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: 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


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: http://fyi.uwex.edu/uphamwoods/

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: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Lands/naturalareas/index.asp?SNA=77

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

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.


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

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