Friday, January 10, 2014

Walk along bluff overlooking Namekagon

Though Lake Namakagon is known for its trophy muskies
(above), the Namekagon River is a popular sturgeon habitat.
Illustration courtesy of WI Legislative Reference Bureau.
Day hikers can walk along the headwaters of Wisconsin’s Namekagon River on a trail in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway easternmost tip.

The 1.3-mile round trip Namekagon Dam Landing Trail is located in the southwest corner of the Chequamegon National Forest. June through September mark the best months to hike the trail.

To reach the trailhead, from Cable, Wis., take County Road M east. In about eight miles and after entering the national forest, turn left/north onto Dam Road/Forest Road 211. After crossing the Namekagon, take the first right, which heads to a small dam. A parking lot is located there.

The dam backs up the river into a flowage that heads east to Lake Namakagon (note the different spelling from the river). The 2,897-acre glacial lake in southern Bayfield County boasts 43.67 miles of shoreline. One of only three managed trophy muskie lakes in Wisconsin, it reaches a depth of 38 feet and even has islands.

From the dam, hike back up to Dam Road, go left, and walk alongside the asphalt back across the bridge. The bridge’s corner offers a great view of the dam to the east and the narrow river to the west, which runs for 101 miles to the St. Croix River.

Continue walking south on Dam Road. In about a thousand feet from the bridge, turn right/northwest onto Forest Road 1730. The jeep trail follows the top of the bluff overlooking the Namekagon. The bluff line runs anywhere from 20 to 40 feet higher than the river, which sits at a fairly even 1400 feet above sea level.

The trail heads beneath a canopy of mixed Northern hardwoods. During autumn, it makes for a fantastic display of golds and oranges accented with reds and dark evergreens.

The river below, nestled in a fen forest, is popular with canoeists and kayakers during summer. A series of small rapids can be found about two miles below the dam; after the rapids, the river widens, and the fen forest gives way to open marsh.

On the bluff line trail, in about 350 feet from Dam Road, you’ll cross a creek that flows into the Namekagon. Watch for beaver, which create ponds out of the stream and wetlands. Sometimes on the main river, beaver dams even will stop the paddlers.

In about a thousand feet from the creek, the trail ends at a high point of 1439 feet. From there, go back the way you came.

During early to mid-summer, be sure to carry insect repellent. Also, note that official maps do not call this the Namekagon Dam Landing Trail; the name is a convention for this site.

Read more about day hiking Sawyer County, Wisconsin, in my Day Hiking Trails of Sawyer County guidebook.