Chetek River – Chetek Dam to County I Landing (Red Cedar River) (~5 miles)

The Chetek River is a short river, helping me catch up on finishing a river per year while I live here. Immediately, it was not my favorite, and I’m hoping that the time of year (late summer/early fall) made it so .

We started at the Chetek Dam where it was clear that this wasn’t a particularly clean, healthy river. It was green and smelled green, and with my senses, I could not detect a lot of diversity within the river. I couldn’t see the bottom of the river often, and when I could, there was stringy green algae growing on the rocks.

The river entered the Red Cedar River, which smelled fresh and was much cleaner (at least at this point in the river). At this point, it was starting to get dark and we were nearing the landing.


There was lots of wildlife along this river, includingt deer crossing the river,  kingfisher, ducks and other birds. We saw oyster mushrooms on some dead trees and lots of color in the trees along the shoreline.

thumbnail_Galan Funk farm

Paddled Fall 2017 (pictures from spring)


Namekagon River – Larsen Landing to Springbrook Landing Overnight trip (28 miles)

I recently finished a 5-day canoe trip on the Namekagon with teens. It was a great way to expose them to challenges of the outdoors as well as a beautiful place! I have written of the sections we covered before, so will focus on the camping aspect in this post. All of the sites that we used were group sites and had a fire ring, picnic table and pit toilet.

The first evening, we put in at Larsen Landing and paddled upstream a quarter of a mile. It was a quick current, making all struggle a bit, but the group made it to Site 70.0. The site is on the left (going upstream) and can be hard to find as the sign is pointing upstream for paddlers. The site itself was relatively small with not much space to place four canoes and a kayak. The rest of our equipment fit easily, though a good bear tree was harder to come by. It was a noisy night with lots of coyotes nearby, and was likely my favorite site.

imageThe next day, we paddled ~4 miles to Phipps Flowage and camped at Site 73.6. It was a very rainy evening. Again it was a smaller site, and we were able to stay dry between our tents and a tarp. The picnic table was n an open area, so we were not able to gather at it during the rain (and it was chained down). We pulled one of our canoes to the top of the steep ridge we were on, and were able to stack the rest away from the water at the take-out site. The site was very shady in the morning so most of our belongings didn’t dry out. Bear trees abounded and there was a beautiful meadow down the trail from the toilet.

The next stop on our trip was to portage around Hayward Dam, after ~7 miles. The takeout is on the left side of the river and there is a big sign indicating where to go. It has a steep bank to pull the boats up. The portage itself isn’t too far – maybe 100 meters. We went down the bank by the treeline below the dam. Again, it was steep, with some large rocks to step down. It is definitely a place to be careful. There is another place to put in further down where the put-in is not as steep. It involves more walking.

We paddled ~3 miles to the first campsite past town (Site 63.0). This campsite had lots of space. There was evidence of bears being there are some poison ivy – on the path to the site, near the campfire ring and across the path from the campfire ring. There was lots of space by the river to put canoes and have them tipped onto each other – not a steep bank and lots of space was nice! The biggest drawback of this campsite was that you could hear the nearby lumber mill. All. Night. Long. Beeping from backing up vehicles, a steady hum of industry when you are in the wilderness for peace. I would not suggest this site (and likely the next one either) if you are looking for a quiet wilderness experience, with sounds of nature.

imageOur last full day on the river, we paddled 10.9 miles to Site 52.1. The river is swift here and it doesn’t take too long for over 10 miles. The tricky part of the river was the island right before the site. If you want to go to Site 52.6, make sure to go left at the big island. Otherwise, you will have to paddle upstream a little ways to get to it. Our campsite was great. There was a long path up to it, and it was very spacious. There is lots of poison ivy at this site, especially to the right side of the landing. There is a short stairway to bring boats up and lots of space right by the water to store them. Again, careful of the poison ivy! There are logs to sit by the fire and lots of space for tents. The sun rose over the river and was beautiful!

The takeout our last day was 2.2 miles downstream – Springbrook Landing! The water is swift here and we piled up as we waited to get out. We had to wait for some people moving very slowly to get in while we held on to logs in an eddy. The landing has a staircase, a steep way to get out, and space at the top to put boats. There is poison ivy at this landing too, so look out for it.
Camping with a group on this section of the Namekagon had its’ challenges and upsides. Overall it was a great experience!


