Paddle Wisconsin’s beautiful Namekagon River as it twists and turns through large cutbacks in glacial moraine lake country, a great place for novices and accomplished paddlers alike. Paddle past big sand “eskers,” winding sand hills created when the glaciers receded from the area, and paddle lively yet easily navigated rapids. Watch eagles soar and deer drink at the shoreline. Spot rare river otters along pine and balsam-lined banks. The Namekagon is a tributary of the St. Croix River and is protected by the National Park Service as a Wild and Scenic Riverway.
ItineraryExpand All Fields
Day 1: Your trip begins at County K Landing in Wisconsin. Review skills and begin your journey!
Your trip starts in the early afternoon at County K Landing on the Namekagon River in Wisconsin. After you arrive meet your trip mates, review personal gear, repack into Duluth packs, and participate in a canoe orientation. Launch the canoes after lunch and paddle a few miles to your first campsite at Whispering Pines. Talk about the days' coming adventures around a campfire under the stars.
Day 2: Search for bald eagles and herons as you paddle the winding waters of the Namekagon.
After breakfast, load gear into the canoes to continue down river. Expect to see bald eagles, herons, and other wildlife as you paddle. The sandy banks will bring you past white pines, hardwoods and marshes. After stopping for short breaks and lunch, you'll end the day at Howell Landing. Enjoy a relaxing evening watching the sunset as you have dinner with your group.
Day 3: Rise early for a 13 mile paddle through twists and turns and light rapids.
Rise with the sun to be on the river early. After breakfast, navigate approximately 13 miles down river. This section of the river has a number of twists and turns and some gentle rapids that give you the opportunity to perfect your paddling skills. Camp at the site of your choice between Webb Creek and Namekagon Trail Landing.
Day 4: Break camp and paddle the final leg of the journey to Riverside Landing.
After breaking camp, pack up the canoes one last time for the final leg of the journey to Riverside Landing on the St. Croix. From Webb Creek paddle down river to the confluence of the Namekagon and the St. Croix Rivers. As the Namekagon joins the St. Croix River it becomes wider with fewer bends. Pay attention to water flow, as you will get a chance to test your new canoeing skills on small rapids near Big Island. The trip officially ends in the early afternoon after lunch.
Dates & Fees
What to Expect
TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: The river banks are generally low, sand bars are frequent, and some rocks are scattered along the route. The Namekagon offers several great route options, and the WI staff will pick the best one based on the water levels and availability at the time of the trip. The Namekagon offers a combination of gentle rapids and smooth flowing current. There are no portages along this route.
TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: You will travel in 17-foot Wenonah Champlain canoes, which hold two to three paddlers, plus all necessary gear. An average days’ travel consists of 3-6 hours of paddling, depending upon the weather. Travel distances vary from 5-15 miles per day. No previous experience is needed to complete this trip. To protect the environment, WI uses Leave No Trace camping techniques.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the summer months range from 45 F to 95 F. Rainfall can vary and you should expect one or two days of rain.
YOUR GROUP: As part of our ongoing COVID-19 safety protocols, all of our groups in 2021 will be made up of 3-15 people who know each other and have indicated they are comfortable traveling together and 1 or more Wilderness Inquiry guides. We welcome people of various ages, backgrounds, and abilities, including people with disabilities. Our trips are cooperative in nature. WI staff will assist you in whatever areas you need, however, most people pitch in where they can.
ACCOMMODATIONS: At night you will sleep in a comfortable 4-person tent with 3 people (although other arrangements can be made). Bathroom facilities consist of an outhouse or a foldable commode chair set up in a privacy tent.
MEALS: Enjoy preparing meals together using fresh, healthy ingredients for bountiful dishes. Rise to the smell of breakfast and pack trail lunches with hearty snacks before heading off to explore. In the evening, we’ll prepare our dinner together over stoves and campfires and then finish with s’mores. If you have special dietary restrictions, be sure to list them on your registration.
FISHING: The fishing is excellent! Northerns, small mouth-bass, muskies all make their homes here! The water is so clear that you can see them swim underneath your canoe. We encourage you to bring a collapsible pole and your own tackle. Don’t forget a Wisconsin fishing license.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: Wilderness Inquiry will provide all group gear and equipment. You will be assigned the same gear for the duration of your trip and it will be sanitized between trips. You will need to provide your personal gear as outlined in the packing list. If you are new to outdoor activities, you do not need to spend a lot of money. Wilderness Inquiry can usually arrange for you to borrow most items.
HEALTH PRE-SCREENING: Upon your arrival, we will perform a health screening that will include confirming that you have no COVID-19 related symptoms (for example: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat) or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 related symptoms within the last 2 weeks. We will also take each group member’s temperature daily. If COVID-19 related symptoms develop during your trip, the trip will end immediately and everyone must return home as soon as safely able.
SAFETY WHILE ON TRAIL: All participants and staff will wear masks when social distancing is not possible (i.e. loading/unloading boats, cooking, etc.) or when requested by a WI staff member. Participants will provide their own transportation to/from programming sites including shuttling at the end of the trip. Participants and staff will not share vehicles. Where available, participant groups will be assigned their own bathroom for the duration of the trip. When not possible, such as in backcountry sites, cleaning between each use will be facilitated. Thorough hand washing and/or gloves and masks will be worn during meal preparation.Read more »
Frequently Asked Questions:
Where do we meet?
