Totogatic River – Old Hwy 53/Lakeside Rd. to Smith Bridge (10+ miles)

 

This section of the Totogatic might be my favorite part of a river without rapids. Wild and scenic it is, with some challenges.

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The put-in is on Old 53, which is a bit of a challenge with the high banks. I put in on the Southeast corner of the bridge, which looks do-able until the last moment, where you have to hold onto the boat and climb down the muddy bank at the same time. Slow, balanced moves helped me succeed without falling in.

The first half of the trip was very pleasant, beautiful without too much in terms of challenge. On the whole trip, there were 6-8 logs to go under, most within the first half of the paddle. Some needed the right line of travel and one needs lots of flexibility. This portion of the river was the most shallow, and it looked like it could be traveled in lower water. There were bald eagles, common merganser, kingfisher, wood ducks, mallard and a family of geese crunching through the forest away from the river.

The second half of the trip starts at the convergence on the left with Rice Creek and Gilmore Creek. These look navigable – there is one creek on the left not far before, but it is quite small. There are backwaters after the creeks, and soon the re-finds its path and it widens and deepens. There are some boulders in the river at this point. There are very few human structures on the river. There is only one cabin, and after the cabin are the only riffles on the trip.

Another milestone is Miles Creek on the right – more of a lake, again with backwaters and creeks nearby. At this point, there is more diversity in trees, including Jack pine, red pine and paper birch. There is a hook turn around which I saw much wildlife. A merganser danced for me as it tried to tease me away from its babies; also a muskrat and a family of geese swimming away, then climbing a bank clumsily. The adult goose tried to stay low in the water to not be seen, and once out, the goslings seemed much more likely to get caught as they fumbled upward.

At this point, the water slows and tag alder appear. There were lots of different channels to get to the main lake. I stayed right close to the shore, following what seemed to be the main channel. The beginning of the lake is a tree cemetery and starts out very shallow and mucky, with geese nesting. The lake is much smaller than it looks on the map, probably because the map includes the wetland with the channels going through it. If you are on the right side of the lake, look to 10:00 as you come out onto it. There will be a power line and bridge with no trees near them. This landing provided a nice end to a beautiful trip without too much lake paddling.

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Resources used: Canoeing the Wild Rivers of Northwestern Wisconsin by Gerald R. Lowry

 

Last paddled May 13, 2017

 

Namekagon River, Dam to Phillipi Landing (10.9 miles)

In my opinion, this is the most fun part of the Namekagon! There are multiple runs of Class I rapids on this section, making it thr most challengingsection too.  The day I did this section, the water was on the verge of low, and I have also paddled it in lower water, shoving the boat through sticky parts, and higher water where you can sail right through.

The put in for this section is at the Namekagon Dam. The river starts out calmly, through forests with spruce, arbor vitae, pine and some deciduous trees. About a mile in there is a cabin on the right, and you can see the remains of a foobridge thwt the National Park Service map references. It is st this point that the fun begins, with 7-10 rapid runs in 5 miles. One just has to pick the right route and not hit rocks! There are two other footbridges on this setion, one near a second cabin.

After County M, the river calms again and it isn’t far between bridges/landings. There is one last set of rapids halfway between Cap Creek Landing and Phillipi Bridge Landing. It leads into a quaint, dark lowland evergreen forest thwt I really enjoyed going through.

This portion of river didn’t provide much wildlife viewing, despite being the busy time of year. I did see 2 merganser pairs together, a muskrat, kingfisher and sandpiper. A bright highlight along the shore was the buttercup/marsh marigold.

https://www.nps.gov/sacn/planyourvisit/upload/Namekagon-Map-1-2011.pdf

 

Last paddled May 14, 2017

Namekagon River – Hayward Landing to West River Landing (7.8 miles)

 

The Namekagon south of Hayward is a nice paddle with some riffles and lots of wildlife. The put-in is at the DNR landing below the Hayward Dam, which can also double as a campground. In the first mile, there are some homes along the river. A mile in, there is a large beaver cutting that has to be maneuvered around, the most challenging part of the trip.

The river winds through pine forests and lowalnds with tag alder. Other trees along the way are silver maple and paper birch, some budding out. There are six campsites along this section of river, some of them group sites. We stopped for lunch at the campsite at Mile 61.4. Within a minute of sitting in the grass near the campfire, I had two ticks crawling on my – both wood and deer. There were also what we called ‘pepper mites’ – tiny bugs that covered everything that sat in the grass for a little while, including food – they truly looked like black pepper! We also found a Gyromitra (false morel) mushroom at the site. This is a reminder that these sites are rustic – there are toilets, but without walls, and there is a seat! Other wildlife seen on this secion of the river onclude a bald eagle, common merganser and two swans.

https://www.nps.gov/sacn/planyourvisit/upload/2014-Namekagon-Map2BW.pdf

 

Last paddled May 10, 2017