Paddling the Flambeau River

By Nick Pritchard of Winding Rivers Canoeing

Many folks have visited the Flambeau River and they continue to visit time and time again because it offers such a variety of paddling.  There is a trip for every type of paddler. Most of the river is undeveloped making it a great location to get away from the hustle and bustle. From a lazy float down the north fork to the raging whitewater of the south fork everyone is sure to have a great trip. The Flambeau River also offers free camping along the north fork making it a great destination for a weekend getaway.

The north fork of the Flambeau twists and turns from it’s headwaters at the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage, but as it moves further south it’s character begins to change. The first whitewater on the north fork is Porcupine Rapids, a mild section of Class I. From Porcupine Rapids on, the river is interspersed with mild whitewater which may cause problems for novice paddlers during high water. The north fork also holds the only campsites available on the river. These sites are often well maintained and most of them are designed to be used by several groups.

The south fork of the Flambeau is more well known for it’s whitewater but the northern flatwater stretches can be incredibly beautiful to paddle as well, however, there is NO CAMPING available on the south fork. Some guide books indicate that there are sites available on the south fork, however, these are not legitimate sites. The DNR does check the south fork and they will likely write you a citation if they find you camping on the south fork, particularly if you are not following Leave No Trace principles.

The most popular whitewater stretch of the south fork is from County M to Skinner Creek Landing. Some highlights of this trip are Slough Gundy rapids, a fun Class II-III 3 ledge drop; Little Falls, a Class III-IV where an island splits the river and there is a 6′ waterfall on river right (river left is often not runnable); and Scratch rapids, a Class II-III set which has some great play potential at higher water. Most groups will portage Little Falls on river left where there is an obvious path leading to just below the falls.

The Flambeau River has something for every paddler and is sure to go on everyone’s list of favorites.

Flambeau River Resources

Paddle the Flambeau has a great website where you can look at the most up to date water levels, trip logs, maps, and much more. You can also order a free Flambeau River guide on their website.

Paddling Northern Wisconsin by Mike Svob also outlines each section of the Flambeau and includes maps of each section.

Winding Rivers Canoeing will be having an ACA River Canoeing course on the Flambeau River June 10th-12th, 2011. We will be camping on the river and learning a variety of new skills! Check us out for more information.

One thought on “Paddling the Flambeau River

  1. why are there no campsites on the south fork Flambeau River? this is a first class river and worthy of a several day trip. minnesota has many canoe trails, with campsites on inferior rivers. even iowa has designated river trails.


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