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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

Namekagon River, Earl to Trego

The paddle from Earl to Trego can be an enjoyable one on the right day.  On summer weekends, this section is filled with tubers outfitted by various businesses in the area.  Some of the tubers are inevitably drunk and loud.  I have floated this section with youth on weekdays and kayaked it weaving through tubers on a weekend.  I would much prefer a weekday when there is more solitude.  This section of river is well-visited and has campsites along it.

The first third of this section meanders a decent amount and has riffles.  There are also some random boulders in it.  After the first Highway 63 bridge, the river weaves around various sandbars and islands.  It can be very shallow here, but it isn’t too hard to find the main channel and continue downstream.  The river goes under Highway 63 again and is wider here, with solid riverbanks.

The river has many species along it, including pine, tag alder and cattails.  The Trego Nature Trail goes along the north side of the river for most of the stretch south of Highway 63.

The take-outs are obvious – Lakeside Road Landing (river right) and one right across from it near the Namekagon River Visitor Center (river left).  If you continue, there is a take-out at Trego Town Park (river right) or you can go under a very low walking bridge.  This will soon take you under US Highway 53 onto Trego Lake.

There is a great deal of information on this section of the river – Paddling Northern Wisconsin by Mike Svob, Canoeing the Wild Rivers of Northwest Wisconsin and https://www.nps.gov/sacn/planyourvisit/upload/2014-Namekagon-Map2BW.pdf from the National Park Service are great resources.

(This section was most recently floated on July 11th, 2016, right before the flood.)

Namekagon River, Larsen Landing to Hayward Dam

This 11.5-mile stretch of the Namekagon provided a variety of experiences on the river as well as some spectacular wildlife viewing. Along the way, there were fast-moving riffles, flat moving water and flowages/lakes from past and present dams.

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Between Larsen Landing and Phipps Landing, the Namekagon is a swiftly flowing river with some riffles (and a little bit of scarping on the river bottom if you choose the wrong channel.)

At Phipps Landing, the current lows and you head into Phipps Flowage. This is a great area for wild rice gathering in the fall. At the end of the flowage, there is an old dam that paddlers can either portage (on river right) or go over. I always choose to ride over this fun, short drop.

For the next mile, there is some elevation change with more riffles that take you past Trout Run Landing. The river continues to run with current until Eagle’s Landing (not owned by the National Park Service.) Here, it slows and heads into Hayward Lake. Around here, you start to see homes, taking away from the pristine experience of the first 2/3 of the trip.

As you follow the lake, you make a right turn towards the water tower. Once relatively close to the water tower, you will see old posts from what looks like an old pier. If you follow them as if they were an arrow pointing the right way, you will get to the area of the lake where the dam is.

We took out at Hayward City Beach. When taking out there, be aware of a lot of poison ivy right near the motor boat landing. The dam is a little bit further up and can be portaged on the left.

On the day that we did this section of river, the water levels were declining. This section had blue flag iris, tag alder, white pine, horsetail and cattails, among many other plants too numerous to count. The coolest wildlife sighting that I saw was an osprey carrying a fish right over me! Other wildlife seen on my most recent trip was a mama and baby merganser and a muskrat.

 

This section was paddled on July 4, 2016 and took about 3.5 hours in a kayak. The book Canoeing the Wild Rivers of Northwestern Wisconsin has this section of the river in it and maps can be found from the National park Service at https://www.nps.gov/sacn/planyourvisit/upload/NRMap-1Color.pdf.

 

Totogatic River, Duck Dam to Colton Flowage

The Totogatic River is a seasonal river, so finding the right day to paddle it can be hard. It can’t be too low, too high or too frozen. That being said, this section is probably my favorite part of any river I’ve ever paddled.

The river is a wild area with very few houses and a very fun ride if you like rapids. If the water level is too high, it can be dangerous and can destroy your boat or worse. The day that we did this section, the USGS gauge at Leonard’s Landing on the Namekagon River was at 2.165 and the discharge was at 205. http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/wi/nwis/uv/?site_no=05331833&agency_cd=USGS

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There are areas of calm and runs of rapids. Strainers abound so you have to be careful. There are three waterfalls on this stretch – High Falls (~20 feet), Small Falls (~4 feet) and Buck Falls (~15 feet). We didn’t attempt going over any of High Falls and Buck Falls, as it was cold water and they looked dangerous. Portaging was do-able, but there were no trails, we had to cut through underbrush. We did go over Small Falls, and it was a very fun rapid. Here is a video of me going over it: http://www.apg-wi.com/spooner_advocate/multimedia/videos/on-the-totogatic-river-march/youtube_b6d5501e-ec68-11e5-b0eb-2baae0d98d4d.html

The day we chose, the water level was right, but the Colton Flowage was still frozen. It wasn’t sturdy enough to walk on, so we found an old logging road on river right that we walked back to the landing on. This was exhausting, over 2 miles of walking/portaging. Despite this, I would still say it was worth it!

The only book I’ve found with the Totogatic in it is Canoeing the Wild Rivers of Northwestern Wisconsin from the Northwest Canoe Trail Inc. It is informative, but the maps are hard to read and not always correct. In the narrative, Small Falls seems correctly placed, while on the map, it is shown closer to High Falls. This is misleading as Buck Falls is very soon after Small Falls.

 

This section of river was paddled on March 12, 2016

 

Update (July 2016): Colton Dam was destroyed by floodwaters after 12 inches of rain in a short period July 11-12th.  The Colton Flowage no longer exists.