Standard Meeting Places and Times
Start: Boat Launch TBD at 11:00 AM (local time)
End: Boat Launch TBD at 1:00 PM (local time)
This trip will begin at 11:00 AM and end at 1:00 PM at the same location. This trip's starting and ending locations will be determined based on group mix and available permits. Detailed meeting place instructions will be sent to you when you are confirmed for the trip. Booking a Flight? We recommend flying in to the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport the night before your trip, and flying out no earlier than 5:30 PM on the last day of the trip.
Do you have any additional health restrictions on trail?
In addition to following CDC guidelines, we work with a team of community and health experts to help guide our safety measures on and off the trail. Find a complete list of steps we are taking to provide you the safest experience here: https://www.wildernessinquiry.org/covid19/
Will I see any wildlife on this trip?
The river is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species. As you paddle you may see turtles, hawks, bald eagles, beavers, otters, and deer. You can print a checklist of common animals on the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway’s website, here: https://www.nps.gov/sacn/learn/nature/upload/common-animal-checklist.pdf.
I’ve never camped or canoed before. Will I be able to do this trip?
Yes! This is the perfect destination for paddlers of all experience levels, abilities, and ages.
Is the St. Croix River a National Park?
The St. Croix River National Scenic Riverway is a unit of the National Park System. It is one of the eight original national Wild and Scenic Rivers, and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018.
About the AreaThe beautiful Namekagon River, one of Wisconsin’s premier canoeing and kayaking rivers, allows visitors to paddle and enjoy nearly 100 miles of a beautiful and protected wild river in northwestern Wisconsin. Its name comes from the Ojibwe language Namekaagong-ziibi, meaning “River at the place abundant with Sturgeons.”
The river starts out as a small cold-water trout stream below Namekagon Lake near Cable, then meanders, narrow and intimate, through a varied landscape of northern lowland forest, bog and fen, and open marsh. Below Hayward, the river rushes through several low-hazard whitewater runs between narrow, wooded banks. Numerous islands populate the river. Occasionally the Namekagon settles into a lake environment, wide and slow through open wetlands where bird life is abundant.
As the river approaches the confluence with the Saint Croix River, nearly all signs of development disappear. Beautiful stands of quaking aspen, birch, oak and maple dominate the surrounding forest along with tall pines and spruce, which often canopy high sandy banks. This river presents a fantastic, mainly quiet-water float through the northwoods for single and multi-day excursions!
Congress designated the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway system as an original river in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 1968. This designation protects 255 miles of river corridor for its scenic and recreational values, including the Saint Croix and its major tributary, the Namekagon. While paddling this river system visitors experience several ecosystems and abundant plant and animal life.
Aquatic mammals such as otters, mink, beavers, and muskrats make their homes in the riparian zone and feed on the river’s fish and vegetation. During the mornings and in the evenings paddlers may glimpse white-tailed deer, or the shy black bear, as they forage along the riverbanks. Overhead visitors can spot eagles, osprey, hawks, and vultures.
Human occupation began as early as 10,000 years ago. Burial mounds, campsites, chipping stations, quarries, wild rice processing areas, rock art, and village sites offer evidence of the seasonal and complex nature of prehistoric life along the rivers. Historic American Indian archeological sites also tell of the coming of European people and culture. Native peoples and early fur traders alike liked the Saint Croix River/Brule River as a favored fur trade route from the Mississippi River to Lake Superior. Interaction took place between traders and Dakota and Ojibwe and other Indians as they traveled the rivers and traded. In 1837 a treaty opened the area to settlement by Euro-Americans.
A mixed forest of maples, cottonwoods, willows, and pines attracted 19th century loggers to the region. They cleared much of the timber and used the river to transport the logs. In 1872, for example, 3,500 men, 1,600 horses and 250 oxen logged off 35,000 acres cutting some 200 million board feet of logs, according to the Taylor’s Falls Reporter. In 1883 the Boom in Stillwater, Minnesota, which collected logs coming down the Saint Croix River, reported 1,397,417 logs for 217,045,647 board feet.
In the early 20th century, farming provided the livelihood for most settlers as the forests were all but cleared. The farming industry lasted only a short time due to poor soil conditions and the ensuing Great Depression. In the mid-1930s government relief programs assisted the farmers and the failing local economy by purchasing their lands and creating recreation areas. Acquired farmland became known as the Saint Croix Recreational Demonstration Area and an era of preservation and conservation followed.
Most of the Namekagon today remains entirely undeveloped, offering canoeists a genuine wild experience. Paddlers enjoy the riverbanks’ abundance of deer, muskrat, beaver, turtles, blue heron, and even osprey and bald eagles. The Namekagon offers everything from rapids for the experienced canoeist to wide quiet flowages.
The National Park Service manages the Namekagon River as part of the Saint Croix Riverway, and seeks to preserve, protect, restore, enhance, and interpret the riverway’s exceptional natural and cultural resources for the enjoyment of present and future generations. With the 1968 National Wild and Scenic River designation, the Saint Croix and Namekagon Rivers will always be preserved as a ribbon of wildness for all to enjoy.Read more »