Namekagon River – Phillipi Bridge Landing to Larsen Landing (~10.8 miles)

The stretch of river from Phillipi Bridge Landing to Larsen Landing was quaint and pleasant to paddle in the spring. The rivers are not up by any means, but there was enough water to get through the whole river, so long as we chose the correct path.

image

Between Philippi Bridge and Leonard School Bridge, there are lots of riffles and Class I rapids. Our kayaks dragged a bit on some of them, but all were manageable. On the Leonard School Bridge there is a sign to portage right. With low enough water levels, we decided to go right under the bridge, ducking and hoping for the best. If someone is in a canoe or isn’t flexible, a portage will be necessary. If the water levels were much lower one would likely get stuck on rocks that are currently riffles under the bridge.

As we neared Pacwawong Lake, the river slowed and at times we ended up out of the main current without a flow at all. The lake was very nice to go through in early spring, as there was little vegetation to direct where the boat had to go. This lake is a wonderful producer of wild rice (some of the best I’ve seen – few worms and the grain taking up the whole chaff) but later in the season, you might have to paddle the path that has been created through the rice, which can make for a longer ride. After the lake is the old Pacwawong Dam. You can portage right here or go over (what was) the dam. It is about a three-foot drop. We chose this option, and it might not be recommended on a cold spring day, as water likely will get in your boat!

After the dam, the river picks up again and is wider than the first section. Below Peterson Bridge, there is a gravel bar in the middle of the river you want to avoid. The river goes past Seeley (you can get out behind the Lenroot Lodge) and then the river skirts the highway. The landing is about a mile past the highway sighting.

The wildlife on this portion of river was alive even on a cold spring day! There were hooded and common mergansers, wood ducks, bald eagles, ospreys, turkey vultures, kingfisher and mallards, all making their flighted appearances at various times along the way. We also saw a muskrat and two fishermen. I will let you decide which was more wild! The flora included many evergreens – spruce, white pine, and arbor vitae; below Pacwawong, there were more deciduous trees that above the lake. There are lots of tag alder along much of the shoreline. A few silver maple trees were budding out and some ground plants brightened the shoreline.

There are various campsites on this portion of the river – 3 small group sites and 3 large group sites, spread unevenly along the shore.

 

Last paddled April 23, 2017

Advertisements

Red Cedar River – Shudlick Park, Rice Lake to Johnson Landing (~7 miles)

The Red Cedar River from Shudlick Park to County W winds through the city of Rice Lake and then through wild land, farms and vacations homes. This section of river is relatively deep and you shouldn’t get stuck.

There is lots of wildlife on this part of the river – I saw a great blue heron, a bald eagle, ducks and fish. There is a variety of plant life as well including ash, basswood and white pine.

 

canoes_on_red_cedarLast paddled September 30, 2016

Niobrara River – Berry Bridge to Sparks Landing (7 miles)

 

imageA getaway from Wisconsin – to the Plains states! On my tour out west, I wanted to discover another National Wild and Scenic River, so my Mom and I paddled 7 miles of it on a beautiful morning. The river is clear with a rocky bottom (sometimes the bedrock) and some plants that streak it green. It looks strange from above. The National Park Service has a list of outfitters that rent canoes, kayaks, tubes and even tanks – plastic cattle troughs – and they will shuttle you (https://www.nps.gov/niob/planyourvisit/privateoutfitterslist.htm). We used Sharp’s Outfitters.

imageimageArriving at 8 a.m. on a fine day was perfect. Any later and we would have gotten too hot; it was warming up by the end even after just 2 hours. There are plenty of waterfalls along the river. The first one was right after our put-in at Berry Bridge. The tallest is at Smith Falls State Park. You have to leave your boat and hike a half mile up to it, a shower down a cliff face – the tallest waterfall in Nebraska at 63 feet. A unique feature of these waterfalls is that the rocks that they are on budge outwards (usually there is an undercut.) This occurs because they are spring fed and water is flowing all year – the rocks don’t freeze and break off.

imageThe river meanders through cliffs and fields, usually with the cliffs alternating sides. Some of the cliffs, particularly on the right, are weeping because the Oglala Aquifer is opened on the cliff face. Allen Bridge is about halfway, and there is a restaurant there. Smith Falls State Park is soon after, with camping.

imageimageThere are riffles throughout the ride, and in August, the river can be very shallow. Try to stay in the current to keep off of sandbars and watch out for rocks.

