Saturday, October 03, 2009

Sunday September 13th: Headwaters of the Wisconsin River - Lac View Desert to near Eagle River, Wisconsin

Rory’s birthday party was great.  The golf tournament - well, I could have played a whole lot better.

I did not get started to Eagle River until around 6:30 last evening and got as far as Ladysmith, Wisconsin and found a nice cheap motel. I was on the road by 6:00 AM and made it to Eagle River by mid-morning.

I stopped at McDonalds for breakfast and got some local information on the river. Everyone I talked to felt the water would be too low to paddle at the headwaters. In the Eagle River area the water is down 6 to 8 feet and up at the headwaters the Wisconsin is only a small creek. The consensus was that I should go to the landing on Highway 20 about 5 miles from the headwaters and enter there, so I was off.

I got to the landing and found the water to be about a foot or so deep and maybe 10 feet wide, plenty good to paddle. I started to unload my gear only to notice a canoe coming from above. I asked the couple where they started and they said at the headwaters. They said they had to pull their canoe around some beaver dams only in a couple of places and that the water was high enough to paddle because they were letting water out at the dam.

Okay, back went my gear in the car and I was off to the headwaters. On the way I made a quick call to let the guys I met at McDonalds know I was going start at the headwaters.

Remember earlier when I said I had few plans for this trip? Well, one thing not planned was how I was going to get back to my car or get my car down to the end. Back-up plan is to call my old buddy, Jim McIntyre from Racine to help me out. If you’ve followed some of my Atlantic to Pacific journal and this spring’s Hugh Heward Challenge, Jim was the one doing a lot of shuttling me around on those two adventures.

Turns out I will not have to call him for the problem has already been taken care of. At McDonalds I met some guys who were on a week fishing trip in the area. They were from Wausau and Portage, Wisconsin and after talking with them and finding out I knew some of the same people they did through my coaching days, they offered to drive my car back. Plan was when they left they would drive it back home and eventually get it over to Prairie du Sac which wasn’t that far from them and leave it in the WalMart parking lot. Why Prairie du Sac rather than at the end? Well, that’s another part of the trip. Next Saturday I need to get over to Green Bay to meet my friend Jim and another long time friend, Ken McGrath. Each year the three of us get together for a Packers game and this happens to be the weekend. I figure I will be able to make it to Prairie du Sac by then. If not I should be close and should be able to find a ride.

All problems solved for now, time to get paddling!

I finally got paddling around 11:30 AM. At the headwaters there was a small parking lot and a trail leading over to the headwaters. The river was basically a small creek which crossed the road I came in on, through two small culverts that one could not paddle through. I followed the trail to the headwaters and found a nice camping area next to Lac View Desert and the small dam which was the Wisconsin River headwaters. I took a few pictures, then went back to the car and unloaded my gear. (Because it was only 100 yds to the culverts I decided to put in on the other side of them.)

I was off. Another adventure begins and what a beginning. Leaves are starting to change, weather is perfect and I’m doing what I like to do.

It is hard to imagine that eventually this small creek would become a major industrial river. Right now it reminds me of the Brule River back home. The Brule is a famous wilderness canoe river back home and the first 35 miles of this river is much the same.

I met a number of day paddlers as I wound my way down the river. There were a few nice camping areas in this stretch, but of course I came upon them well before I could stop. My goal was to get as close to Eagle River, WI and State Highway 70 as possible and that was 40 miles away.

By dark I was getting close, but now I was past the camping areas and more into private river homes. I kept paddling well past dark until I was tired of bumping into logs and such. Eventually I pulled over to a cabin. There was no one around so I decided to throw my tarp down next to the cabin's dock and call it a day. No need for a tent, I just grabbed my sleeping bag and crawled in. Stars were out and as I stared at the Big Dipper I thought, "What a start!" Also thought, “I hope if the owners of this cabin happen to show up that they are understanding!”


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