Manawa to County Road X:
Great for beginners, this mostly flatwater stretch does offer some riffles and a manageable drop, but this section of the Little Wolf is more peaceful than exciting, despite being a popular tubing destination.
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆
Trip Report Date: September 11, 2011
Riffles + Class I
Gauge Recorded on this Trip:
Royalton: ht/ft: n/a | cfs: 280
Royalton: Gauge discontinued in June of 2020.
This is the recommended minimum level. In general, we recommend a minimum level of 250 cfs. Water levels on the Little Wolf really depend on which segment of it you’re doing. Are you paddling the Big Falls area or the Manawa area? Because there are rapids and a pretty good gradient in the former, less so in the latter.
Time: Put in at 12:15p. Out at 3:30p.
Total Time: 3h 15m
Miles Paddled: 12.25
What we liked:
Having paddled one of the fantastic whitewater sections of the Wolf River, I was curious about what the Little Wolf would offer, a much tamer tributary. There are a lot of physical similarities like long stretches of beautiful boulder gardens and some nice little drops but much less current to play in (as to be expected). I only knew of the Little Wolf River until recently but got some great information from Mark at WiPaddle. The section I paddled was based on Mike Svob’s Little Wolf River 2 write-up in Paddling Southern Wisconsin and it was a remarkably accurate assessment of the trip.
I decided to take out at Highway X which is the privately owned Wolf River Campground. I had heard (and Mike makes a note in the book) that they require a fee to take out there. I figured I’d stop, see how much it was and if it was to exorbitant I’d take out at the Ostrander Road bridge. The Campground is something else (it’s basically just waiting for a party) with a bar, beach and a huge gaming area. I asked the girl in the office how much it costs to take out there. She had no idea what I was talking about and had never heard of that. She asked if I had my own life jacket or if I needed a ride but since I didn’t, she didn’t think it was a big deal. She tried calling the owner (or somebody) but wasn’t able to get an answer. So I started my trek to the put-in (half expecting to get hassled when I took-out there but it wasn’t a problem). That’s not to say they don’t charge a fee (so do stop in and ask). I got the sense that she had no idea what was up.
I put in at Highway 22 in Manawa. It’s not real obvious where you head when you pull in near the dam. Continue through the parking lot, past the warehouse toward the baseball diamond and you’ll spot a very easy access point. From the put-in to Highway 110, the water was slow going with a lot of weeds and algae. The current felt slow but it was a peaceful paddle. There is an occasional riffle and only one slight drop with some rapids.
From Highway 110 on, it’s a rollercoaster of riffles, some rapids and as Mike puts it “long peaceful sections” which really felt like flat water paddling without much current. The lows of the rollercoaster are really sustained slow sections. When the South Branch of the Little Wolf enters, it’s a long 3-mile paddle to Royalton with very little excitement. Along the way I spotted (a few hundred) turtles, frogs, fish and of course one water snake to make me feel uneasy.
At the Ostrander Road bridge, you’ll be greeted by group after group of people tubing their way down to Wolf River Campground. It is a very beautiful section and worth paddling if you don’t mind some company and interesting “conversation and greetings” as you make your way.
What we didn’t like:
This is a long day paddle and the first couple miles aren’t very exciting. It could have been the water level but the current really did feel slow. Oh, and the water snake.
If we did this trip again:
I would definitely put-in at Highway 110. There is a nice little park with easy access. It would shorten the trip by about 2.5 miles but from there to Highway X, you’ll get the best of this section. Further upstream, there is more whitewater if you’re looking for a little bit more excitement (refer to Paddling Southern Wisconsin’s Little Wolf River 1).
Miles Paddled Video: