The Totogatic River is a seasonal river, so finding the right day to paddle it can be hard. It can’t be too low, too high or too frozen. That being said, this section is probably my favorite part of any river I’ve ever paddled.
The river is a wild area with very few houses and a very fun ride if you like rapids. If the water level is too high, it can be dangerous and can destroy your boat or worse. The day that we did this section, the USGS gauge at Leonard’s Landing on the Namekagon River was at 2.165 and the discharge was at 205. http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/wi/nwis/uv/?site_no=05331833&agency_cd=USGS
There are areas of calm and runs of rapids. Strainers abound so you have to be careful. There are three waterfalls on this stretch – High Falls (~20 feet), Small Falls (~4 feet) and Buck Falls (~15 feet). We didn’t attempt going over any of High Falls and Buck Falls, as it was cold water and they looked dangerous. Portaging was do-able, but there were no trails, we had to cut through underbrush. We did go over Small Falls, and it was a very fun rapid. Here is a video of me going over it: http://www.apg-wi.com/spooner_advocate/multimedia/videos/on-the-totogatic-river-march/youtube_b6d5501e-ec68-11e5-b0eb-2baae0d98d4d.html
The day we chose, the water level was right, but the Colton Flowage was still frozen. It wasn’t sturdy enough to walk on, so we found an old logging road on river right that we walked back to the landing on. This was exhausting, over 2 miles of walking/portaging. Despite this, I would still say it was worth it!
The only book I’ve found with the Totogatic in it is Canoeing the Wild Rivers of Northwestern Wisconsin from the Northwest Canoe Trail Inc. It is informative, but the maps are hard to read and not always correct. In the narrative, Small Falls seems correctly placed, while on the map, it is shown closer to High Falls. This is misleading as Buck Falls is very soon after Small Falls.
This section of river was paddled on March 12, 2016
Update (July 2016): Colton Dam was destroyed by floodwaters after 12 inches of rain in a short period July 11-12th. The Colton Flowage no longer exists.