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Officials urge boaters to use caution as waters rise on Baraboo, Wisconsin rivers

July 20, 2019 GMT

Sauk County Emergency Management officials are urging residents and visitors to use caution if they decide to take part in recreational activities on the Baraboo River this weekend.

Heavy rainfall Wednesday and Thursday night prompted a flood warning for the river in Sauk County until 7 a.m. Tuesday. A statement on the department website indicated officials are concerned for people who choose to canoe or kayak on the river.

Sauk County Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Jelinek said water levels are likely to rise quickly and officials would prefer “if they don’t have to be out” that people stay out of the water entirely until the flow has subsided. The water is expected to rise by 7 feet over 24 hours, Jelinek added.

“We want people to use caution,” he said.

One of the primary concerns with paddlers on the water is that people could get out onto a relatively calm river only to get caught in a fast and rising current. Even those with intermediate experience kayaking or canoeing can find it difficult to navigate rapid-like water conditions.


Jelinek said the county does not anticipate any homes will be flooded due to the rising water, though there may be some flooding on roads. According to the warning issued just before 3 p.m. Friday, the river east of Baraboo was above 15 feet at 1 p.m. The flood stage is 16 feet and minor flooding is forecast. The water likely will continue to rise until it peaks at about 18 feet during Monday’s early hours and fall below flood stage by early Tuesday.

According to the National Weather Service, the Baraboo River near West Baraboo is anticipated to reach nearly 8 feet by noon Sunday, with a flood stage of 9 feet. It was slightly more than 5 feet at 1 p.m. Friday.

On Thursday, Columbia County issued a slow/no wake order for Fox River and Swan Lake to protect boaters’ safety in light of high water levels. The order is in effect until further notice.

According to the weather service, higher water levels also have been recorded on the Wisconsin River at Portage. It was at nearly 12.5 feet at 2 p.m. Friday, though minor flood stage is at 17 feet. The impact of both rivers rising will be water reaching the gravel of the interstate ramp to Cascade Mountain Road. If that happens, widespread flooding of farmland is expected.