Paddling on the Wolf River in Wisconsin

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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The Wisconsin DOT fellows were out inspecting a bridge with this cool contraption mounted on their utility truck.

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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 Outfitterswolf-river-canoe-paddling-005 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.

11 thoughts on “Paddling on the Wolf River in Wisconsin

  • June 22, 2013 at 7:07 pm
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    Beautiful yellow flower. I have seen many blue flag, but never a yellow one. Looks a lot like sections of the Brule that widened into lakes before it narrowed and got more exciting.

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  • July 2, 2013 at 3:36 am
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    How long did it take to go from Lieg Ave to CCC bridge? 2 hours? We were hoping to go this weekend. Thanks.

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    • July 2, 2013 at 2:21 pm
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      Hi Julie, This took us about 2.5 hours. Paddling somewhat steady but not in a rush or anything.

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  • September 29, 2013 at 2:16 am
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    Thanks for the recommendation. I headed out yesterday afternoon, Sept. 28, from Lieg St. boat landing to CCC. It was a beautiful day for kayaking. Sunny 78 degree day, some breezy places. Took about 2-1/2 hrs. My friend picked me up at the CCC boat landing. Saw some sand hill cranes flying and 4 eagles, one which I scared up from along the shore. Saw no one along the way. I would do the trip again in a minute.

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    • October 6, 2013 at 3:54 am
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      Hi Jeanne, Glad to hear it. I did that paddle early on in my book research and went back and forth about whether to keep it. (The 40 trips in the book are all pretty amazing, so it’s some tough competition.) It is a nice area and we too saw eagles and not a soul on the river.

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  • March 17, 2014 at 9:24 am
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    Kayaking and a nice view like this is heaven for me.

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  • June 25, 2014 at 6:20 am
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    OMG! Wisconsin looks like a little piece of heaven. I would love to kayak there!

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  • September 22, 2014 at 11:25 am
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    Kevin – Thanks for the detailed report. I’m headed to WI in October to see family, and have been looking for some good kayak runs, looks like the Wolf will be towards the top of my list.

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    • September 22, 2014 at 1:14 pm
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      What part? I can make other recommendations. My book of 40 great trips in Wisconsin won’t be out till spring unfortunately.:)

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  • January 13, 2016 at 11:53 am
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    Looks like a paradise. I wish I can come there right away. Thanks for beautiful photos and great story.

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