Traveling Ted is a blog that takes readers along on my adventures hiking, canoeing, skiing, and international backpacking. Many blogs focus on one aspect of backpacking, but I tackle both the outdoor adventure side and international exploration as well.

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After a fateful expedition canoeing the Bois Brule River where I capsized and ruined my camera, I was in the mood for more casual day outdoors. Bark Bay Slough State Natural Area fit the profile for this mild adventure. This is where local outfitters take visitors on days when Lake Superior gales make Apostle Island expeditions impossible.

Bark Bay Slough State Natural Area

Bark Bay Slough State Natural Area

No need for car shift

Another agreeable feature of Bark Bay is there is no need for a car shuttle. The landing lies just north of Highway 13 on Bark Bay Road. Bark Bay is located 30 miles west of Bayfield in Bayfield County, Wisconsin. Once you put-in, you can paddle out to Lake Superior and explore the bog and the Bark River and then return.

Bark Bay canoeing

Bark Bay, Wisconsin

Related: White river Wisconsin canoe adventure

What is Bark Bay Slough State Natural Area

Bark Bay Slough is a unique ecosystem comprised of a coastal barrier spit, lagoon, and springs nestled adjacent to Lake Superior. It is composed of two types of wetlands: coastal fen and coastal bog. The Wisconsin DNR website describes the environment in much more detail.

A distinctive wetland is not what one would expect in the Wisconsin northwoods; therefore, the journey seemed more reminiscent of a southern state.

Wisconsin summer cabin

Gorgeous summer homes line the coastal spit on the Lake Superior shore, certainly make great photo opportunities

Beautiful summer cabins along the coastal barrier spit

A sandy spit of land extends out protecting the slough from battering winds and waves coming off Lake Superior. Summer homes and cabins occupy the narrow stretch of land.

They enjoy two sensational views. Lake Superior is their front porch and Bark Bay Slough State Natural Area is their backyard. We paddled along the spit and admired their dual views.

Wisconsin cabin

Summer cabin, makes me feel fine

Wisconsin cabin Bayfield County

Which cabin would you like to stay at?

Paddling with a long time canoeing buddy

I was accompanied by long time canoeing friend Rick Kemmer who was a fellow member of the Prairie State Canoeists in Illinois. We went on many river adventures together back in the 1980s. He retired and bought a home only a few miles from the Apostle Islands and Lake Superior.

Bark River mouth

Thanks to long time family friend Rick Kemmer for introducing me to this place

Enter the Bark River

Just before the slough empties into Lake Superior, it is joined by the Bark River and forms a mini delta of sand. This sandbar is the perfect spot to idly admire one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. We reposed here for over an hour enjoying the view of Lake Superior and crystal clear flow of the Bark River as it passed through our midst.

Bark River mouth

Bark River and slough empty into Lake Superior

Wenonah Encounter

Wenonah Encounter on the banks Lake Superior

The water was absolutely freezing cold still in mid June; therefore, there was no swimming today. Perhaps by late July or August it warms up enough to take a dip. We strolled down the sandy spit for about 15 minutes soaking in the superior scene and watched a few fishing boats troll the icy cold waters.

Lake Superior Bayfield County

Soaking in the Lake Superior scenery at the mouth of the Bark River, meanwhile enjoying a beer

Bark Bay Slough State Natural Area wildlife

We did not see anything of note in regards to wildlife; however, we did see a pair of sandhill cranes at the intersection of Bark Road and Highway 13 in a field.  With such a diverse ecosystem, it obviously is an excellent spot for birding. The DNR states that bald eagle, blue heron, sandhill crane, and American bittern inhabit the wetland. Migrating shorebirds are also abundant during the spring and fall.

Lake Superior Bayfield County

Wading in the icy waters at the mouth of the Bark River because swimming was a no go

Bark Bay Slough State Natural Area fishing

While I did not choose to dip a line in the water, I am sure the slough provides quality angling. The slough is home to northern pike, bluegill, brown trout, and smallmouth and largemouth bass. We did not see anyone fishing today, moreover we did not see many people period.

Lake Superior shoreline Wisconsin

Lake Superior shoreline

Bark Bay flora

The DNR website intricately describes the species of plants found in the slough. For example, it includes such detail as a mat of Spaghnum moss and ericaceous shrubs. I would not know a shrub, ericaceous or otherwise; however, my radar indicated to me that I was in a unique habitat. The flora highlight for me was the plethora of flowering yellow lily pads.

Bark Bay Slough State Natural Area lily pads

Flowering lily pads abound in Bark Bay Slough State Natural Area

Lily pad flower Wisconsin

Flowering lily pad

Paddling back through slough

On our return sojourn, we paddled past the landing and explored the west side of the slough. It constricts and resembles a river until it peters out. We returned to the cars after a mini 3-4 hour experience content with the quality experience.

Bark Bay Slough State Natural Area

Calm waters of Bark Bay, as a result make a great mild adventure

Bayfield County abounds with thrilling outdoor adventure. Outdoor adventure enthusiasts can explore the Lake Superior shoreline, gawk at sea caves, sea kayak to the Apostle Islands, canoe or kayak rapid filled picturesque rivers, and hike to a waterfall. Somedays though, you just want a laid back paddle. For example, you hit some wind going out to the Apostles, or took a spill on a fast moving river, then a relaxed paddle on a scenic slough might be just what you are looking for.

Adventure on!

Bark Bay Slough State Natural Area