I decided on the Namekagon River camping trip as my culminating river on my week long Wisconsin road and canoeing trip. I paddled one day on the Bois Brule, an outing on Barks Bay adjacent to the Apostle Islands, and a thrilling adventure on the White River in Bayfield County.
Related: White River Wisconsin canoeing
Good pandemic etiquette is to call and make reservations
During the new normal, it is often mandatory to make reservations. Gone for the meantime is the practice of showing up and expecting accommodation. This statement is accurate with canoe outfitters. As people escape their living rooms after months of lockdown and quarantine, river outfitters are seeing a surge in business.
Jacks Canoe Rental
I called Jacks Canoe Outfitters on way to Trego, Wisconsin. I opted for a two day canoe rental and livery service. We agreed to discuss the river section when I arrived at office.
Jacks Canoe Rental is just past the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway visitor center on Highway 63. They service both the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers. They rent for day trips, tubing, and multi day trips on the two scenic rivers.
Stinnett Landing to Jacks Canoe Rental
When I arrived at their property on the river, I parked my car and then walked into the office with mask on. A few people were milling around in the parking lot, but the office was empty except for an employee. I informed them I had a reservation and requested a two day paddle. They handed me a detailed map of the river showing campsite and landing locations.
Related: Fall flannel on the Namekagon
We decided that Stinnett Landing would be the best option as it is 21 miles upriver from Trego, so it would be the easiest shuttle option. They would take me, my canoe, and my gear, and I would paddle back to Trego. This way, I would not have to move my car. This was far downstream from Howell Landing. Another convenience is Jacks has its own canoe landing.
Once I loaded my canoe and launched, I had the biggest rapid of the trip just below the landing. It was a relatively easy class I chute. I navigated the rapids and fished in the eddy below. There were several other class I rapids, but nothing too difficult that I would consider whitewater.
This was no Boundary Waters trip with any type of portaging, so it was possible to load down the canoe with coolers and other not so lightweight camping equipment. The water level was perfect. It moved at a fair rate and a little high, but not too dangerously high. There was plenty of water to avoid rocks in the rapids and I barely scrapped the canoe the whole trip.
Canoe poling the Namekagon River
I brought a Wenonah Encounter canoe with me, but I did not want to paddle it on the Namekagon because I wanted to canoe pole. I had not had the opportunity to pole on this trip, and it is my preferred mode of canoeing.
The Namekagon River bottom was almost ideal for canoe poling. It featured a rocky and gravel bottom. Since it is a fast flowing river, there were hardly any sandy or muddy sections, which can create the hazardous situation of getting the canoe pole stuck. Randomly, the river was too deep to pole, but only for brief sections before returning to shallower water.
Namekagon River camping sites
The National Park Service maintains camping sites along both the Namekagon and St. Croix Rivers. Both rivers are included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers. There were 11 camping sites between Stinnett Landing and Trego. About half were regular sites and the other half group spots.
Best etiquette calls for solo paddlers to take the regular sites; however, I did not realize there was a difference between the two. By the time I realized this difference, I had passed too many of the regular sites and the only one coming up to camp in was a group site.
Fortunately, it was a weekday, and no one else paddled by looking for a campsite, but it is important to be mindful of this difference.
It was a fantastic campsite and overlooked the river on a high flat area. The bedroom featured four pine trees evenly spaced with a bed of pine needles. It does not get any better than that for a tent space.
Namekagon River wildlife
While the area usually is a haven for northern Wisconsin wildlife, I saw very little of it on this trip. I think I saw a few bald eagles and maybe a couple blue herons. Other than that, there was a paucity of sightings. This surprised me after the incredible array of fauna I saw on the White River.
On the other hand, it was not a shock as this is probably the least wild section of the river. Highway 63 parallels the river, and I heard vehicle sounds all night. I could not believe how busy this highway was even at night during a pandemic.
The terminal stretch near Trego was overcrowded with party goers in tubes. This was the con of choosing this stretch, but I only came into contact with these people during the last couple of miles of my trip. The section upriver, I only saw a few fisherman and a few other paddlers.
This was a small annoyance and not a game changer for me. While I enjoy my solitude, I also do not mind seeing others enjoying outdoor recreation.
Recommend a Namekagon River Camping trip
I definitely recommend a camping trip on the Namekagon. The Namekagon River offers over 100 miles of river and even more when you include the St. Croix before it flows into the Mississippi River.
I also recommend renting with Jacks Canoe Rental whether you want to rent a canoe, tube, or get a shuttle. They were an efficient operation. The two day rental and the shuttle cost a little over a $100.00, which I feel was money well spent.