Brule River - Wisconsin/Michigan

Date: May 28-29, 2021; Length: 40 miles; Duration: 13 hours 15 min (over 2-day span)

Put In: Highway 73 Bridge

There is a campground on one side and a small cleared space for a put in on the other side of the bridge, with side of the road parking if not staying at the campground.

Takeout: Highway 2 Landing

Pull out spot off the road, with a cleared grass area on the downstream left side of the bridge to take out at.

Paddling Experience = 5/5

40 miles of paddling sounds like a grueling time but it was far from it. The water had a great current, with riffles and a few rapids in the mix. That and no issues with water level or downed trees made this a great paddling experience.

Natural Scenery = 5/5

Woods on both sides of the water throughout most of this trip, with the Wisconsin side being national forest for the majority of the way. The dark brown, clean & clear river made the scenery even better.

Solitude = 4/5

For a 40-mile stretch of river, I might have come across a meager 4 instances of other paddlers, while passing a handful of people by their houses. For 13 hours of paddling, this made for a whole lot of solitude.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~8 feet per mile. A fairly continuous strong current with riffles and a few light rapids.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: 
The water level was never an issue. It was plenty deep enough without any tight squeezes or portages needed the whole time.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: located off Hwy 2 bridge, also the location of this trip's takeout.):

  • USGS Number = 04060993
  • Discharge Rate = 350 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 3.88 ft

Overall Experience

Planning: The Brule River is located in northeastern Wisconsin and flows east-southeast into the Michigamme River, forming the Menominee River.  Mike Svob has three successive trips of the Brule River in his book Paddling Northern Wisconsin, which I used to plan for a 40-mile trip from highway 55 to the highway 2 landing.  About seven other access points occur in between for any shorter desired trips.  I was expecting to camp two nights for my trip, with plenty of open Wisconsin national forest land off the river for much of the way and two other designated campsites around the middle of this 40-mile stretch. 

Paddling: This river is like an extra paddler with its strong current.  I could float and move at a decent rate, which I took advantage of on and off and at one point for a full hour.  A lot of times a fast current like this comes with a large river and/or steep gradient and strong rapids, but the Brule river seems to be the exception.  It’s fairly narrow, with riffles here and there.  Some other light rapids and two easy class II rapids occur which just added to the paddling fun.  The water was also plenty deep enough and clear of hazards to make things even more ideal for any paddler.

Camping: There are two main campsites on the water, called Twin Rapids and Two-Foot Falls.  Twin Rapids occurred 23 miles into paddling with Two-Foot Falls five miles following, with both seeming like solid campsites with cleared grass spaces.  Since this was a solo trip for me, I hiked my shuttle, which took up most of my first day and left me with camping about three miles after my put in on a random spot of Wisconsin national forest.  The following day I planned to paddle until coming to Twin Rapids or Two-Foot Falls to stop and camp, but the early start and strong current compelled me to carry on to my takeout, twelve miles further down from Two-Foot Falls.

Observations: Of the 40 miles of river in this section, I came across three bridges.  The dark brown and clear river is the border between Wisconsin and Michigan here, with the Wisconsin side national forest that can be camped on most of the way.  And while the Michigan side isn’t national forest, the various private land and homes off the water doesn’t take away from the natural feel, with endless trees the most common sight while paddling out there.  As for wildlife, the typical bird spotting of bald eagles, hawks, geese and ducks occurred, along with a raccoon in the mix.  Not to mention the twenty plus deer I managed to spook while paddling by on this 40 mile stretch.

Reflecting: This section of the Brule river has so much to offer paddlers, from the solitude, beautiful water and surroundings, and wildlife around to the strong current, fun riffles and rapids, and camping opportunities.  It’s as obvious of a recommendation to check out as it gets.  Take it in sections or tackle the whole thing.  Either way it’s bound to be a great paddling experience.