Big Rib River – Wisconsin [June 2021]

River Paddled: Big Rib

Trip Date: June 11, 2021

Put In

Hwy 64 Bridge

Side of the road parking, with no landing. The rocks are the best option for what is an unorthodox put in.

Take Out

Amco County Park

A parking lot with good options on the left for a takeout before and after some rapids, depending on your preference.

Paddle Length: 7 miles

Paddle Duration: 2 hours

Gradient: ~12 feet per mile. There is a solid current most of the way with riffles and lighter rapids occurring often and a couple quick Class II rapid runs in the Dells section early on.

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: there is no gauge for this river. It is recommended to check the rapids at Amco Park (enough water to paddle over).):

Our Experience Paddling This Segment of the Big Rib at These Levels

The water level was good in the Dells section of Class II rapids, but other riffly sections had a good amount of rock just under the surface to avoid getting caught up on.

Paddling Experience

Aside from some instances of shallow boulder dodging in riffles, the paddling experience as a whole was great. The river was narrow with a decent to solid current and no major concerns with downed trees to avoid. And there was a nice mix of intense rapids early on with riffles and lighter ones later on.

Natural Scenery

This stretch of river had a natural feel to it. There were only a handful of houses early on and the one bridge right before the park takeout. The water was most often surrounded by woods, with some grass banks in the mix and rock walls in the Dells section early on.


When you see no other paddlers or people in general it's hard to have a low rating in solitude. The lack of human development just added to the feeling while out there.

Hwy 64 - Amco Park

Planning: The Big Rib River is located in north-central Wisconsin and flows southeast into the Wisconsin River.  Mike Svob has two successive trips of the Big Rib River in his book Paddling Northern Wisconsin, which I used to plan for the 7-mile section from highway 64 to county road F.

Paddling: The river has a decent to solid current that stays narrow throughout.  The water level was a good depth but could have been a little deeper for the decent amount of boulders just under the surface in riffly sections.  Last minute maneuvers were attempted but I more often than not ended up grazing over them without much issue.  This all makes for a good paddling experience before even mentioning the fun run of class II rapids in this section.

Rapids: Riffles led up to two strong and steep runs of class II rapids, referred to as the Rib Dells.  The first run was tighter with more maneuvering down steeper drops and angles.  The second run was less challenging and came shortly after, ending with a chute that launched me into the calmer water below.  A mile or so of light rapids followed, with more riffles and light rapids intermittently occurring the rest of the way.

Observations: The river is dark brown but fairly clear.  Not a whole lot of development occurred on this seven-mile stretch of the Big Rib.  A handful of houses were in the first couple miles and one bridge right before the park takeout.  Trees were a much more common sight, lining both banks and often extending deeper.  Tall grass banks and islands were also in the mix, with boulders and rocks throughout and a couple rock walls in the Dells.  As for wildlife, I spotted a couple bald eagles, a goose, and some ducks.

Reflecting: This was a nice paddling experience.  I enjoyed having the Rib Dells class II rapids take place early on and having the riffly to calm waters the rest of the way.  It was over before I knew it, just when I was really appreciating the natural surroundings and solitude as well.  I would definitely recommend this section of the Big Rib river to paddlers and wouldn’t mind taking another run at the Rib Dells at some point.

Here are some pictures from this trip: