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Posted: 2/12/2021 2:27:55 PM EDT
Looking to get into canoe camping and it seems like willow and Turtle flowages are what I’m looking for.  

Anyone do this?  My biggest concern is with first-come-first-served camping, how busy is it?  My concern is driving 3+ hours up north, paddling a couple hours and finding all campsites spoken for.  What do you do?  Say screw it and bushwhack into some shore and make your own campsite?
Link Posted: 2/12/2021 2:49:02 PM EDT
we used to do canoe trips down various rivers in N.WI.

Floated down the Flabeau from Smith Rapids to Fifeild
a couple of day float.
we just pulled over along shore pitched  tent and spent the night.
lots of State or Fed land along the river, never had an issue.
Link Posted: 2/12/2021 2:54:25 PM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By DirtyDirk:
we used to do canoe trips down various rivers in N.WI.

Floated down the Flabeau from Smith Rapids to Fifeild
a couple of day float.
we just pulled over along shore pitched  tent and spent the night.
lots of State or Fed land along the river, never had an issue.
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Used to do that as a kid all the time.  That worked because my friends mom would always give us a ride and pick us downstream after a couple days.  Figured a flowage means you can paddle back easily to your car.  Suppose there’s always the reservable sites in the NHAL.
Link Posted: 2/12/2021 3:55:58 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/12/2021 4:00:07 PM EDT by rfb45colt]
Originally Posted By JimEb:
Looking to get into canoe camping and it seems like willow and Turtle flowages are what I’m looking for.  

Anyone do this?  My biggest concern is with first-come-first-served camping, how busy is it?  My concern is driving 3+ hours up north, paddling a couple hours and finding all campsites spoken for.  What do you do?  Say screw it and bushwhack into some shore and make your own campsite?
View Quote


They don't allow that. I don't know how well patrolled it is. I frequent the Rainbow Flowage for hunting & fishing. There's NO camping allowed there at all, and it's strictly enforced by NHAL Rangers.

fwiw... the Chequamagon/Nicolet national forest DOES allow camping virtually anywhere... no registrations, no fees for wilderness camping. The Ottawa N.F. in the U.P., across the stateline from Vilas, Iron and Forest Counties of WI, is the same.

My daughter has a cabin & garage on 62 acres surrounded by Ottawa Natl' Forest's Sylvania Wilderness, west of Watersmeet. She used to backpack camp in that area, that's how she found this place for sale - CHEAP. She refinanced her home in MN, withdrew equity and bought it outright for under $50K, 2-1/2 years ago. Downside is, so remote there's no access to utilities. She has a generator and now some solar power. A big plus is the county plows the road in winter, right up to and including her driveway. Awesome area. There is canoeing there also. There's even a canoe rental place on U.S. 2 about 3 miles west of Watersmeet, if you don't have your own, or don't want to haul one up there.  

Link Posted: 2/12/2021 6:44:35 PM EDT
I've spent 4 days/3 nights kayaking down the Pestigo. We may or may not have just found random spots to pull into and throw up camp along the way
Link Posted: 2/12/2021 9:06:36 PM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By rfb45colt:


They don't allow that. I don't know how well patrolled it is. I frequent the Rainbow Flowage for hunting & fishing. There's NO camping allowed there at all, and it's strictly enforced by NHAL Rangers.

fwiw... the Chequamagon/Nicolet national forest DOES allow camping virtually anywhere... no registrations, no fees for wilderness camping. The Ottawa N.F. in the U.P., across the stateline from Vilas, Iron and Forest Counties of WI, is the same.

My daughter has a cabin & garage on 62 acres surrounded by Ottawa Natl' Forest's Sylvania Wilderness, west of Watersmeet. She used to backpack camp in that area, that's how she found this place for sale - CHEAP. She refinanced her home in MN, withdrew equity and bought it outright for under $50K, 2-1/2 years ago. Downside is, so remote there's no access to utilities. She has a generator and now some solar power. A big plus is the county plows the road in winter, right up to and including her driveway. Awesome area. There is canoeing there also. There's even a canoe rental place on U.S. 2 about 3 miles west of Watersmeet, if you don't have your own, or don't want to haul one up there.  

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Sounds like a great place to get off the grid. I could live in a 900sqft house, with a two car garage.
Link Posted: 2/13/2021 12:36:39 AM EDT
If you can travel a little further the Boundary Waters Canoe Area is really nice. Go after mid july to avoid the blackflies.

Going thru an outfitter the first time will be worth your while. It gives you a chance to check out equipment before investing in the higher ticket items. Take special note of the food and how it is packed. Once you get a feel for it you can put most of your meals together at the supermarket.

I started this way, then just took our equipment and rented canoes so we didn't have to haul them.
Link Posted: 2/13/2021 7:32:29 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/13/2021 7:35:06 AM EDT by Lorax]
WI is awesome for this type of camping and there are so many great places to go.
It's my #1 thing I love to do here. I try to average at least 40 nights out canoe camping a year. I also know what places get used hardest at what weekends and what time of year.
I don't really ever have a problem getting a nice spot.

You have the two you mentioned, but the Northern Highlands American Legion State Forest Canoe Trail map is available online
Map

We also have the backwaters of both the Wisconsin river AND the backwater pools of the Mississippi. The Namakogon River float trip is one of the best I've ever done in the lower 48. The Flambeau, the Manitowish, so many more.

