Oronoco Staircase

Middle Branch of the Zumbro at Oronoco: picture taken from Allis Park named after an early citizen of Oronoco.

From the DNR river access in Oronoco below where the dam that created Lake Shady was, one can see an island upstream that splits the current in two. There is potential for ferry and eddy turn practice if there is sufficient water. The parking area, though supposedly public, seems to be absorbed by a local outfitter. There is a wood walkway at the put-in across a muddy area that moves at higher water levels. There is a walking path from here to Allis Park.

Upstream on the frontage road to the west of Rt 52 there is a construction road on river left that loops around and goes under the frontage road as well as both lanes of 52. It looks like it terminates in what may become a parking lot and potentially a launch site. There is potential for some artificial class 1 and possibly 2 rapids here. This is on the South Fork of the Middle Branch. Closest gage records only stage. Now that construction is complete it be be better to park in the lot at Allis Park, portage upstream to near the fork, and play/paddle the staircase section to the river access from where you can return to your car readily.

For a run that requires a shuttle, put in at County 3 bridge upstream river left and ferry immediately across to river right to avoid trees below the bridge. A snag there was enjoyed by an eagle until I scared him off. Park on gravel road 31 near intersection. To put in, walk down the bike trail a ways and take the horse/snowmobile trail to the left just before the bridge.

The North Fork also has some possible artificial class 1 rapids off the campground at Oronoco Park. Most of the year this branch appears dry from highway 52, and the stream improvements from 2018 dropped boulders in the river at inconvenient places. Awkward putin due to riprap, awkward parking at County 31 bridge.

The 2018 restoration plan for Lake Shady is here. Comments from 7/19 are below. This picture shows the big rock in pool 5, and the rock in the middle in pool 6 is a useful level indicator. Note each pool has 4 rocks placed on each side of the pool. Ah, the symmetry of nature!, er, the DNR's nature.

7/19 update: OK, never paddle alone. Don't do what I do, do what I say, ever hear that? Spent about an hour on this stretch each in ww OC1 (Mohawk Probe 12'8") and Jackson Zen 65 kayak. Would guess 300-400cfs, slight bump from yesterday's rain. I parked in the staging area on river left just upstream of the bridge. From there there's a gravel path to the beginning of the staircase. For each run I took out at the 'public' landing below the old dam, left my boat there, and walked back to the truck. I ignored the river closed signs because this time Terry Lee had told me the river was open. At this level I'd consider it class 1 - you can run down the middle basically and do no maneuvering just taking the the chutes you see and bumping occasionally. I paddled up as far as I could on each branch. It may be that they are not creating a parking lot under 52 from the frontage road after all. Generally paddling around can let you find random rocks left everywhere so you sometimes take a stroke and hit a rock that is not visible. I took a picture of the level using a big rock on river right in pool 5 as an index to find another rock on river left - the river left rock had about 2' sticking out of the water. No real difference between the runs although I did find the waves at weir 5 easier to stay on in the kayak than the canoe. Each weir I ran and eddied below it, ferrying around looking for places to surf. Some I ran forwards, some diagonally, some backwards, all deliberately. At this water level everything is predictable but weir 6 has what could be a hole at some water levels I think. Smallest surf wave at weir 9 and that one seemed easiest to stay on in both boats. I'll predict that after a few boats are pinned here that they will remove some center rocks to make the channel more obvious and turn each weir into a wing dam. I took the right side under the bridge and the right of the island after the old dam. Easily paddled around the island and up into the pool on river left. Note the portage which they recently cleared and widened does not connect to the space where I'd parked so there's minimal benefit to using it yet, but it will at some time. And the pop machine at the body shop I walked past doesn't work but eats quarters.

Original Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/notes/2904920426461307 The comments are somewhat interesting, made as the stream renovation continued.