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Red River in Wisconsin

by  guest-paddler

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

The Red River below Lower Red Lake is an excellent beginner to intermediate run with one of the drops pushing III+ to IV at higher flows. The Red is an old stand-by for the locals when the other rivers are too low or too high. The power plant is always releasing at least a little water at a controlled rate that makes the Red somewhat predictable. Rules of thumb for gauging difficulty are:

1) If the power plant isn't in operation you'll be scraping bottom in a few spots and Monastery Falls will be approx. Class II.

2) When the power plant is operating, look at the rocks immediately below the confluence of the spillway race and the turbine raceif the tops of several rocks are showing, Monastery Falls will be II+ or III, if only one or two rocks are showing Monastery Falls will be a III+ to IV. Approximate times for power plant operations are 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Operations are computer controlled and depend on rainfall upstream.

3) You can also check the Morgan Road Station at flows near 400 cfs indicate the power station is releasing water. Several groups on our first day went elsewhere because the plant wasn't running and the operators in town said it wasn't going to be turned on...they had no sooner left when the horn sounded and the water started gushing. On the second day the turbines were started at 4:30 a.m. at full bore. Excellent run!!!

Nothing is absolute.

We ran the river with a 17' Old Towne Millenium, a 13' Dagger Cypress and a 13' Prijon creek boat. At moderate flows and above you can expect some decent opportunities for a little play action in the holes that form. You can even do some eddy squirts in the outflow from the power station.

There are a couple short drops that can be easily scouted from your boat before you reach Monastery Falls. As you near Monastery Falls you'll be able to easily hear them before the Monastery comes into view. It would be wise to pull out on the right to scout this series of drops. Don't scout from the left side as you'll be in for a big hassle with the landowner. He isn't partial to paddlers and has an elaborate alarm system. There isn't much room to maneuver in this slot. Ski jump the first drop (it's sticky if you don't), stay in control and have fun.

The last drop is at the take out. This is also a hang-out for locals who enjoy swimming and playing at the beginning of the drop. Pull out on the left to scout it. At lower levels the only choice you have is to follow the river to the right after negotiating the initial ledge. The river then turns back to the left. At higher levels you may be able to run the left chute.

Hopefully when you visit you'll have the same luck we did and be in the water when the power plant starts their release.


There are few facilities in this neck of the woods. We stayed at a campgrounds on the lake at Shawano.


Gresham is approx. 40 mi. east of Wausau. At the southern end of town, take Cherry Rd. to the east. In approx. 1 mile you'll be able to turn north to the power station below the dam. This is the put-in. To get to the first take-out continue north another block or two to Butternut Rd. and go east for approx. 1.5 mi to a dirt road that heads south. This is the first dirt road past the monestary when heading east. Park at the end of the road.

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location