Paddling the Black River in Wisconsin


About mid-way through our 40 canoe paddle trips for my guidebook Paddling Wisconsin, we headed up I-94 near Black River State Forest. Wisconsin’s Black River has some highly advanced paddling opportunities just below the dam at Lake Arbutus — a bit too advanced for the general audience. But leading up to the dam in Black River Falls, and beyond the town as it heads toward its rendezvous with the Mississippi, the Black River is a rather relaxed waterway with little in the line of riffles or rapids. The river is wide, full of sand bars for swimming or picnic breaks (especially in low water), and chock full of wildlife.

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But there is one thing you wouldn’t want to miss if you paddled from Black River Falls at Bruce Cormican Landing down to Irving (David Hansen Memorial Landing)…


It may seem like just another spring creek trickling in along the bank. But it’s worth pulling your canoe or kayak onto the sand for a walk inside…


Take a tall step up above a cold spring stream…


… and welcome to magnificent. One could easily paddle right by and never have a hint that this was here.


The only reason I thought to stop is that I had read a number of reports on this stretch of water while researching our trip. When I saw the bluff and the narrow opening just beyond the brush, a mention of a scenic point to get out of the canoe and walk to lingered in the back of my head. We actually passed it by and turned around to go back to the little beach at the mouth of the stream. No question: this is the highlight of this segment of the Black River.

My wife Tip took the photos on this trip. We have Lost Falls Campground and Canoe Rental in Melrose to thank for a shuttle ride that day.

See more of our Wisconsin canoe trips from this summer.

Kevin Revolinski

Author, travel writer/photographer, world traveler. Writes about travel, hiking, camping, paddling, and craft beer.

7 thoughts on “Paddling the Black River in Wisconsin

  • Dan Danson

    A great write up. Love the shots of the falls. I’ve been done this trip 4 times now with a Jewish camp out of Oconomowoc WI. We take a group of 14 year olds who are almost all new to canoeing. A perfect first trip. There’s a great state campground about a quarter of a day’s canoe from the landing, which is for canoe camping only. The second day we stay at Lost Falls campground and then float down the river to where the falls meet the river. After hiking the falls, it’s an easy hike back to the campground.

  • Wow, very cool discovery while canoeing the Black River. I love it when you stumble upon things like this while outdoors.

  • This place is great. Reminded me of the “Twilight” movie where they spent most of their time hunting in the woods. I just love places like at these because it is where I feel most at home. Just love hearing the sound of nature.

    • We have a lot of those little canyons in Wisconsin, leftovers from the rush of meltwater from the glacial lake back in the day 😉

  • Its really a great discovery really love the blog specially Loved the shots of the falls. As I’ve been done this trip 4 times now with a Jewish camp out of Oconomowoc WI.
    Thanks for posting it.


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