Saturday, November 8, 2014

Old logging trail heads alongside newly designated Wild River in northern Wisconsin

Frog in Totagatic River. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin DNR.

Route parallels
Totagatic Flowage

Day hikers can ramble alongside one of Wisconsin’s few remaining wilderness streams on a jeep trail in the Totagatic River State Wildlife Area.

Though not a designated trail, the old logging road runs about a mile (2-miles round trip) through a forested area along the Totagatic Flowage’s northwest side. The flowage marks a wide swath of the meandering Totagatic River, which in 2009 became Wisconsin’s fifth stream to receive Wild River status.

Waterfowl friendly
To reach the trailhead, from Hayward take Wis. Hwy. 77 north/west. Turn left/north onto Wis. Hwy. 27. Park off the road on the west side of Hwy. 27 across from Dam Road. The jeep trail heads northwest from the parking area.

Most of the trail is under the cover of northern hardwoods, which makes for a scenic walk during autumn.

The Totagatic runs 70 miles through five counties. Its headwaters are in southern Bayfield County. Popular among canoeists, the cold and clear river flows into Totagatic Lake then to Nelson Lake and into the flowage. Hwy. 27 and the dam split Nelson Lake from the flowage.

Expect to spot a number of waterfowl along the hike. The bird-friendly flowage was constructed in the 1950s, and the 272-acre Totagatic River Wildlife Area has long been designated a state waterfowl restoration area. A mix of habitats – from hardwood forests and open water to swamps and upland grasslands – make up the wildlife area.

Namegakon tributary
If you ask locals about the river or read printed materials on it, you’re likely to run into some confusing appellations. Spellings and pronunciations of the river are about as murky as its name suggests – “Totagatic” is derived from the Ojibwa word “Totogan,” which translates as “boggy river.” Maps, plat books, tour guides variously spell the river’s name as “Totagatic” and “Totogatic.” Local pronunciations range from “Tuh-TO-ga-tec” and “To-TA-ga-tec” to “To-to-GAT-ic” and “To-BA-tec.”

From the flowage, the river heads roughly west. Northwest of Minong, it turns south and eventually flows into the Namekagon River.

Back in the wildlife area, the trail peters out at the edge of the flowage, a grasslands that the river runs through the center of. As an old logging road, expect parts of the trail to be overgrown, so don jeans and insect repellent for the hike.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.