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.


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.


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


Last paddled May 13, 2017



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