Sunday, February 9, 2014

Trail leads to St. Croix's largest tributary

Confluence of Namekagon (bottom picture)
and St.Croix (mid-picture) rivers. Photo
courtesy National Park Service.

Namekagon Delta Trail offers
scenic views in Wisconsin

Families can day hike to a scenic delta at the confluence of the St. Croix and Namekagon rivers on a trail in Wisconsin’s Northwoods.

A number of unnamed and non-maintained trails run near the delta in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. For convenience’s sake, we’ve named this 2.7-mile out-and-back trail the Namekagon Delta Trail after its primary geographic feature.

Some of the area that the trail crosses, including the confluence itself, actually is part of the Big Island State Natural Area, but the boundaries with the scenic riverway are indistinguishable.

Forking scenic riverway
Like a wishbone, the national scenic riverway splits in Burnett County. One fork – the St. Croix River – continues northward to its headwaters while the other fork – the Namekagon River – heads eastward.

To reach the trailhead, from Danbury, Wis., take Wis. Hwy. 35 north. Turn right/east onto the paved road named Springbrook Trail (If you’ve crossed the St. Croix River, you’ve just missed the turn.). Next, turn left/north onto Namekagon Point Road. The road stops at a vista of the Namekagon and St. Croix’s confluence, which sits about 94 feet below. Park off to the side of the road.

Take the jeep trail that heads to the left/northwest. It quickly descends about 90 feet to the river valley, heading through a woods to the confluence for a half-mile.

The St. Croix’s largest tributary, the Namekagon meanders for 101 miles, crossing four Wisconsin counties. It’s a major recreational area, with a number of boat landings and campsites, especially in Sawyer and Washburn counties.

Bluff line views
The Namekagon Delta includes a sandbar that doesn’t quite cut the St. Croix’s width in half, but it does narrow the flow by diminishing the latter’s depth. Only a hundred feet or so south of the delta, the St. Croix widens to the same distance as it was north of the confluence.

Heading back up the cliffside to the vista site, take the fairly flat primitive trail running southwest along the bluff line. Its trailhead is along Namekagon Point Road just south of the vista.

The bluff line stretch of the trail runs for 0.85 miles one way, offering views of the confluence and then the St. Croix River in the tree breaks. The large island in the St. Croix’s center is Big Island. Where the primitive trail reaches a jeep trail (listed on some maps as “Snowmobile Trail”) marks a good turnaround point.

During spring into late summer, mosquito repellant is a necessity at the confluence.

Read more about day hiking the scenic riverway in Hittin’ the Trail: Day Hiking the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.