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Brule River kayaking in Wisconsin photo essay

Brule River kayaking

Beginning the adventure on day 1

One river that has been on my radar for decades is the Brule River in Wisconsin and last year I finally got a chance to do some Brule River kayaking.  Thanks to Brule River Canoe Rental, I was able to enjoy two fun filled days on this gorgeous river.

The river is located way up in northern Wisconsin in Douglas County. Located in the Brule River State Forest, which is a great place to camp while you are up there, the river runs from the headwaters of the St. Croix into Lake Superior. Before it drops into the lake, the river drops a significant amount of elevation, which manifests itself in some great rapids.

I did two stretches of the river. The first was 15 miles and rather flat for the first part. The second part got a little trickier with some rapids and rifles, but nothing too crazy. The next day was a little more adventurous as I was given a spray skirt and the use of a whitewater kayak. I went over some ledges that constitute grade II-III rapids. Most of the photos from this essay came from day 1 as I was too busy maneuvering through whitewater on the second day to take pictures.

Brule River Wisconsin

The beginning of the trip the river is beautiful but narrow

The rapids were more on the II side though as the water level was down making the water flow less intense. This made navigation a little tougher though as a lot of rocks one usually floats over had to be avoided by the kayak or it was thump city.

Brule River Wisconsin

Brule River kayaking

What I really enjoyed about the river was the different scenery throughout both days. The first day was up near the headwaters and the river was little more than a tiny creek with looming pine trees on either side. The river gained some momentum and widened out a bit before emptying into a big lake.

There was also a variety in the kind kayaking I was able to do on the river. There were sections I peacefully floated and just enjoyed the scenery. Then there were other sections that were a little tense with rocks and ledges coming at me as fast as I could navigate. I enjoy the challenge of the rapids, but it is also nice to just take in the scenery.

The two sections on the Brule I paddled would please both the whitewater enthusiast and the more laid back type. I took out at the Brule River State Forest landing the first day just up from the Winneboujou landing and the more adventurous second day I took out at the Highway 13 Canoe Landing. Just let Brule River Canoe Rental know your skill level, and they will point you in the right direction.

Brule River kayaking

The Brule River widens out into a lake

After paddling through the lake the river narrowed again and got exciting. The rapids were the most challenging I have ever kayaked. I have been in a raft for more adventurous whitewater, but whitewater kayaking takes a little more skill as you don’t bounce off of rocks like you do a raft.

Brule River kayaking

I love the reflection of the trees on the placid water

Brule river rapids

Heading into a little rapids on the Brule River

Brule River rapids

Getting a little closer – time to put the camera away and navigate

The river is dubbed the “River of Presidents” as five presidents have vacationed and fished here including Grant, Hoover, Eisenhower, Cleveland and Coolidge. You can see in the pictures why they would choose this location as northern Wisconsin is a great place to get away from it all and relieve some stress whether you are the head of the country or just someone who enjoys the outdoors.

Brule River kayaking

It was a beautiful day for awhile on the Brule River

Disclosure: I did receive complimentary shuttle and rental from Brule River Canoe Rental, but in no way did this fact change how I feel about my experience kayaking the Brule. The photos, videos, and thoughts are my own.

Brule River kayaking

I did have to paddle through a couple of rain squalls

Brule River Wisconsin

Then the sun would come out again

Brule River Canoe Rental

Day 2 called for more difficult rapids, which meant a change in craft to a whitewater kayak

Brule River whitewater

One of the ledges I went over on the whitewater section

I was too busy doing what I was doing in the video below to take many pictures the second day.


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18 Responses to Brule River kayaking in Wisconsin photo essay

  1. Jeremy Branham April 2, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Love the photos from kayaking. Looks so peaceful and the clouds only enhance the beauty! I’ve done white water rafting but never kayaking. I think I would enjoy the solitude of the experience.
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..5 outdoor things to do in Phoenix

    • Ted Nelson April 6, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

      September is a good time to go. I hardly saw anyone on the river. I did see a few fly fisherman, but that was just about it.

  2. Raul (@ilivetotravel in Twitter) April 2, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    Wow, that photo right above the Disclosure is stunning. What a beautiful setting. Someday I will get in a kayak again (last time in 2000 in Maine!).
    Raul (@ilivetotravel in Twitter) recently posted..Kilimanjaro Hike: Day 4 – The Barranco Wall and Its Challenges – Before and After

    • Ted Nelson April 6, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

      It was a beautiful day although I did get a little rain, but the clouds made for an interesting sky. If it has been more than 10 years you are definitely overdue.

  3. Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) April 3, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Love it, Ted! Great photos. Like Raul said, that photo above the disclosure is gorgeous! Definitely my fave of the series. And I need to explore more of Northern Wisconsin.
    Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) recently posted..Explaining my absence (including an announcement!)

    • Ted Nelson April 6, 2013 at 7:56 pm #

      It is actually not a bad drive FF. I left at noon on Saturday and was home before 8 p.m. coming back.

  4. D.J. - The World of Deej April 4, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    So I went kayaking for the first time a few weeks ago. Yes, the first time. Anyway, I absolutely loved it, although I don’t think I’m ready for any of those ledges yet. Of course, I was wore out after just a few miles too…
    D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..Kiawah Island – Beyond the Golf

    • Ted Nelson April 6, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

      You definitely want to feel comfortable in a kayak before hitting the rougher water. Due to the water level, this was not as challenging as it normally would be.

  5. lola April 4, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    i love to kayak, but i don’t like it rough! i would love to try the more laid back sections of the Brule! its great there was variety in your kayaking experience- being able to peacefully float and then challenge yourself. Makes the experience that much better!

    • Ted Nelson April 6, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

      The first part of the first day had mostly gentle sections although there were some good rapids at the end. It would be easy to arrange a take out before the rough stuff.

  6. Leigh April 4, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    I’ve only tried whitewater kayaking once – on the Rio Chama in Georgia O’Keefe country. I was having a grand old time until I got flipped at an eddy line and then thought I was going to drown. While upside down I was wondering of it was going to be a wet or dry drowning as I’d just taken a Wilderness First Aid course. Fortunately I surfaced but it rattled me.
    This area of WI looks beautiful for kayaking.
    Leigh recently posted..The Not-To-Be-Missed Maligne Canyon Icewalk in Jasper

    • Ted Nelson April 6, 2013 at 8:04 pm #

      I can imagine how you were rattle from the experience. I was canoeing with my parents when we were inexperienced on a river in Illinois and we dumped three times. It sucked. I think that prevented me from wanting to do whitewater for 30 years.

  7. The World Wanderer April 4, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    These are great photos! I haven’t been kayaking yet, but it’s on the list for spring and summer – can’t wait!
    The World Wanderer recently posted..Dog Sledding on Mirror Lake.

    • Ted Nelson April 6, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

      Look forward to hearing about your spring adventures.

  8. @mrsoaroundworld April 5, 2013 at 3:55 am #

    No more snow in Wisconsin? spring looks lovely and the pictures are too
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..Tom Chesshyre, a Tourist in the Arab Spring @tchesshyre

    • Ted Nelson April 6, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

      Snow is pretty much done although these photos were from last fall, but it is pretty all year round up in northern Wisconsin.

  9. thelazytravelers April 7, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    you and the romantic are practically adventure twins now, ted. TWINS.
    thelazytravelers recently posted..eating our way through hawaii: the sweet

    • Ted Nelson April 10, 2013 at 2:58 am #

      My long lost sister! I always knew it was you.

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