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A first timer’s guide to whitewater rafting on Wisconsin’s Peshtigo River

A first timer’s guide to whitewater rafting on Wisconsin’s Peshtigo River

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

By Dorothy Scott

July 8, 2024

Whitewater rafting doesn’t have to be confusing. If you live in or around Wisconsin, enjoy the Peshtigo River to the fullest with our comprehensive guide.

Whitewater rafting is common in the Midwestern and Southern portions of the United States, but we in Wisconsin, in particular, are lucky to have an especially beloved rafting hot spot: the Peshtigo River.

For those who don’t know, the river begins in Forest County before torrenting through Marinette County — including Peshtigo City — and emptying into Green Bay (go, Packers!). What’s more, the Peshtigo River is ideal for whitewater rafting because it contains the Midwest’s biggest whitewater expanses. It’s a go-big-or-go-home situation, and you never want to go home.

When the river exits Peshtigo City, it roars for about five miles before meeting the bay, but in total, it’s 136 miles long — and wow, is there a lot to enjoy! As you may already know, Wisconsinites love camping and hiking along the river, and swimming, boating, and, of course, whitewater rafting are beloved pastimes when the warmer months roll in. (Fun fact: Whitewater gets its name from the current becoming so aerated due to turbulent rapids that it looks white on top  — it’s all in the air bubbles!)

If you’ve never been whitewater rafting — or you’re someone who did as a kid and wants to recreate nostalgia-filled days under the summer sun — you need to know how to get started, which is where we come in. We’ve rounded up everything you need to know before hitting the water, including which companies provide rafting equipment, the essentials you need to bring, how much whitewater rafting costs, and more. 

What is whitewater rafting?

Let’s rewind. Those uninitiated to whitewater rafting might be confused about what this river-faring activity actually is — and there’s no shame in that! Leave the explanation to us.

Whitewater rafting is a fun activity that sees you nestling into a paddle boat to, well, raft down the river, following the water’s rapids to a designated end point (don’t worry — you’re not taking it all the way to Green Bay!). Paddle boat sizes can range widely, including solo boats and ones that can hold up to eight or more people. In most cases, everyone has their own paddle, as a team effort is needed to keep the boat moving in the proper direction (avoiding rocks or other obstacles, not crashing into or accidentally docking at the river’s sides, etc.). 

This isn’t the type of boating activity you should commit to if you don’t like to get wet, either. Though you’re in a paddle boat, the rapids are nearly guaranteed to splash you at some point, so only wear clothes that you’re comfortable sitting in for a while and won’t be upset when they get wet. Your hair is less of a concern because helmets are typically provided by rafting companies and are mandatory to wear throughout your entire whitewater journey. 

What whitewater rafting companies service the Peshtigo River?

Because the Peshtigo River is so long, a couple of service providers operate at various points in its journey from Forest County to Green Bay. 

First, there’s the Peshtigo River Outpost at Wildman Adventure Resort, located at N12080 Allison Lane, Athelstane, WI 54104. Here, rafters can go out by themselves or in groups of up to eight per paddle boat. Reservations are encouraged at the Peshtigo River Outpost, but the facility’s website notes that it will accept eleventh-hour reservations so long as there is an opening. Essentially, reservations appear to be a little flexible, but the only way to guarantee a smooth trip is to book ahead of time.

Second, there’s Kosir’s Whitewater Rafting, located at W14073 County Rd C., Silver Cliff, WI 54104. At Kosir’s, groups of up to 12 folks can raft together, so you can bring even more fun out onto the water. Kosir’s requires you to place a reservation ahead of time, so be sure to plan out your trip accordingly. Spontaneity is fun, but spots will fill up quickly!

Once you’ve nailed down which company you’re going to raft with, don’t forget to check its rules, specifically regarding age limits. Folks must be at least 10 years old to raft at Kosir’s, while you have to be at least 9 to raft at the Peshtigo River Outpost.

How much does whitewater rafting cost?

Whitewater rafting could get expensive quite quickly if you were to purchase your own paddle boat, wetsuit, and life vest, but thankfully, you don’t have to. Both Peshtigo River Outpost and Kosir’s Whitewater Rafting allow you to rent essential gear when you arrive at their facilities. 

In the U.S., rafting prices average from $30 to $110 per rafter, depending on variables such as season — spring and summer prices tend to be different, as we’ll explain momentarily — and trip duration. Half-day rafting trips cost less, while full-day trips cost a little more.