Our takeout was a little bit past Brewer Bridge at Spark’s Landing, where our outfitter was located. There are a few other landings right after Brewers Bridge that appeared to have camping through outfitters.

The flora and fauna was somewhat similar to the rivers I am used to. There were juniper, ash, red pine, butternut, oak and yucca. On the river, I saw a kingfisher, great blue heron and a prairie falcon with a beautiful cream and spotted belly. Nearby at Fort Niobrara Wildlife Refuge, we saw elk and prairie dogs as we drove through. This is along the river upstream from where we paddled.

imageIf you are in Northern Nebraska, I would strongly suggest paddling this river! It is beautiful and unique, listed by Backpacker Magazine as one of the top ten rivers to paddle in the US, and one of the top 100 adventures by National Geographic!

 

Paddled August 29, 2016

Red Cedar – Mikana Dam to Red Barn (7.4 miles)

This portion of the Red Cedar is very scenic, the best part of the river, in my opinion. The put-in is below the Mikana Dam and it is relatively narrow there, definitely shallow. The river as a whole is pretty wide, though shallow. If the river isn’t high, you will likely get stuck a lot.

The river is fairly uninhabited and winds through forest and farmland. There are a few bridges to go under, including Highway 48. After 48, you don’t have far to go to take out at Red Barn Landing (across the street from the business.) There are a few more landings further down, though it gets quite confusing to tell where you are with the backwaters of Rice Lake. I have also used another takeout on Rice Lake.

There are eagles, deer, ducks and herons on this section.

Resources are http://www.co.barron.wi.us/misc%20docs/maps/redcedarriver.pdf and a gazetteer helps if you want to find other boat landings on or near Rice Lake.

 

Last paddled May 23, 2016

Totogatic River, Hwy G to Old 53(~10 miles)

The Totogatic River from Highway G to Old 53 is a very nice paddle, except for a few parts that make it challenging for those who are less adventurous. The river is relatively narrow and deep (with sand bars on curves) for most of the section. There are some riffles throughout the ride, otherwise the water is slower-moving.

11-tot

Before the Salisbury Road Bridge, there are a lot of downed trees to cross. Another trouble area is a mile or two before Highway 53. The river seemed to straighten out; there were lots of oxbows to either side with lots of standing water, and the flow here didn’t seem as strong. There might have been alternate routes that the water was taking. There were lots of downed trees here that I actually had to portage around, not just climb over.

Other than these two places, while the river has downed trees, most can be paddled under or around, while a few have to be gone over, or you have to drag your boat over a sandbar. The rest of the trip was beautiful, minus the bugs. There were some deer flies and lots of mosquitoes.

11-tot2

There was a lot of evidence of the massive flood in July.  There were banks that had been eroded, trees down, sand deposited on top of the banks, mud on trees, less vegetation where the current had been strong, and a very steep, sandy embankment to climb out at the end.  There were logs that had been shoved up underneath Highway 53 when the river crested, at least twenty feet above our heads.  It would have been spectacular to see the power of the flood in motion, but was cool to see its evidence afterwards.

This section of river has lots of silver maple, some basswood, pine and tag alder. The recent flooding was evident with dirt on banks and shrubs, as well as random deposits of sand. Sensitive fern was plentiful on the shores. Wildlife I saw included young ducks (mallards and wood), kingfishers and I heard an eagle.

