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Canoeing and Kayaking

Pine and Popple Wild Rivers

Beautiful scenery and solitude abound on this river system. The Pine and Popple Wild Rivers offer canoe trips of all lengths, from a short two-hour trip around a loop called the "Oxbow" to a full day adventure. River trips also offer an array of challenges, from relaxing quiet water floats on the lower Pine to expert-level whitewater runs on the Popple.

Water levels are critical for an enjoyable trip on either river. When water levels are moderate to high, canoeing can very enjoyable; at other times, it can be a walking experience. The best season for river running, particularly on the whitewater sections, is April through May when the spring snow melts and rains swell the river's flow. An exception is the lower Pine River, which usually offers good paddling into the summer.

When planning a trip, keep safety as a top priority. All watercraft must be equipped with a Coast Guard approved lifesaving device for each person on board; wearing of these devices at all times is recommended. Do not overload your watercraft or paddle beyond your skill level.

Little Bull Falls, Big Bull Falls, Washburn Falls and Jennings Falls are located on the Popple River. Meyers Falls, Bull Falls and LaSalle Falls are located on the Pine River.

Please use portages around waterfalls and rapids!

The Pine River

The Pine River has two different personalities. The playful upper river, above LaSalle Falls, alternates between deep, slow meanders and rapids or falls. The lower river, the last ten miles downstream of the Pine River Flowage, offers relaxed paddling with a steady current and only a few gentle riffles.

Even beginning whitewater paddlers can enjoy the upper Pine River by portaging the more difficult rapids and falls. Most rapids are rated Class I-II. Scout each rapid and falls and portage if at all in doubt about your river paddling skills. Snake Tail Rapids has a portage across private property on the south bank of the river. Meyers Falls is hazardous and is a portage for all but expert whitewater paddlers, approach it with caution. Powerful LaSalle Falls is a 22-foot vertical drop and requires a challenging half-mile portage that bypasses the falls and the canyon. The best portage trail is on the right side of the river. It also offers the best views of the falls.

Please use portages around waterfalls and rapids!

Portions of the middle Pine are wide, shallow and tough-going in low water. To help judge canoeability, a staff water level gauge is located near the State Highway 101 bridge over the Pine River. Look for it downstream on the left side. A minimum gauge reading of one is recommended for a pleasant trip.

The lower Pine River between the dam and the Menominee River is much more accessible and has no major waterfalls or rapids; therefore, it is suitable for paddlers of all skill levels. A very popular trip is locally known as the "Oxbow." Use the put-in at the County Highway N bridge and take-out at the next landing, located about a half-mile north on County Highway N. The river makes a big loop here and the distance of this trip is about 3.5 miles, or about two hours. The convenience here is that only one vehicle is needed for the outing because the take-out is only a 10-minute walk back along the road to the car. In total, there are five convenient access sites on the lower stretch of the Pine River, making for many combinations of canoeing trips.

Pine River Travel Times

Note: Travel times vary greatly depending on water levels.

  • Hwy 55 to Hwy 139 — 15 miles/seven hours
  • Hwy 139 to FS Road 2156 (Chipmunk Rapids) — 6 miles/three hours
  • Chipmunk Rapids to Goodman Grade — 10 miles/five hours
  • Goodman Grade to State Hwy 101 — 9 miles/six hours
  • Pine River dam to County Hwy N — 2 miles/one hour
  • County Hwy N to Oxbow Landing — 3.5 miles/two hours
  • County Hwy N to Ellwood Lake Landing — 7 miles/five hours

The Popple River

Canoeing on the Popple River is much less common than on the Pine due to frequent low water conditions and the portages around its four waterfalls. Typically, the Popple River is not canoeable after mid-May unless there is adequate precipitation. The lower section of the Popple River (downstream of Morgan Lake Road) is the most difficult whitewater on the watershed, and it is recommended only for experts with suitable equipment and skills. Upstream of Morgan Lake Road, paddlers will find easy but shallow and rocky rapids. In general, for a pleasant trip on the Popple, a minimum gauge reading of two at either the State Highway 101 or Morgan Lake Road crossing is recommended. This represents a flow of about 200 cubic feet per second.

Popple River Travel Times

Note: Travel times vary greatly depending on water levels.

  • FS Road 2398 to FS Road 2159 (Morgan Lake Road) — 9 miles/five hours
  • Morgan Lake Road to State Hwy 101 — 5.5 miles/four hours
  • State Hwy 101 to confluence with Pine River — 6 miles/four hours

Rules of the Rivers

The Pine and Popple Wild Rivers project depends on its users for respect and cleanliness.

  • Please keep the wild rivers clean. Pack out all your trash. Provisions do not exist for trash disposal along the rivers or at landings.
  • When using the rivers, respect the rights of other visitors and of landowners along the rivers.
  • Remember, the removal of vegetation, rocks, minerals and wildflowers from the wild rivers is not permitted.
  • Designated use areas are those developed areas such as trails, campsites and picnic areas, or those developed areas or facilities that are inspected and maintained by the DNR and shown on this property map. All other areas on the Pine-Popple are considered undesignated and are not maintained or inspected by the DNR on a regular basis. Please exercise common sense and good judgment at all times when using the rivers.