The Peshtigo River Outpost at Wildman Adventure Resort costs more in the spring. The typical day rate is $79, while Saturdays are a tad higher at $89 per person. However, the summer rates don’t reach that same crescendo. Rather, the typical rate is $69 for every day bar Saturday, when it’s $79. Younger folks get a discount, rafting for just $63 (or $73 on Saturdays). 

Similarly, Kosir’s Whitewater Rafting pricing is higher in the spring. You can expect to pay $50 per person from April to mid-May, while you can raft for just $30 from mid-May to November. Do note, though, that the higher spring price includes your wetsuit and booties, while the summer sessions don’t seem to. Fret not, though — wetsuits can be rented for $7, and booties can be rented for $5, mostly evening out the two seasons’ final prices.

When can I go whitewater rafting?

Because whitewater rafting is an outdoor activity, it has limited seasonal availability. The river freezes in the winter, and most folks don’t want to raft in the cold, anyway. (We know we don’t!) As such, rafting season typically lasts from April to October, when it’s the most enjoyable, but some companies run a little later. For example, while the Peshtigo River Outpost runs until October, Kosir’s Whitewater Rafting operates through November. 

How long do whitewater rafting sessions last?

Some whitewater rafting hot spots across the U.S. offer weeks-long rafting trips, but you don’t have to commit to an extensive trip when rafting the Peshtigo. Rather, the Peshtigo River isn’t that long, so its trips are typically only a few hours, meaning you can squeeze one in on a Saturday afternoon or even on a weeknight if you’re, as the kids say, a “cool parent.”

The exact time that rafting trips will last can’t be precisely pinpointed because it all comes down to how, well, rapid the rapids are on any given day. That said, whitewater rafting companies like the Peshtigo River Outpost and Kosir’s Whitewater Rafting have their routes pretty set in stone. In both cases, you can expect a two-to-three-hour experience. 

Is whitewater rafting on the Peshtigo River guided? 

If you’re a first-time rafter, put your fears to rest — your rafting experience will be guided, so you won’t somehow end up off course and you’ll be in good hands should any poor circumstances, such as a boat malfunction or a sudden onset of inclement weather, arise.

Both the Peshtigo River Outpost and Kosir’s Whitewater Rafting have rafting guides. In cases where folks are in big, 8 or 12-person paddle boats, the guide might be in a boat with attendees, but other times, especially in a trip of individual paddlers, the guide will be in their own boat. No matter where they are, though, they’ll walk you through every step of the process — and teach you about the river and rafting, too!

What should you bring with you when whitewater rafting?

The good news is that you can rent most of what you need — think wetsuits — at your rafting facility, which cuts down on the list of items you need to bring. Still, there a few things you should keep in mind.

First — and this might sound silly — don’t forget your phone. While you won’t want to take it on the water, you’ll be able to store it somewhere safe for the duration of your trip, and you would want to have it at the facility in case of an emergency. These trips are safe and, as we’ve gone over, guided, but you never know when an emergency may arise.

In addition to your phone, you’ll want to bring tennis shoes (or some other comfortable, closed-toe shoes). Open-toed shoes likely won’t be allowed in the boat due to safety concerns. Then, you’ll want sunscreen to lather on before setting off down the river. You’ll be spending a couple of hours on the water, and you don’t want to return looking like coral. Speaking of returning, you’ll want to have a change of clothes handy, as you’re guaranteed to get wet to some degree while in the paddle boat. A towel couldn’t hurt, either. Essentially, the few things you need could fit in a backpack, so in terms of adventuring, this is a pretty light lift.

Is the Peshtigo River the only whitewater rafting spot in Wisconsin?

Luckily, no! While the Peshtigo River is a prominent watering hole for rafting, it’s not the only river boasting rafting. The Menominee River, located in the northeastern portion of America’s Dairyland, can also be rafted. In fact, both the Peshtigo River Outpost at the Wildman Adventure Resort and Kosir’s Whitewater Rafting provide rafting services for the Menominee River as well. So, no matter where you are in the state, access to water-bound adventure might be closer than you think.

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.A first timer’s guide to whitewater rafting on Wisconsin's Peshtigo RiverA first timer’s guide to whitewater rafting on Wisconsin's Peshtigo River

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