The Namekagon River, also known as Wisconsin’s Moving National Park, is a 99.5-mile long river part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. Underdeveloped yet abundant in scenery and wildlife, the winding Namekagon has something for everyone to experience. With plenty of landings and campsites along the way, it is easily accessible for those looking for a day paddle as well as those wanting to explore more. Grab your life jacket and sunscreen; it’s time to start at the Namekagon Dam.
The Namekagon River starts at the Namekagon Dam, where the first 10 miles are isolated and oftentimes have low water levels. Check with the National Park Service before launching from this part of the riverway, as numerous beaver dams and downed trees can make passage difficult. Both Phillipi Landing and Cable Wayside have slightly better water levels as well as a picnic area, restrooms and canoe access.
Once you get to Phipps Flowage, the river is slow, deep and wide – allowing paddlers to enjoy the scenery. As you make your way to Hayward Lake, be prepared for a strong headwind. The Lake is large and open but Hayward Landing is close by! This is a great spot to stop and rest. There is a covered pavilion, plenty of shade beneath the tall pines, rustic toilets, group campsites and even a picnic area with barbecue grills.
You will need to fuel up for the next leg of your journey!
As you make your way past Hayward Landing, the river is rocky and narrow. After a few miles downstream, it becomes sandy and slow with desirable water levels. Once you make it to Stinnett Landing, hold tight for adventure! Executive Director of Washburn County Tourism and Namekagon River enthusiast Michelle Martin says,
“The Stinnett chute is one of my favorite parts of the Namekagon. For those that haven’t been through that section before, I usually tell them to line their kayak or canoe up straight to head through the center of the chute. I don’t use my paddle when going through, but I am ready to paddle and straighten back out after I go through it. It’s like an amusement park ride, but a whole lot prettier. After you go through it once, you’ll want to go again!”
Continue to paddle through to Groat Landing and get ready for a Class I rapid ride all the way to Springbrook landing. Once you hit Big Bend, the Namekagon River widens and becomes sandy again, allowing for a slow, easy paddle. Eight group and individual campsites border this section of the river, including the popular tubing spot, Earl Park Landing. Once you make it to Lakeside Road Landing, you will pass under Highway 53 and paddle slowly through the Trego Flowage to the Trego Dam.
Stop by the Namekagon River Visitors Center in Trego to talk to a park ranger, see a life-size replica surgeon, and check out river maps and brochures.
Let’s keep paddling along!
County Road K Landing means you’ve reached one of the most beautiful stretches of the Namekagon. Secluded and canopied in the lush, dense northwood forest with abundant wildlife, the 9.9-mile stretch between County Road K Landing and Whispering Pines is one of the most recommended single-day trips for paddlers of all skill levels.
From Fritz Landing down to Riverside Landing is almost completely flat water and very popular for day trips or multi-day excursions. After Namekagon Trail Landing, the river becomes rockier with several Class I rapids, and the moment you you make it to Riverside Landing, you have officially paddled the Namekagon River.
Congratulations, you made it! The scenery is peaceful and the wildlife is beautiful. The Namekagon River truly embodies Northwood seclusion mixed with spurts of fun and adventure. We hope you come back season after season to explore more of what the Namekagon River has to offer!