Kaukauna Joy Ride
Downriver from the power utility dam in Kaukauna, WI, the Fox River passes through a wall-lined channel before exiting downtown. The river then fans out around an assortment of islands, creating creeks and channels before recombobulating to continue its northbound journey to empty into Green Bay.
My original plan for this past Saturday was to join more than 100 kayakers on the sixth annual Appleton Locks Paddle, an event that passes through one of two remaining manually operated river locks in the U.S. However, because of recent heavy rains the Fox River swelled to a dangerously high level for the NEWP-sponsored flatwater event. That event was cancelled, or at least postponed until Oct. 1.
With my Saturday suddenly free, I considered joining a group of paddlers who were meeting in Kaukauna to tackle a different section of the Fox… the whitewater part. Flow through this section is controlled by Kaukauna Utility. To ease potential upstream flooding , the utility released a lot of water Saturday. A LOT of water. Reports put the flow at 6,120 cubic ft./sec. (CFS). For comparison, the average discharge of the Fox is 4,132 CFS.
I kayaked this run once before when the level was considerably lower but I would not have paddled Kaukauna this past Saturday without someone leading the way through the many islands and braided channels. A Facebook group post said Dave Farin would be there. Good. I knew Dave. As it turned out, another paddler I know with extensive knowledge of the Kaukauna runs, Rob Smage (aka Root River Rob), was also there. With Aaron and Brett rounding out our group of five, I was hopeful we would enjoy a great day on the water.
After arriving at the river, Dave and I scouted the scene. As the river rushed by, it formed rollers and tall wave trains. Even though he had paddled here many times, Dave told me he had never run it with the water level this high. Okay… that gave me pause. However, Dave seemed confident enough. High water can wash out otherwise surfable waves, and eddies — those calm spots in the river where you can relax and catch your breath — are likely few and far between. But this past Saturday there were surfable waves aplenty, adequate eddies and crazy creeking. A pure joy ride.
Instead of trying to describe all the features, I recommend this excellent in-depth description provided by American Whitewater, much of it written by Rob Smage.
You can also check out my Xensr 3D motion tracks: