During the coronavirus pandemic, just about every group activity has been canceled. Even outdoor trips I have done every year have taken a 2020 hiatus. The Bull Moose Patrol trip on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage canoe camping was one exception although with a few tweaks to keep it safe.
Ten paddlers leave Sportsmans Landing on a three day tour
A group of ten hardy pent up outdoor enthusiasts gathered at the access point at Sportsman’s Landing for two nights of canoe camping. Other options for boat launching include Fisherman Landing, Murray Landing, and Springstead Landing. Springstead Landing is the only boat launch with a hand pump for drinking water, so if you are putting in elsewhere, bring your own water or filter.
Keeping it Covid safe
In order to keep the trip safe, we wore masks when in the car together during car shifts, and for the most part maintained our social distance. Each person brought their own tent and cooked for themselves. We usually all cook one meal and share, but to keep it safe we cooked separately on this trip.
We did not wear masks in the canoe together. The distance between the bow and the stern paddler is sufficient, especially on a big body of water with wind and breezes. The safety protocols worked as no one became sick during or after the trip.
The bathrooms were fully stocked with toilet paper and hand sanitizer. A fellow from the DNR on a boat came everyday to restock the supplies.
A group of us were fishing the second day when he tooled by. He gave us a few fishing tips on his way out. Only in Wisconsin does the camp concierge also provide fishing tips.
Camping on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage
There are 66 (8 group and 58 family) campsites on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage. They are separated by two categories: There are group sites and individual or family sites. Six of the group sites require a fee of $40.00 per night and must be reserved in advanced through the Wisconsin DNR. Two (G1 and G2) are available on a first-come, first-served basis and do not require a fee.
All of the group sites and 17 of the family sites include a picnic table, fire ring, and a pit toilet. The family sites with the amenities are list as F. The rest of the family sites without the perks are listed with an R. Family campsite A1 is friendly for persons with disabilities and can be reserved at no charge. All of the camping sites on the Turtle Flambeau are accessible only by boat.
Paddling into B5 group camp
We did not have far to paddle to our group camp. We wanted to get settled early and then do day trips once we had camp set up. On the first day we were on our own to paddle and fish around the campground. The second day we paddled around the vicinity in empty boats.
Turtle Flambeau Flowage is like the Boundary Waters
I have always heard that Turtle Flambeau Flowage canoe camping is like the Boundary Waters. My first impression when I paddled out on the the lake was “this is like the Boundary Waters.” The reports were true.
A bald eagle flew over shortly after and the relationship with the group of lakes in Minnesota was confirmed. The bond became even stronger when a loon call echoed from the lake into our ears around the campfire. When we heard that someone said, “this reminds me of the Boundary Waters.” We all nodded in agreement.
Turtle Flambeau Flowage fishing
One aspect where the Turtle Flambeau Flowage was not like the Boundary Waters was the fishing, but I really did not give it enough of a try to confirm this result. I fished for a couple of hours the first night without much luck. I did catch a small northern and a few small smallmouth bass right off the shore from our campsite.
One fellow paddler caught a real nice smallmouth bass at the same place. There were many power boats prowling the waters, especially at night, so there is no doubt that the fishing is good, but it was not Boundary Waters good. Despite the presence of fishing boats, the campsites were in an incredibly quiet area.
Paddling tutorial followed by a cruise around the lakes
Scott demonstrated some paddling techniques in front of our campsite on the second day before we paddled around the flowage. The instruction was more for the third day when we would be paddling class II rapids on the North Fork of the Flambeau River.
The section of the Turtle Flambeau Flowage that we were camping on had no cabins or structures in sight. This changes as you paddle around the flowage, which is pretty enormous as you can imagine to hold over 60 campsites. The cabins are few and far between and do not detract too much from the pristine beauty of the surroundings. If there were too many structures, then it would not be reminiscent of the Boundary Waters.
Great to socialize
After a spring and summer that mainly consisted of solo hikes and solo canoe trips with a few small group paddles, it was nice to actually safely socialize with a group. I think we have learned that as long as you safely social distance in the outdoors, there is not much risk of contracting or passing on the virus.
Leaving the Turtle Flambeau Flowage
On the third day, we packed up early and paddled back to the put-in. We were chastised by a river otter on our way out. I think I mentioned that this once happened to me in the Boundary Waters. Then someone said that this trip reminded them of the Boundary Waters, and we all agreed.
Despite that rude send off from the river otter, I would definitely return. We put our camping gear away in the car and got ready for another adventure. But that is a story for another post.