Once a vital travel route for Ojibwe paddlers and later choked with logs floating downriver to sawmills, northwestern Wisconsin’s Namekagon River is now protected forever from development as part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The Nammy offers 100 miles of canoeing and fishing down to its confluence with the St. Croix.
Excellent flyfishing for brown trout can be had from Cable downstream to Hayward during a series of mayfly hatches in June, including the legendary Hexagenia hatch. State Highway 63 parallels the river for most of its first 60 miles, offering good canoe and walk-in access. Several class I and II rapids spice up the run.
From the Trego Flowage to the St. Croix, the Namekagon flows freely for 36 miles through towering pines, mixed hardwoods and broad wetlands. As the river deepens and widens, the paddling gets easier and the fishing gets better. Small crankbaits, spinners and jigs will take smallmouths, walleyes and channel cats from deep holes during the day and gravel runs at night. Logs and boulders provide cover for pike and muskies that hit big topwaters, jerkbaits and spinnerbaits. You might even hook a sturgeon on live or cut bait in the deeper runs.
Camp below Fox Slough at the site of Michel Cadotte’s 1784 trading post, or shoot Chippanazie Rapids, where many a voyageur canoe dumped its load of furs and trade goods. Primitive camping is encouraged at designated sites accessible by canoe. For maps and information, contact St. Croix National Scenic Riverway in St. Croix Falls (715-483-3284) or Trego (715-635-8346). Online information is available at www.nps.gov/sacn.