Date: July 9, 2020; Length: 9 miles; Duration: 3 hours 15 min
I was looking to paddle a river with my brother while up in northeastern Wisconsin. Something in the range of flat water to a few light rapids, so we ended up choosing a section on the north branch of the Peshtigo. It was about 9 miles from Big Joe landing to CCC bridge, which I got from the website called Wisconsin Trail Guide. The morning of our planned river trip came. With two people and vehicles, we parked one at the takeout and drove the other one to our put in of Big Joe Landing. We arrived and started unpacking and inflating our inflatable kayak and packraft, which became a hurrying process as we were welcomed by swarms of mosquitos and then downpouring rain.
After some quick inflating we were both on the Peshtigo paddling. But the mosquitos remained, while the rain became thunderstorms. To go with the theme of setbacks, were the numerous hazards of downed trees. This shouldn’t have been a surprise though, as both Mike Svob in his book Paddling Northern Wisconsin and the website Wisconsin Trail Guide give this very warning, which I unfortunately saw later on. There were branches across the river making for quick maneuvering and tight squeezes, logs just below the water surface to hoist and scoot over, and one instance of a full on portage needed. Much of the downed trees occurred in the middle of this section where the river tightly winds for a couple miles. This stretch also had some flooding, where it wasn’t always clear what the direction or path of the river was, which gives the impression that water levels aren’t the issue or a solution for that matter to all the downed trees either.
With these issues also came many positives to the river itself and it’s surroundings. One was the light but wavy Camp 8 rapid, a class I rapid in the first mile of this section, while it had a decent current to it throughout. It varied in width, usually depending on the route of the water, whether it be winding or rather straight. And it had a dark brown color to it with okay clarity, occasional plant life, and less boulders than downed trees. The banks of the Peshtigo were mostly lined with trees, along with some grass or marsh areas, that remained uninterrupted as houses were few and far between. They only occurred near the put in and takeout, while access points or bridges were also clustered, with four in the first four miles, followed by the takeout five miles later. And not surprisingly, we were the only ones on or off the water, almost including wildlife, as all we spotted were some geese, ducks, and one osprey in the just over three hours of paddling.
Takeout was manageable and on river right for us just after the bridge. It was a short walk back up the slope to the road and to the other vehicle. After a final ride back up to put in, we were officially done with this Peshtigo river trip. It was a challenging one for the obvious elements of mosquitos, thunderstorms, and hazards, but also time well spent for the shared experience out there. There is something special to passing through the undeveloped water and surrounding forests of northeastern Wisconsin, even in as brief a stretch as that was.