 

Paddled 8/7/16

Namekagon River – Springbrook to Big Bend (5 miles)

The trip from Springbrook to Big Bend is a nice one, pretty quick and scenic. There are some riffles that you encounter on this section but they are very manageable.

The land here is lower than much of the Namekagon – much more wetland looking than much of the river with its high banks. There are white oak and tag alder lining the shores and I saw a deer in the river. There are three campsites on this portion of river.

The resources for this section are https://www.nps.gov/sacn/planyourvisit/upload/2014-Namekagon-Map2BW.pdf, Paddling Northern Wisconsin by Mike Svob and Canoeing the Wild Rivers of Northwest Wisconsin.

Wolf River – Irrigation Hole to Highway 64 (3 miles)

From time to time, I will deviate from NW WI and let you in on some other cool rivers where my travels have taken me!

The Wolf River is a fun whitewater river in Northeastern Wisconsin. I floated down the Wolf River for a relaxing afternoon. Two thirds of this section is flatwater. The other third of the river is Class I-II whitewater. One mile down the river, the rapids start. It is a steady descent with rocks to avoid though usually a clear path. The rapids continue around many turns. In Paddling Northern Wisconsin, Sherry Rapids is shown as an ‘Upper ‘and ‘Lower’ section, but it actually ran a half a mile without much of a break, no separate rapids to distinguish. There is an island at the bottom of Sherry Rapids, and soon after, Larzelere Rapids start. These rapids are not very long. It is a little less than a mile to the landing from the rapids.

There are many white cedar in this area. There are a decent amount of tubers on a nice weekend as well (with some drinking.)

Paddling Northern Wisconsin by Mike Svob has a great map of this section.

 

(Floated July 30th, 2016)

 

Rating:

Difficulty: 2

Do-it: 5

Clam River, Ice House Bridge to Norway Point Landing (St. Croix River)

This part of the Clam River is lots of fun and moves quickly, despite the flowage on the map. The only thing that can ruin your trip, depending on the season, is the deer flies.It is about a 15 mile trip.

image

At the put in, I went on the Northwest side of the bridge. There was a lot of poison ivy there. It looked like there were also options to put in on the Southwest and Southeast corners of the bridge. The first third of the trip winds through forests after the Ice House Bridge. As I mentioned, the deer flies were terrible. They buzzed around my head, sometimes landing to bite. I killed at least 10, if not 20 of them throughout the day.

image-2Eventually, the river opens up into a marshy area (with no deer flies!!) I found later when I could see the bridge, that this marsh is actually considered part of the flowage on the maps. The current slows down but is still moving. Once you come to what looks like a real lake, the flowage isn’t that much longer. It is almost cut in half by the Balcom Bridge, which you can see when you come around the corner out of the marsh.

image-3Continue past the bridge and soon the power dam is visible on river right. The portage around the dam is on river right and is signed to go around all of the dam equipment. It is not well-used, though I could tell a few people had been there recently. There is a steep climb down to the river at the end of the portage. Total, it’s probably about a quarter of a mile. This was the one place I encountered mosquitoes. The deer flies also returned here. Once back on the water, only the mosquitoes subsided. This last part of the Clam River was my favorite section of the day, as it was moving quickly again and had some grand white pines to paddle by.

image-4

I could see the flood marks and dirt from two weeks earlier when the area got about 12 inches of rain. It was at least five feet above the current level. The Clam feeds into the St. Croix River at mile S109.3. There is a campsite immediately on the left when you enter the St. Croix. The nearest landing is less than a mile downstream on the right (MN). I opted to go to the closest WI landing. It was 4.5 river miles further, but 14 biking miles (on state roads) shorter.

image-5

The St. Croix is much wider and has islands to go around. You can find a map of it https://www.nps.gov/sacn/planyourvisit/upload/SCRMap-5Color.pdf The river is beautiful and has a very different character from the Clam. It is easy to navigate. On the Minnesota side (river right) is St. Croix State Park.

