The Eau Claire River, at least this section (the first I’ve done of it), is very different than any other Northwest Wisconsin River I have paddled. It reminds me much more of the lower Wisconsin, tough less developed and more quaint.
We put in at Big Falls County Park (you do have to pa a fee to park here.) It is a walk down from the parking lot, with a nice view of the falls. Lots of people were out enjoying the river and falls that day. Both the trees and sandbars make this river seem out of place in the north. The river has sandbars around every turn. Some are more substantial than others and could likely be camped on. (Do not take my word on this – I didn’t look into it and am not sure). We definitely stayed on one of the sandbars during the thunderstorm that came through the area during our paddle.
As you get closer to Altoona Lake, the current slows. The lake itself is very shallow and was full of green algae the day we went. There is a landing on river right before the lake. We took out at Altoona Park Beach on the left side, about halfway through the lake. (You have to pay to park there too). The map showed one more landing on the right, close to the dam.
There was much wildlife on the river. The thing that stood out to me was that there were so many river birch. They lined the river much of the way – more than I’ve seen on other rivers. There were also silver maple, jack pine, white birch and basswood. The bird of the day was the kingfisher.
Last paddled August 6, 2017
The West Fork of the Chippewa River was an adventure I took with a Natural Resources Foundation (NRF) field trip led by the Couderay Waters Regional Land Trust.The leaders taught us about fish populations here (we got to participate in seining fish) and some history of the river. I would highly suggest a trip with the NRF if you get a chance: www.wisconservation.org
This section of river has lots of flatwater and some class I rapids. Certain sections of it have lots of boulders and there is one large erratic in the river. The rapids would be more fun with higher water levels than we had. They did mention that a decade ago, the water was two feet lower, which probably made the river impassable at times. On this section of river, we saw kingfisher and two snapping turtles creating more turtle eggs, tumbling in the water as if in battle.
As the river nears Moose Lake, it turns into more of a flowage, slowing a lot. Moose lake isn’t very developed and has a unique population of hemlock and cedar on its banks. Other trees that were along this route were maple, tag alder and white pine. At the end, we were against the wind going across the lake, which made for a long last stretch after a too-sunny (and not enough water) paddle. There is a bridge to go under to enter the larger part of the lake before you reach the final destination. I had hoped that the bridge would be the dam we were taking out at! We took out at Louie’s Landing, a private resort.
Resources used: Wisconsin Gazetteer, guides from Couderay Waters Regional Land Trust.
Last paddled July 15, 2017