River Paddled: Tomahawk River
Trip Date: June 14, 2021
Swamp Lake Rd Bridge
Parking lot with a path to the river where a landing makes for easy access.
Prairie Rapids Rd Bridge
Side of the road parking with a path down to the river where you can take out on the upstream left side.
Paddle Length: 8.2 miles
Paddle Duration: 3 hours
Gradient: ~2 feet per mile. The water is pretty flat, lacking much of a current until coming to Prairie Rapids towards the takeout.
Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: there isn't a gauge for this river, which is also located between two dams. The rapids can be a good indicator of the water depth.):
Our Experience Paddling This Segment of the Tomahawk River at These Levels
The water level was good. I never ran into any scraping while the rapids were easily runnable.
Swamp Lake Rd - Prairie Rapids Rd
Planning: The Tomahawk River is located in north-central Wisconsin and flows south through a few flowages and dams before merging into the Wisconsin river. In his book, Paddling Northern Wisconsin, Mike Svob has two successive trips between the Willow flowage and Nokomis lake totaling 20 miles. I chose to paddle his 8.2 mile second trip from Swamp Lake road to Prairie Rapids road, which was all flat water before ending with a class II rapid.
Paddling: The river was moderately wide and plenty of depth, feeling more like a long lake with its lack of a current most of the way. So the paddling was more of a physical chore until coming to the class II Prairie rapids, less than a mile before my takeout. It was an easy class II where the river constricted and wound with big boulders on both sides. Some maneuvering and lining up a few drops were required but were fairly easy with enough time and plenty of water or flow that I was able to avoid even getting wet at all.
Observations: The river had a reddish brown color with decent clarity, where vegetation was more common of a sight than boulder. This section of the Tomahawk river is pretty undeveloped. There were houses here and there in the first couple miles and only one trail bridge between my put in and takeout. Forest were on both sides of the river, with some more open grass banks as well. I didn’t come across anyone else on or off the water while out there but did see three deer, a duck, hawk, and bald eagle.
Reflecting: The scenery and one set of rapids are the clear highlights to this river trip. Otherwise it was an uneventful paddling experience. If you’re up for a few hours of some slow flat paddling before coming to a fun rapid, by all means check this section out or to just enjoy the surroundings. I plan to check out the section upstream of this one, where there is another lone class II rapid amongst some flat water paddling.
Here are some pictures from this trip: