Tomahawk River – Wisconsin [June 2021]

River Paddled: Tomahawk River

Trip Date: June 14, 2021

Put In

Swamp Lake Rd Bridge

Parking lot with a path to the river where a landing makes for easy access.

Take Out

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.

Paddling Experience

With a short stretch of river between dams, it's not surprising that there wasn't much of a current. Otherwise though I never had concerns of scraping or downed trees. And the rapids just below the takeout were a good way to end the experience.

Natural Scenery

Forest on both sides the majority of the way, with some open grass banks in there as well. As for development, there was only one trail bridge and scattered houses here and there. All this making for nice scenery, even with dark clouds warning of thunderstorms to come, which I luckily missed.

Accessibility

Access points were limited but good options at that. The put in had a separate parking area and landing, while the takeout just had side of road parking but a path to the river. Another access point occurred shortly after Swamp Lake Rd, which consisted of nice a wayside park.

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: