Thursday & Friday - John Everly (up Atlanta) and myself drove from N.C. to Trego WI. We arrived after the Namekagon visitors center was closed for the day. We drove to the put-in at the Namekagon Dam and found that the water level was just below where it is paddleable. We also checked several other landings. We decided that we could paddle with loaded canoes even though we would be scraping and some dragging of the canoes. We spent Friday night at a hiking trailhead near the visitors center. Saturday morning we drove over to the visitors center to pack our gear for the trip. While we were packing two of the rangers arrived and came out to talk to us. Very friendly young ladies. They recommended that we not put-in at the Dam because the water was low and other paddlers had told them that there were several beaver dams obstructing the river. We told them that we would risk it.
We left my van at the visitors center take-out and shuttled ourselves up to the Dam. The gauge read 1.4 where 1.5 is recommended minimum for paddling. We were on the water by 11:00 AM.
What followed was some of the best paddling that I have ever encountered. My paddling companion has been paddling for 50 years and said that this is the best trip he has ever paddled.
Sat. Sun. Mon. Namekagon Dam to Trego (62 miles)
The upper portion of the river was narrow with evidence of several beaver dams that had recently been broken through. There was only one of the beaver dams that we had to drag our boats over. We saw numerous beaver huts. The presence of Deer and Eagles was continually thrilling. The deer were always standing in that water next to the land and eating river grasses. They would put their head under water and pull up the grass then chew it. When they saw us they would watch for a while then walk up into the forest. Only two of the deer were bucks and they were crossing the river not eating. We did not see any fawns. We met a local on the river and he told us that the bucks are shy and the fawns do not come into the water. The deer in FL. are about half the size of the northern deer.
Other then my trip to Alaska this summer I have never seen so many eagles. We saw them perched on top of trees, flying down river, and soaring high over head. It this section of the river we saw 24 deer and 17 eagles, muskrat, otter, beaver and a large assortment of birds. The Namekagon River is a part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The park service has placed camping spots all along the river. There were probably 20 different camping areas on this section of the river. There were three small dams that we were supposed to portage but we were able to run all three of them. At Hayward the river turns into a lake. This was probably the hardest paddling as the lake is a couple of miles in length and a strong wind was against us. The dam at Hayward is about 20 feet tall. That did result in a portage of a few hundred feet. On the total trip this was the one spot that needs improvement. There is no real take-out point for the portage and to get back in the river on the other side of the dam one must climb down large boulders and dirt. If it had been raining it would have been real easy to slip and seriously hurt. But back on the water and onward to Trego.
Tues.-Wed. County K Landing to Riverside Landing (35 miles)
After we took out on Monday we stopped for pizza at the Pizza Hut in Hayward then spent the night at Riverside Landing. Tuesday we shuttled up to County K Landing. We skipped the six-mile section of the river that is Trego Lake. Another two days of Deer, Eagles, great river paddling and camping.
The river has several class one rapids and many shoals. The lower section of the river is wider but the ending is a mile of fast shoals that require a little paddling skill. There are approximately 20 landing where one can drive to the river and do day trips.
Although this is named ST. Croix National Scenic River only four miles are on the St. Croix. We were hoping to paddle the upper St. Croix but the water was too low. Below Riverside Landing the St. Croix turns into to wide river which I do not like to paddle. The weather was perfect with day time temperatures in the 80s and evening temperatures in high 50s and 60s.