Another Go at the Peshtigo
If you love rivers you need to experience the Peshtigo. My first experience was some 10 years ago in a two-person raft my wife and I rented at Kosir’s Rapid Rafts, the oldest whitewater outfitter in Wisconsin. We returned to the Peshtigo this past Saturday for another go — Mary in a Kosir’s inflatable funyak and me in a “hard shell” kayak. It was part of the first annual Pesh Fesh, hosted by Kosir’s and complete with public paddling, a kayak race, food, camping and music. If the water level goes above 15 inches, only 8- and 12-person rafts are allowed; no funyaks and two-person rafts. Last Saturday the river level was fairly low (about 6 inches according the gauge painted on the bridge near Kosir’s) which was good for funyaks. Mary and I bumped the bottom a number of times.
The major drops in this section of the river are named “1st drop”, “2nd drop”, “3rd drop”, “Five Foot Falls” and, saving the best for last, “Horse race” — the most challenging rapids in this run. We both managed to stay in our boats the entire 3.75-mile paddle which took us 1 hour and 20 minutes from launch to take-out.
Kosir’s charges $50 per person on weekends and holidays in the peak spring season. Slightly less on week days and later in the season. The price includes your boat, paddle, helmet, wetsuit (the water is cold in the spring), boots and shuttle ride to the upstream launch point. From there you paddle down the river accompanied by Kosir safety boaters.
For more insight on what the Peshtigo means to whitewater paddlers, here’s an excerpt written by long-time paddler and raft guide Sam Schank for DBP Magazine Online.
For myself (and I know I speak for many others as well), there is a special feeling I get when I am on the Peshtigo River. It’s a sort of nostalgic feeling, almost like standing in Lambeau Field, or visiting the farm that my family homesteaded in the 1850s. When I come around the bend of County C road and see the bridge with the vintage kayakers’ water level gauge still marked on it, with Rapids Resort Bar and Kosir’s in the background, I instantly get a feeling of excitement. The smells of the gear room, the ultra-safe guide cabin, pine trees, and cigars all send shivers down my spine as they dig deep into my memory bank back to some of my favorite times. As I walk around, everywhere I look I see places where I had great times with amazing friends, as well as remnants from past generations of Northwoods boaters. The rafting office walls are filled with old school pictures of the people who developed the industry here, each with a story to tell. As you walk up to the guide cabin, my good friend, pioneer of Northwoods boating, and legendary hair boater Rick Klade’s Dagger Freefall (that he made the first descent of Potawatomi Falls on the Black River in) still remains hung on the side of the cabin. If you are lucky, and you spend enough time in Rapids Resort, maybe, just maybe you will have the pleasure to hear about days past on the Peshtigo from the originals, like Tony Guarniere, Ray Booth, Rick Klade, Chicago Mike, or J-Man. On the river, every wave, hole, and rock has a thousand stories. Every hit fills me up with my legal dose of negative ions for another week at work. It is my high, and I would rather die than be without it.
And for still more about the paddling history of the Peshtigo including an interview with Dale Guarniere, river manager at Kosir’s, here’s another fine read from DBP Magazine. By the way, in my video below you’ll see Dale leading the on-shore briefing for his customers.
Here’s American Whitewater’s description of this section of the Peshtigo.