Totogatic River, Duck Dam to Colton Flowage

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

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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.

North Fork, Clam River (County EE to second crossing of Sand Rd)

The North Fork of the Clam River on County H in Washburn County may look very tempting from the bridge, but it is not worth the effort put forth to paddle it. The planned route was about 10 miles from the trout stream parking on County EE (just West of County H) to County B.

I wouldn’t suggest this portion of river to anyone. As I was doing it in the spring, the water was ‘high enough’ but the river/stream is definitely not particularly navigable. The trip involved lots of dragging the kayak across rocks (no amount of scooting would get me down the river.) When the water was deep enough to paddle in, the tag alder bowed over and into the river making it a fight from above to go downstream (or not end up in each and every shrub.) I had to duck under them, some pulling water, dead leaves and what I came to call ‘tag alder spiders’ all over me. I am not afraid of siders, but this experience was a little bit much.

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I did meet two fly fisherman along the route. One of them told me that he had never seen someone paddling on the river in 30+ years of fishing there. At that point I was still in good spirits and thought that was odd. The other fisherman said that I was on the horsehoe turn of the river and would cross Sand Road again in a long while. I don’t think I quite believed him how far it was to get back to where I had been, half a mile down the street. I definitely believed him when I came to the next road, only to look left and see where I had last gone under a bridge was not far at all. I had crossed this road a few hours earlier and had only gone 1-2 miles. https://www.google.com/maps/@45.7305221,-92.1369357,14z

I ended up taking out at Sand Road’s second crossing with the North Fork of the Clam River after about 7 hours, 4 miles of paddling, due to frustration, being covered in spiders and dirt, dragging my kayak and ducking under the tag alder. This portion of the Clam River was very difficult and wouldn’t be a good potion to paddle.

The redeeming part of the trip was the blue damselflies that flitted near the shoreline for a lot of the trip.

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East Fork Chippewa River, Stockfarm Bridge to County GG

The Chippewa River from Stockfarm Bridge to County GG is relaxing but offers some gentle rapids for those looking for some excitement.  This trip takes about 5 hours in a kayak, give or take, depending upon water levels.

The first half of the trip to the bridge at Birkholtz Cut-off Road/FR 162 is easygoing and pretty calm. In lower water, there are a few sets of class I rapids/riffles. After the bridge, before Bear Lake, the river is calm; it widens and slows down.

We used a gazetteer to map our route with no other sources to tell us where to go. The river looked like it took a sharp right, right away on the lake. Don’t be fooled! Go straight across the lake, and the river continues there.

Towards the end of this section, about halfway from the lake to the bridge, are a few sets of rapids, between class I-II in medium high water. The longest stretch is approximately 200 meters long, right before the takeout bridge at County GG. For those who have run rapids before, they are completely doable, but they might scare some beginners.

There is diversity in flora and fauna along this portion of the Chippewa River. The forest starts with tag alder, white and red pine during the first half. Below Bear Lake (which has horsetail and wild rice) it is mainly a lowland silver maple forest. The fauna includes the interesting bobbing tail of the spotted sandpiper, river otter, beaver, muskrat, fisher, deer, turtles, leopard frogs, bull frogs, swans, wood ducks and many other birds. If you are a fisherman, there are large bass to catch. A note of caution – if you end up swimming in the river, there are leeches as well!

There is camping at the put-in. Camping is allowed anywhere on National Forest land, technically, but choose a spot that allows you to practice Leave No Trace!

 

(This section was paddled May 29-30, 2016)