The Brill River is likely on of my favorite paddles (so long as there is high water), except that there is a bunch of cattle wire to duck under throughout the route. The river meanders through forests, a quaint little thing that provides intimacy and nature that many other rivers this far south do not.
The river must be at the right height – with rain earlier in the week, we decided to go, and it was as close to perfect as we decided it could b – high enough to clear most sand and rock bars and low enough to make it under cattle wire. The first time we saw fencing was right before the railroad bridge – there were bison in the river with fencing to keep them on their land. (At first I couldn’t tell and was worried that we had to cross under to join them.) It was actually super cool – the bison got out of the river, herded up and sauntered away. There was something so right about it – something silent, yet thundering; to experience what the land once held, the sound of them joining together to leave a threat behind. I entered a previous era briefly, and as soon as I realized what had happened, the river pushed us away from the bison and the history of the land, back to the present.
Soon after the encounter with the bison, there were two sets of two wires. If you stay towards the edge of the river, the wires are usually higher. A bit later, two wires went across the river to the left of an island – I would suggest staying right of the island. Near 26th Ave., there was another set of cattle wire. Before 25th Ave was a pair of cattle wires, and after the bridge and around the bend is a long wire. In total, there are 7-9 wires (the exact number blurs in my memory after so many of them.) One or two of them had been cut, so more or less may appear on the river when you go.
Sometimes, the river seemed trashier than other rivers. There were metal cans near bridges and docks – we thought they might be minnow containers? Sometimes other things were washed down river and stuck under bridges.
This river joins the Red Cedar River, which we took two bridges downstream, about 2 miles. A map for this river can be found at: http://www.co.barron.wi.us/misc%20docs/maps/redcedarriver.pdf
Flora on this river included tag alder, sensitive fern, jewelweed, enchanted nightshade (and a ton of it – more than I have ever seen on riverbanks), white birch, red maple, white pine, skunk cabbage, tamarack, marsh marigold, blue flag iris, yellow flag iris, and dock. Animals included green heron, a juvenile eagle, red-winged blackbirds, blue jay, killdeer, crayfish, mayflies. The bottom of the river was a mix of rocky muddy and sandy.
Paddled June 9, 2018
Pictures courtesy of Carl Cooley