After our Door County kayak trip to Garrett Bay last weekend, we headed for Shawano, Wisconsin to pick up one more paddle trip on our way back to Madison: the Wolf River. Many paddlers associate the Wolf River with whitewater, serious rapids, and whitewater rafting. But that’s the Upper Wolf. For paddlers it is not for the beginner, really. The book I am working on aims to be inclusive of those just starting out, or perhaps families with kids. While some of the routes might show riffles and Class 1+ rapids, none of them should require a helmet.
The stretch of the Lower Wolf River from Shawano to County Highway CCC definitely works well for a calm day of paddling. The put-in point is just below the dam at Lieg Avenue boat landing in town and the river remains pretty wide throughout.
The first segment passes under three bridges in town, but the banks all along here are mostly wooded and there are only a few gaps where the houses are visible. After that last bridge, there is very little other sign of humans. There are five more miles of uninterrupted paddling until you reach the County Highway CCC boat landing, just past the highway bridge on river left.
One thing is for sure: this is a great river for fishing. A few locals out in their johnboats were testament to that. Plus, we saw an enormous fish leap straight up out of the water, nearly as long as my paddle. (Seriously, I am not a fish tale teller, it was huge.) Still not sure what it was, but I don’t think it was one of the common resident sturgeons. Possible a northern? At least 40 inches. If I had to wager I’d say it was a northern. But I wouldn’t bet more than a dollar.
Other critters included blue herons, a pair of eagles, the usual Wisconsin turtles and birds (jays, woodpeckers, kingfisher, red-winged blackbirds), and a deer (actually, when were still inside the city limits). The eagle shot is sadly too far off – we only had our Canon S100 along. (It’s a great little camera, actually, and I highly recommend it. Full-disclosure: we’d get a cut of Amazon’s profit if you shop via that link.)
The Wisconsin DOT fellows were out inspecting a bridge with this cool contraption mounted on their utility truck.
Wildflowers grew along the banks and some grassy islands in the center. Here is a yellow flag iris.
There are no rapids on this portion of the Lower Wolf River, not even riffles. The current is slow and the wide river means you can easily avoid any deadfall or strainers along the banks.
Mountain Bay Outfitters in Shawano provided our canoe and shuttle for the day. The are right on the Mountain Bay Bike Trail in Shawano, and also rent/sell bikes, and run some tubing trips. Independent paddlers can hire them for shuttle runs on the Wolf River.