There are very few houses on the Clam Flowage, and on the river none at all. The houses were also well hidden, and you could find them only because there were boats and docks. The area had sandy soil with basswood, red and white pine, silver maple, jack pine, alder and white oak. The marsh had many rushes, arrowhead and lilypads. Wildlife that I saw included kingfisher, a fish that flipped out of the water, and 2 bald eagles, one of which was fishing on the St. Croix!

Resources you can use are the map above for the St. Croix River and Canoeing the Wild Rivers of Northwest Wisconsin. The portage around the dam is incorrect in the book.

(Paddled on July 26, 2016)

 

Ratings:

Difficulty 2/5 (portage)

Paddle it: 5/5

Lake Chippewa Flowage

The Chippewa Flowage was an unexpected visit for me, after 12 inches of rain caused the Namekagon beyond flood stage. Campsites and a lack of fast-moving water brought another leader, 7 youth, and me here.

There are 11 DNR campsites, six LCO (Le Courte Oreilles) tribal campsites and 1 USFS campsite spread over the 15,300 acre lake. The LCO campsites are reservable and cost $20 for 3 nights. The other sites are free and are first-come first-serve. On a weekend, I would suggest reserving and paying for a site to assure that you and your party do indeed get to camp on the lake.

There are many boat landings around the flowage. We choose CC South because of its central location on the lake. There are many motor boaters that were camping the weekend we went; the first five sites we looked at were unavailable on a Friday afternoon.

image-2

Our first two nights, we did stay at an LCO campsite on Flat Island, a very peaceful portion of the lake, not visited by water skiers and fast motor boaters, only trolling fishermen. The LCO site had no toilet. On Sunday (a less popular day to camp), our other site was at Turkey Vulture Island, the closest site to CC South Landing. One couldn’t see civilization from this site, but there was a small island across from the Flat Island site. With a wind from the west, Turkey Vulture Island was open and gusty. It did have a toilet, which the DNR website said they all do. It also had poison ivy.

image-3

Our paddle trip consisted of explorations of the lake. We checked all of the DNR campsites on the East side of County CC, canoeing near Hell’s Half-Acre. We also canoed to Wagon Wheel Island near the Southeast corner of the lake, near the East Fork of the Chippewa River. There was a campsite here that was occupied and LOTS of poison ivy. Another excursion was an attempt to see Al Capone’s Hideout in the Southwest corner of the lake, but a strong wind from the west deterred us.

Wildlife here was plentiful – loons called each night (including baby loons!), bald eagle, even a raccoon found a forgotten smell-able bag that didn’t make it into the bear bag. Pines and birch cover the forest and I even found chantrelle, yellowfoot and black trumpet mushrooms!

Map reading is essential to paddle this lake, as it is large with lots of islands. You can find a map http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Lands/ChippewaFlow/documents/ChipFlow15Map.pdf and more information on camping here http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Lands/ChippewaFlow/camping.html.

Clam River – South Fork, Burnikel Road to Soderberg Bridge/South Fork Bridge

This portion of river is very wild – expect to climb over many trees on it, and duck under many others. It may not be the right paddle for everyone. The water level will determine how much climbing you have to do. My most recent paddle had the water level at least a foot higher than normal for July and you had to climb over many trees that you could otherwise go under. The high banks make it hard to get out and walk around the downed trees. The recent storm also took down three new silver maple trees towards the end of the trip, creating more challenges. When the water is lower, the limber can duck under most of the logs down.

IMG_0260.JPG

The South Fork is very circuitous and there are a few sections that weave around islands. I did hear a muskrat go into the water. The area is mostly a silver maple floodplain.

This section can be found in Canoeing the Wild Rivers of Northwest Wisconsin. The road maps in the book do not suffice, so I would suggest a gazetteer to get you there.

 

(Paddled July 13, 2016 and August 7, 2015 – took about 2.5 hours in high floodwater. It is about 2 miles.)