop, Joey's Hole, and S-Curve rapids offer similar waves and slides.
Second Drop at minus 8", about as low as it gets..

Second Drop at 28"

The falls at First Drop, Five Foot Falls and Horserace Rapids get huge holes and concentrated currents that push you right into them. First Drop is extra fun at high water (left), and Horse Race base falls at low water (right ).

First Drop on the Peshtigo at about 20"
First Drop

The last of 3 falls in Horserace Rapid at about -8. Usually there is a huge hole and standing waves here.
The Roaring Rapids section of the river, even at low levels, has big enough rapids and waves that one will want either a decked boat (whitewater kayak), an inflatable raft or funyak (An inflatable kayak or ducky), or float bags in a canoe to run it. Open canoes do not fare well on this stretch at all. They almost always swamp, fill with water, and then end up wrapped around a rock like a twist tie. Many canoes have been wrecked here, and many paddlers have taken the walk back. I know, I have given a few lifts, and brought back the canoe.

This looks bad..


The rock that forms the river channel is a granite composite, more specifically a Precambrian crystalline dolomite, and as a result, there is very little water erosion and undercutting. That makes this river a lot safer than some with softer bedrock.

At lower water, the rapids in this stretch rate Class II- III. At levels over about 800 cfs, they rate mostly III or IV. Again, you do not want to take a canoe down this stretch without float bags. If in doubt, raft it with Kosir's first, and see what you are getting into.

Next up, First Drop..

Rafting Page 1.....Rafting Page 2.....Rafting Page 3.....Rafting Page 4, First Drop

Rafting Related Pages and Links

White Water Rafting Wisconsin

Peshtigo River Rafting

Menominee River Rafting

Kosir's Rapid Rafts
Whitewater Rafting and Campground

Wisconsin Whitewater Rafting Blog

USGS Gauge on the Peshtigo River

USGS Gauge on the Menominee River

USGS Gauge on the Wolf River

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