East Fork of the Chippewa River in WI

I will be canoeing the East Fork of the Chippewa River between Glidden, WI and the Chippewa Flowage in Rusk County WI in two weeks. Has anyone canoed this before? If so, I am looking for put-in and take-out locations, tent sights, portages, rapid locations and outfitters who will provide shuttle services. Thanks.


Check a Guide Book?

– Last Updated: Apr-10-12 1:24 PM EST –

See if you can get your hands on a copy of Mike Svob's book, "Paddling Northern Wisconsin". I believe a good portion of the Chippewa River is described there. Perhaps there's an online site with info on the river, just as there is for the nearby Flambeau (I think the Flambeau is a more-popular destination, but the Chippewa also should be pretty nice in the stretches not affected by dams).

A Wisconsin gazetteer . . .
will show boat landings.

Solid black boat Icons indicate a ramped landing.

Black outline boat Icon’s indicate a hand-carry-in landing.

I just did some online scouting

– Last Updated: Apr-11-12 1:42 AM EST –

Mike Svob's book does not cover this river. It only covers sections of the main river, downstream of the Chippewa Flowage. I just looked at online air photos of the section you wish to paddle. Though there are numerous locations having a house or two, small clusters of houses (and near the end of the trip, whole lines of river-front homes), it's mostly very remote. I want to go there myself now! I was also pleasantly surprised that in spite of all the little lakes along the way, there's only one dam to cross.

I don't guarantee that my air-photo observations or the road names noted below are totally accurate, but here are some things I wrote down while checking out this stretch of river.

This trip looks to be 50 to 55 miles, and based on your questions I hope you know what you are getting into and are allowing enough time to run the whole thing. After checking it out by means of air photos, I'll bet that the average novice paddler would find 15 miles per day to be more than enough, and many people would find 10 miles per day to be plenty. However, it looks to me like the first 7 to 8 miles downstream of Glidden could take most of a day even for experienced paddlers/bushwackers on account of the narrowness of the stream and the thick woods. The river is actually barely visible from the air for significant stretches here due to tree cover, and there appear to be numerous cut-off meander channels in the woods. Based on my experience in similar rivers, I think there will be LOTS of downed trees to cross in that section, which is why I expect that the first 7 to 8 miles is likely to be VERY slow going. The section between Glidden and the first crossing with Bay Road looks to be the worst. The stretch from the first crossing to the second crossing of Bay Road looks a whole lot better, but still "moderately bad" with several crossings of deadfall almost certainly being necessary. This is also worth noting because if any paddlers on your trip are novices, these deadfall crossings may be a disaster in the making (more likely just a dunking rather than true danger, but if there's rain soon, maybe the current will be strong enough to pin a boat), and if nothing else, progress will be painfully slow (crossing downed trees quickly is a learned skill, but can still be a royal pain, especially with gear-laden boats). If at all possible, you should take a walk back there. If you had the chance to do some scouting on foot for a while, you might decide to chop about 12 or 13 miles off the beginning of the trip by moving your put-in to the second crossing of Bay Road. Of course, I could be wrong. Nothing beats seeing it first-hand, but that's my first impression of that stretch as it appears in the photos.

Once the river enters National Forest land, you can technically camp anywhere you wish, but much of that stretch will be swampy or very brushy. How you like that sort of thing will depend on your view of "camping". However, I saw what looks like a National Forest vehicle campground right alongside the river at the end of Forest Road 1285. Also, check out Forest Road 602 a few miles farther downstream, but I think that one just leads to private cabins.

In the central portion of the river, the channel is mostly fairly wide (so there's no concern for blockages caused by downed trees) with a sand-and-gravel bottom, and those parts look deep enough for easy paddling, but there are lots and lots of shallow riffles scattered along the way. If the water levels up north are as low as ours are down south, you really owe it to yourself to do some scouting of at least a couple of these riffle areas before committing to a multi-day trip. You could spend a couple of hours on your first day driving and scouting, rather than paddling. It could be wasted time, but it might also save you more time than that used to check things out by helping you decide what part of the river to run. Or, maybe you can schedule a daytrip or two, just for scouting purposes.