The UP is also full of great places.
Link Posted: 2/13/2021 10:39:34 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/14/2021 10:17:58 AM EDT by rfb45colt]
In case you're interested in water levels up north, they have been at the highest I've ever seen in my 30 years living up north, for the past 3 years.

OTOH, we've been in sort of a drought since fall. Snowfall has been way below average, so the winter runoff that usually fills things up in the spring will be minimal. And I cannot recall even 1 day of warmer weather, with rain, all winter.
Link Posted: 2/14/2021 11:31:31 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/14/2021 11:34:30 PM EDT by TapperMan]
It's been about 8 years since I canoe camped with my boys on the TFF, but the advice I was given at the time was don't show up on a Saturday morning of a holiday weekend and expect to find a site easily. We went mid-week in June after school let out and had no problem finding an awesome site.

Also the Lower Wisconsin River is good for canoe camping too. Again, I like to go mid-week, and the times we put in around Spring Green, we'd see maybe one or two other boaters the whole time.
Link Posted: 2/16/2021 12:19:44 PM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By Lorax:
I also know what places get used hardest at what weekends and what time of year.
I don't really ever have a problem getting a nice spot.
.
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Is this info you’re willing to share or kept secret like fishing spots?  

When camping I usually go midweek and avoid weekends.  So I expect a Wednesday morning would your best bet?  Maybe some northern arfcommer could establish a little side hustle, claim a campsite in advance for us unfortunate people that have to make a long drive up from down south.  

(Said somewhat jokingly but I bet people do that)
Link Posted: 2/16/2021 4:59:20 PM EDT
Originally Posted By JimEb:
Looking to get into canoe camping and it seems like willow and Turtle flowages are what I’m looking for.  

Anyone do this?  My biggest concern is with first-come-first-served camping, how busy is it?  My concern is driving 3+ hours up north, paddling a couple hours and finding all campsites spoken for.  What do you do?  Say screw it and bushwhack into some shore and make your own campsite?
View Quote


I’ve been on several multi day trips on the flambeau. Every time I’ve been out my group was the only ones out there. Maybe it’s different on prime camping holiday weekends but sites are fairly open from my experience. If you do run across one that’s taken, there’s usually another not much father down river.
Link Posted: 2/17/2021 8:18:06 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/17/2021 8:20:36 AM EDT by Lorax]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By JimEb:


Is this info you’re willing to share or kept secret like fishing spots?  

When camping I usually go midweek and avoid weekends.  So I expect a Wednesday morning would your best bet?  Maybe some northern arfcommer could establish a little side hustle, claim a campsite in advance for us unfortunate people that have to make a long drive up from down south.  

(Said somewhat jokingly but I bet people do that)
View Quote



On any public water, points or "party sites" get hit and used most often. Back bay sites and sites in shallower water get used the least. On big water, it's best to paddle early mornings before the wind kicks up. Go midweek and you'll be fine.
Use google earth or some similar map to see how well worn the sites are. if you can really tel it from satellite, it's probably going to be taken by groups of motorboat people.
You'll know the well used sites by the amount of what I call, "Wisconsin shit buckets" thrown throughout the woods. The people's fondness here for shitting in 5 gallon buckets and just leaving them as proud monuments to poor diet and excessive Busch Lite consumption is something I have never witnessed anywhere else.
NHAL Canoe Trail has many great sites and you are never far from a lake with a site. Binoculars in your canoe help scout out empty sites. Some visible even from the parking area. Look for lakes and rivers without a big boat ramp. Look for ones with motor restrictions.
1/4 of the TF Flowage is designated "Voluntary Quiet Waters". It is the roughly 1/4 of the lake accessible from Murray's Landing. You'll see some motorboats in that section, but the weeds tangle their props and they head back out into the main section of lake. many great spots in there. Most people with motors in that section have smaller boats. But you'll see more paddlers there. The fishing is great, too.

What kind of canoe will you be using? Solo? Tandem?
Link Posted: 2/17/2021 5:34:42 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 2/17/2021 5:35:10 PM EDT by JimEb]
I booked a remote site at Clear Lake in the NHAL for this summer.  We used to always car camp there with my father-in-law so I’m very familiar with that lake.  Figure it’s a good way to get my wife’s feet wet with canoe camping without being too far off the beaten path.  Figure we could use this time to scout out the bittersweet lakes area nearby.  Maybe do that area next year.  

Will be just myself and the wife in a Nova Craft Prospector 16.
Link Posted: 2/18/2021 8:31:56 AM EDT
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By JimEb:
I booked a remote site at Clear Lake in the NHAL for this summer.  We used to always car camp there with my father-in-law so I’m very familiar with that lake.  Figure it’s a good way to get my wife’s feet wet with canoe camping without being too far off the beaten path.  Figure we could use this time to scout out the bittersweet lakes area nearby.  Maybe do that area next year.  

Will be just myself and the wife in a Nova Craft Prospector 16.
View Quote



For my wife's first outdoors trip. I took her for a backpacking weekend. She liked it, so I then took her for 10 days up through the BWCA and into Quetico. We saw 8 people in 9 of those 10 days.

Just threw her right into the good stuff. Now? She can't get enough.
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