Paddled August 8-12, 2017


KeyWords: Larsen Landing, Bayfield County, Hayward


Eau Claire River – Big Falls County Park to Altoona Park

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


West Fork Chippewa River – FR 174/Meadow Lake Road to Moose Lake (11 miles)

imageThe 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:

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

Namekagon River – Big Bend Landing to Namekagon River Visitor Center (7.7 miles)

I have written about parts of this section before; I did more of the river this time and will write about the whole section again. It is the most traveled section of the river, with a few outfitters along the way that rent both canoes and tubes.

The river winds through forest with a few campsites along the way that I plan to use in the future. This section isn’t very challenging but does have some riffles as you first near Highway 63. After the riffles, the river gets very sandy through lowlands and winds around smal islands/ sandbars.  The banks get higher after this area, for the ‘typical’ Namekagon feel.  You might be anle to see the Trego Nature Trail on the right bank, towards the end of the trip.

Along the way, we saw rd pine, jack pine, white pine, ash, whit birch, red maple, northern pin oak, white oak and tag alder. We didn’t see a whole lot of wildlife, but did encounter multiple merganser families!

Wisconsin River – Blackhawk Island (~2.5 miles)

I was asked to teach Upham Woods Summer Camp staff and volunteers canoeing how to teach canoeing to campers that will be coming through the camp this summer and beyond. This paddled trip, as I did it, would have to be done with Upham Woods – you can’t just put in on their property without being on an excursion with them. I thought writing about this route, even though inaccessible as written (unless you volunteer!) would give the full flavor of going around Blackhawk Island. You can find information about Upham Woods here:

The circumnavigation of the island brings you through the Narrows that the Wisconsin Dells are famous for. Starting at Upham Woods, we went north, into the current. It wasn’t too strong, but it you stop paddling, you’ll go downstream. As you turn the corner, to the east, you will see the rock walls that the Dells are known for. When the river comes to a ‘T,’ you have arrived at the main channel. During the summer months, this could be the most dangerous part of the trip. There are lots of tour boats and tourists that go through the main channel, and with the narrow walls, the wakes can be large and unpredictable. Some boats do not slow down for smaller watercraft. As you turn right to go down the main channel (the Narrows), make sure to stay right and that you are aware of any other boats in the area.


Through the Narrows, you can check out the tall cliffs and make sure to look for the first ‘billboard’ on a rock face on the island (right). You’ll have to look back at the walls as you pass to find the advertisement carved into the rock for tour boats coming upstream. After the Narrows, the river widens and there is a public beach on the left. Most beaches that are around the island (including all on the island) belong to Upham Woods – please respect the private property signs. You will turn right, past a beach to go upstream in the side-channel; stay in the part of the river closest to the Blackhawk Island to get back to Upham Woods (or loop back to the top to do the Narrows again).


Along this route, there are sugar maple, red and white pine, red and white oak, paper birch and aspen. There wasn’t much fauna, but we did see mallards and tourists! Blackhawk Island is a WI State Natural Area, and you can find more information about it here:

Photos courtesy of Jonathan Ringdahl



Last paddled June 8, 2017


Yellow River, Green Valley Rd to Swan Bridge Rd. (~4 miles)

image.pngThe Yellow River from Green Valley Rd. To Swan Bridge Rd. Is a slow-moving portionof river, for the most part. The route starts at a bowt landing. The water isn’t moving quickly at all, and you go under the bridge to go downstream. There are wild rice beds that take up much of th river. Early in the season, you can paddle the whole width of the river, but later in the growing season, you will likely have to stay in the main channel.


At the Hector Dam Bridge, the river narrows. Under the bridge, you’ll want to go right into the ‘V’ in the river. There are some riffles right after the bridge that add a little excitement to the trip. The river widens again with more rice beds- a good section to harvest in lat August! The take-out is at Swan Bridge Road where you can park on the side of the road (as you can with Hector Dam Road). We took out on the NW corner of the bridge – a bit of a challenge but it was the best choice.

Along this route, there are yellow iris, cattail, maple and pine. We saw 3 bears up a tree too! (Updated June 14, 2017)

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


Last paddled June 1, 2017

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


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.


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.


Last paddled May 10, 2017