I consulted the Travel Wisconsin fall colors chart and it appeared the fall foliage would be perfect in northern Wisconsin for Flambeau River canoeing. I rolled up Friday night and camped in the Chequamegon-National Forest, which put me within distance of Philips and Lugerville in order to pick up a canoe.
Arrival in Lugerville, Wisconsin
Dave from Flambeau Sports was waiting for me at 7:30 a.m. He put the canoe on my car and tied it down, gave me a map, and said see you tomorrow at 2 p.m. He was in a hurry for his son’s cross-country meet. I got in the car and drove the ten minute drive to the put-in at Nine Mile Creek.
I knew right away that the colors would be outstanding. I looked across the river and was greeted with red, orange, and yellow. A look downstream turned out more of the same. It took me awhile to get ready, but in an hour the canoe was loaded, and I was floating downstream.
Flambeau River Canoeing with fall colors
The colors were so spectacular that I did not even want to move. I inched downstream not much faster than the musky fisherman who were drifting downstream casting their fly rods.
There were a few nice little rapids, but nothing too tough, which was a good thing as I had a heavy canoe and it was kind of windy, so it made maneuvering a little difficult. The water was shallow in places, so I did bump the rocks a few times, but thanks to the fiberglass canoe, I rolled right over any rocks in my way.
My goal was Oxbo campground. I read on the Flambeau River State Forest description of the river campsites that it was on the water and beautiful. The campsites along the river are free although you can only stay one night. There were three campsites at Oxbo and they were all unoccupied, which was not a surprise as I think I was the only paddler on the North Fork today.
Dave said he thought all the other canoe rental spots in the area were already closed, and I was the only person renting from him this weekend. It amazes me how people shut down their camping, hiking, and canoeing activities after Labor Day. Dave was right when he said that the only people I would see were fisherman.
Camping at Oxbo Camp in the Flambeau River State Forest
I set up camp at the Oxbo Camp and got my firewood ready for the night and then watched a spectacular sunset unfold. The sunset was so incredible that when the sun’s last rays in the west reflected off the clouds in the east, it turned the whole eastern horizon a purplish pink. I have never seen such beauty from a sunset on the opposite horizon.
Once the sun set, I enjoyed a campfire and several beers as well as several roasted hot dogs. The weather, even at this time of the night, was perfect. The night before got kind of cold. It was in the upper 30s when I left the National Forest campground. Tonight was mild and still in the upper 50s. An ideal night to relax around the fire.
I woke up the next day and had breakfast and rolled out of the campground. To my horror, it was past 10:30 when I finally got on the water. I had over 10 miles to go, and I said I would meet Dave at 2 p.m. The wind picked up, and the current was not that strong. I feared I might be an hour late.
Paddling my rear end off
I paddled my rear end off in order to try and make my pick up. Although the shoreline was still beautiful, the trees were not as colorful as the beginning. There were a lot of pine and also some trees that were kind of a washed out yellow. I was hoping to do some fishing, but since I was running late, I did not have time to dip my line in.
I came to a spot where the river widened and there were a lot of little islands. This looked like a good spot to check out the map. I realized I was less than a half mile from the pick up point, and I had about 20 minutes to share. I had paddled non-stop for three hours except for a few spots to drink a beer and check the map.
I came around the corner and there was a bridge. Dave was waiting for me as I arrived at the take out at 1:58 p.m. He shook his head and said “in 31 years in the business, I think you are the second person who has ever been on time.” I raised my fist in triumph. I wish I had more time to relax down the river, but I had an amazing time doing that the day before.
Recommend this stretch
I definitely recommend the Nine Mile Creek to Babb’s Island trip with the Oxbo Camp as a perfect midpoint place to camp. I also highly recommend working with Flambeau Sports. It was $35.00 a day for the rental and $55.00 for the ride. The nice thing about renting with Dave is he will let you take his canoes anywhere. There are a lot of great rivers in the area, so his outfit is a great place to explore the Flambeau and beyond. I hope that you will be the third person on time in Dave’s illustrious career.
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