In a region of abundant canoeing and kayaking opportunities, the Tomahawk and Wisconsin rivers and the Willow Flowage stand out as three of the very best.
The Tomahawk River is the classic Wisconsin Northwoods river, teeming with wildlife and featuring a great mix of hard and soft banks. Quiet and gentle, the Tomahawk River winds its way from the Minocqua Chain of Lakes to the Willow Flowage. The routes you see below were used by Native Americans, French explorers and now, paddlers of all ages.
Suggested trips on the Tomahawk River:
- Lake Kawaguesaga Dam to Hwy 70 West (3-6 hrs): Launch on Dam Road next to dam. The take-out is downstream of the bridge on Hwy 70 West.
- Hwy 70 West to Blue Lake Road (3-4 hrs): Some small rapids.
- Blue Lake Road to Camp Nine (2-3 hrs): This section has some downfallen trees, but is still considered runnable.
- Camp Nine Road to Cedar Falls Road (4-5 hrs): Take out before the Smith Rapids! There is a portage around the rapids to Willow Flowage.
- Willow Flowage Dam to Hwy K (4-6 hrs): Halfbreed Rapids is a Class II Rapids – be sure to scout before entering!
- Hwy K to Lake Nokomis boat landing (3-4 hrs): Prairie Rapids offers great scenery and is a Class II Rapids – be sure to scout before entering!
The Wisconsin River originates in Lac Vieux Desert near the border of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and travels all the way to the Mississippi River in the southwest corner of the state. It is Wisconsin’s longest river. The great waterway’s name, “Meskousing,” was first recorded in 1673 by Jacques Marquette. French explorers who followed in the wake of Marquette later modified the name to “Ouisconsin,” which was simplified to “Wisconsin” in the early 19th century before being applied to Wisconsin Territory and finally the State of Wisconsin.
Suggested trips on the Wisconsin River:
- Hwy O to Rainbow Flowage (1-3 hours): This short stretch will take you into the Rainbow Flowage. There are a number of landings around the flowage for use as places to take out.
- Hwy D to River Road (1-2 hrs): Rainbow Rapids is a small Class I Rapids. Take-out at the wooden Bridge.
- River Road to Bridge Road (3-4 hrs): Gentle, lazy river with great wildlife viewing.
- Bridge Road to Rhinelander Flowage (1-2 hrs): Take-out at Apperson Drive Boat Landing.
- Hat Rapids – Warning: Hat Rapids section south of Rhinelander has Class I and II Rapids, which are for advanced paddlers only!
Willow Flowage Area
The Willow Flowage is the largest undeveloped lake in Wisconsin, with more than 6,400 acres of open water for paddling. Paddlers can access 117 islands and seemingly endless backwaters. The Willow Flowage Scenic Waters Area offers 35 remote, semi-primitive campsites accessible by water. These sites are available on a first come, first-served basis. There is no fee or registration required for the use of these sites. In order to maintain the flowage’s remote character, public boat access is limited.
Paddler Access to the Willow Flowage:
The east side of the flowage has two improved landings at the Willow Flowage Dam. On the west side of the flowage, rustic roads offer access to landings at Cedar Falls campground, The Sportsman’s, Talbot’s, Jerry’s and McCord Road.