The section just east of the dead end of Forest Road 169 appears to be quite rocky. I see no real riffles among the boulders, but in times of low water I would not be surprised if you have to do some walking through there. That's one place you could drive, then take a short walk to check it out.

It looks like there're some shallow riffles just upstream of the Highway GG bridge. Take a walk 500 to 1300 feet upstream from there and check it out. See if it looks like you can get a canoe through without walking. Beginning about 3/4 of a mile downstream of the Highway GG bridge there's a stretch of riffles that's a few thousand feet long. That stretch should be gangs of fun if the water's high enough, but not so much if it's too shallow to float your boats. I think it would be worth it to walk back a ways to check out, at least to see the beginning (nearest part to the road) of that stretch.

Farther downstream, you could check out the river just east of the dead end of North Tower Road. The river splits around two tiny islands in a row, and some of the passages look to be only 20 feet wide, all of it very rocky. This would be a relatively easy portage, so I wouldn't make scouting this spot a priority. It would be interesting to visit prior to paddling if you have the time though.

Check out the riffles just upstream of the dead-end service road above the dam at Fish Trap Lake Road, also called Forest Road 1661 (walk just a little farther upstream than you can see from the end of the dead-end road). That's a spot that will give you an idea about how runnable the riffles of the central section of the river will be. There are a great many similar riffles not far upstream of the dam, but they are likely to be similar, from the looks of them on the air photos. ** Actually, now that I think about it, I think the dam was wide open when the air photos I looked at were taken, with no backup of water upstream. In that case, there'd be no point in scouting this location if the dam were functioning. **

It looks like there's a short, river-wide, easy-but-turbulent section just north of the dead end of Heikkinen Road, but it looks like private property there so you might not be able to go take a look at it. I wouldn't make it a special scouting trip in any case.

Downstream of Hunter Lake I see nothing but flatwater.

East Fork
The Chippewa’s East Fork is one of my favorites. We show a large segment of it on our River Trails of Northern Wisconsin DVD guide book.


Mark is the guy…
Check out his video and comments…

thanks Mark
That may be just what I’m looking for. I’ll order a copy today!

I got it!!
I just received my copy of River Trails of Northern Wisconsin, WOW! The footage and scenes of the rivers is incredibly, artistically done! So many rivers to choose from too. It’s hard to decide which one to do first. I think I’ll try the Bois Brule soon.

Bravo Mark, your work is an indispensible source of information!

East Fork of the Chippewa River in WI
Does it have the East Fork of the Chippewa River in the DVD?

a section of it. They show putting in at Stockfarm Bridge and ending at Highway GG. It looks fantastic! They even show an encounter they had with a family of otters. They also do a section of the main river farther downstream. It looks like a beautiful part of the state. I can’t wait to experience it for myself.

Old thread, but thought I’d give an update, because outside of Mark’s films this is the only piece of info I could find on my quick search before we paddled it. Here’s what we did.
Put in Glidden, Sat, 4/1/17. From there to first E-W Bridge, downed trees every so often, but never onerous. Right after bridge that is N-S a bit south of Shanagolden is a beautiful little canyon with a nice C1 rapid. (Google and WI Gazateer show different road names) FS Campsite at Stockfarm Bridge is closed, but still worked. Put in there, Sun, 4/2/17. Lots of C1s scattered along, from first E-W bridge to Cty GG. all pretty short. All few miles past Cty GG begins Borkenhagan Rapid - so announced by a sign tacked to a tree. It runs 2+ miles of C1s, with gaps in between. We took out at Blaisdell Lake after 40+ miles paddled and 30+ miles bike shuttled. River was high due to spring and lots of melting ice, but nowhere near flood. It would be much less enjoyable in low water.