Help - Our first canoe trip

Hey Everyone,

I’m very new here, and also new to paddling. My cousin and I are planning our first trip down the Namekagon River and joining up to the St. Croix for a short length at the end. We are planning to start at the County K landing, and ending at either Riverside, Yellow River or Thayer’s Landing depending on what kind of time we make.

Even though we’ve both canoed on the lake, I wouldn’t say that either of us are experienced paddlers. We’re not planning on using a guide, but we have been reading up on the river and it seems to be pretty good for beginners… nothing over Class I rapids in our stretch, and the river is not high. I have read tons of the very helpful articles on this site, and also been through everything the NPS has on the river at We’re both excellent swimmers, but certainly plan on wearing our PFD at all times on the river. (I at least figured that out!)

My question is this: Is this a recipe for disaster? Can you lend us newbies any tips or advice?

Thank you!

Good choice
I’ve paddled this river from trego to Grantsburg. It’s a nice float and well set upfor canoe tripping.

Water levels should be rather low right now through late summer so you won’t have any hairy rapids to negotiate.

Thanks for the reply jjoven. I called the Namekogan Visitor Center and she confirmed your suspicion. The river is low, but she said it is still passable… especially downstream where I plan to start.

I think the only thing left is if any of you have any advice or tips for us. I already read (and highly recommend) Tamia’s article regarding backcountry pooping etiquette, ( so I’m covered there.

I’m just looking forward to embarking on an exciting new hobby.

Thank you!

Hey robb!!
Really I know nothing about the river(s) you are or already have taken your first journey upon.I hope you have a great and safe trip.I’m sure that you and your partner are going to be hooked from that point on.Recipe for disaster?Not in my opinion.It seems to me that you have done your home work.Enjoy yourselves.This is just the beginning of many more to come.I always think back to my first river trip(not that I’ve done that many)and it only gets better it seems.Let us know how it goes.



what canoe are you taking
If the water is pretty low it is to your advantage to use a pretty big canoe. A large boat is going to carry the same amount of weight with less draft than a smaller one. This would make your travels through the shallow stretches a lot easier.

Pack as light as possible for the same reason.

Wear shoes that you can go wading in and tie a rope to the canoe so you can get out and walk the canoe through the too shallow places.

You are going on a beautiful stretch of river. Enjoy!

Have fun!
The Namekagon is an excellent choice, I ran the Namekagon from K, past River Side Landing, down the St Croix to Hwy 70. Very nice river(s) very nice camp sites. As newbies and assuming you have somewhat master the basic strokes, you should have no problems. Wearing a life jacket is a good habit to get into, I always do. Another good advise is to attached your cargo in to your canoe, coolers tide shut and attached. A spill is always possible and usually happens when you least expected. Having your stuff floating down the river including the content of your a cooler can be a mess. A spare paddle is also a good item to have on board (attached as well). This may not be too important for a short trip but will become more important as you are planning longer trips. Also, be aware of the danger strainer present and stay clear of them. Finally, enjoy the outdoors and be warned, canoeing can be addicting. I started four year ago, I now possesses six canoes and do at least two major wilderness trips a year. Just go back from the Noire River in Quebec and already planning for next year.

Have fun!


Only thing I’d add to…
…jjoven’s post (he and I tripped the rivers a few yrs ago, eh Hoz?), is to be prepared for strong headwinds on the long flatwater stretches of the St. Croix. They can just about stop you in your tracks. Mosquitoes can be bad too, but more so in the spring. Also be on guard for ticks.

Other than that, the rapids are easy and there’s plenty of good camping. It’s a nice float for any skill level. Enjoy.


In addition
to the advice above, make sure to take rain gear (even in this drought, you never know if a thunderstorm may come through), and dry bags to protect spare clothes, sleeping bags, and non-refrigerated food.

trip report
When you guys get back, make sure you file a trip report on this site. I want to make that trip with the wife next summer.

Let someone know . . .
your trip plans and tell them that if you don’t check in with them by x o’clock on mm/dd/yy, then you might be in trouble. This is especially important if you don’t carry a cellphone or the area doesn’t have good cell coverage. IMHO, this is smart advice even for a day trip when you’ll be away in the wilderness.