As my third trip on the Flambeau, I had planned this trip for Memorial Day weekend well in advance during the winter months with my girlfriend Toni who had never been on a canoe camping trip. We rented a canoe from Jason at Flambeau adventures and used his shuttle service from his place up to the put in at Nine Mile Creek. The first day was a lot of almost flat water paddling with a late lunch stop at the Oxbo Resort for a great burger and a few cold ones. After lunch, we played around in the fast water under the bridge for some practice and continued on down the river. Shortly after Oxbo is the Log Creek campsite on the left. Thinking that it was not much further to Mason Creek campsite, we pressed on. Thinking we would never get there we finally arrived at Mason Creek at about 6:30pm. I would recommend putting in earlier than noon or stopping at Log Creek or it can be a long haul.
We got our tent up and our air mattress inflated and I went up river in search of some firewood. We cooked chicken over a wood fire and had some snacks while we cooked. While we were washing dishes, we were introduced to a very outgoing raccoon that came to a log on the edge of the campsite and yelled at us for about five minutes. We yelled back and it eventually left. Thank you food bag and rope! I woke up at about three in the morning to our furry friend on the picnic table as he knocked a water jug off the table. The morning was cool and we had a big egg and bacon breakfast. We got back on the river at about nine and were on our way down the river.
We had a fun morning working on our paddling strokes and taking in the nice scenery of the river. The water was very high and there were not as many rocks as I had remembered. We stopped for lunch and to fill up on water at the Highway W bridge landing. We had some GORP and peanut butter and jelly tortillas. After hanging around for an hour or so we made our way to Camp 41. It is at this point that I would like to say that you should make sure not to leave your river maps in the car. We took our time around George's Island and made it through Porcupine Rapids without a hitch. We found the Camp 41 landing on the right, but we did not see the sign for the campsite before the landing as I had remembered it. After walking up to the parking lot we discovered that the campsite had been moved down river and to the left bank. We got back in and proceeded downriver a couple hundred yards to the well marked site on the left.
Camp 41 has three sites that are fairly separated from each other. There is one site on an elevated peninsula that would be great for a solo paddler. There was good cold swimming at Camp 41 and an ample supply of downed birch trees that provided great fire wood. The pit toilets were especially nice and clean as they were for the entire trip. After a steak dinner and a Bisquik garlic and cheddar pie made in my mess kit, we cleaned up camp and went to sleep. The morning came and after a few pots of coffee and some breakfast we were ready to go.
We left Camp 41 and proceeded down river through Wannigan Rapids and Flambeau Falls Rapids. We came to the campsite at the Forks and for the first time saw evidence of other campers on the river. There was a warm fire pit at one of the sites at the forks and we thought it would be a nice place to camp as well. You could easily make a two night trip by going to the Forks instead of Camp 41. Our next stop on the river was at Hervas' Landing to again fill up our water jugs. There was a group of tents set up and several coolers and a huge log pile. It looked like there was going to be a big party later on. We got back on the river and went through the first pitches of Cedar Rapids and then before the campsite we stopped and gathered firewood. We got to the campsite at Cedar Rapids and set things up and then had some beans and weenies for lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and running the rapids. We saw some fishermen come close to the rapids and a group of kayaks come through the rapids. Because of the high water, we were able to run the rapids to the right side of the island and the usual left channel as well. Two of the kayaks tried the right side as well. The portage trail was nice, but because of the high water the landing was really mucky.
A storm came in the middle of the night and it was pushing the tent down on us, but we made it out. Ten years earlier a three foot diameter tree came down within five feet of my tent at the same site. All that is left is the stump on the way to the pit toilets. With the weather still threatening in the morning, we broke camp and ate some GORP for breakfast and had some Crystal Light before we left. We were really paddling fast and the high water helped us right along. Because of the high water we had not even known we went through Beaver Dam Rapids until we saw the sign for the landing after the falls. We went through it sitting up in the canoe! A perfect trip? Not quite, we got snagged on a submerged rock in the tiny Pine Island Rapids and flipped the canoe. This made the flat water paddle to the take out at Flambeau Adventures cold and wet. The weather got worse and the very open wide river had high winds and two foot waves that would come over the bow of the canoe. We found shelter on the left bank and when we saw the Flambeau Lodge we ferried across the wide lake. After unloading the canoe and packing the car, we were only on the road for about twenty minutes when a tornado warning and severe thunderstorms hit the area.
Overall this trip was great and this stretch of river was my first canoe camping trip and one of my most recent. I would have to say that it is my favorite of all the canoe trips I have been on so far. I recommend this trip early in the season although it it great anytime of the year.
Canoe rental and shuttle from several vendors is available. Check www.paddleflambeau.com for information.
I would recommend Jason Gilles at Flambeau Adventures. He was very nice.
Old Towne Discovery 174
No permits and the river campsites are free.
Go North on I-39 to US 8. Turn west on US 8 and proceed 66 miles. Watch for signs and turn North on Ash/Pine St. and continue North on Cty. I. Turn right on Flambeau Rd.(graded gravel) and follow it until you see Flambeau Lodge and Flambeau Adventures. Stay on the main roads as most small roads are gravel.
There are river maps available at the Wisconsin DNR website: