This National Scenic Riverway in Wisconsin is Simply Amazing

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Did you know that a free national park flows right through Wisconsin?

The Namekagon River is, hands down, one of Wisconsin’s most beautiful waterways. It’s part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway in northwest Wisconsin, which is the only river managed by the National Park Service. (In fact, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway was the first river declared “Wild and Scenic” by congress back in 1968.)

Photo by Paul Ostrum

The Namekagon happens to be the cleanest tributary of the Mississippi River and it was the river that inspired Gaylord Nelson, who was the founder of Earth Day.

This 101-mile long river starts at Lake Namakagon in southern Bayfield County and flows southwest into the St. Croix River.

The Namekagon River starts at Namakagon Lake in Bayfield County and flows southwest for about 100 miles.

The Namekagon River starts at Namakagon Lake in Bayfield County and flows southwest for about 100 miles. Photo by Terry McNeill

Part of what makes this wild and scenic river so beautiful is the way it meanders through uninterrupted stretches of pristine prairies and forests. At some points, the river consists of tight, twisting turns. At other parts, the whole river seems to open up to camera-friendly vistas.

The Namekagon—which translates loosely to “Place of the Sturgeon” in Ojibwe—is teeming with wildlife. White-tailed deer, painted turtles and even black bears pay visits to the riverbanks. And more than 100 species of fish call this river home. (Taking kids on your river adventure? Your little ones will love this Checklist of Common Animals found along the Namekagon.)

Photo by Karri Burke

What to do:

  • Bring (or rent!) some tubes and make your way down the Namekagon slowly.
  • A paddler’s dream, kayakers and canoers come from all over to take in this beautiful river.
  • During the winter months, lace up those boots or strap on the snowshoes for a hike along the Trego Nature Trail, which winds its way along the banks of the river.
  • Birders love the Namekagon, too! Bald eagles, trumpeter swans, American coots, great blue herons and so much more can all be spotted along this river.
  • Of course, there’s plenty to do just off the river! The Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, Namekagon River Visitor Center and Cable Natural History Museum are just a few of the destinations you’ll find minutes from the Namekagon River.

Begin your adventure along one of Wisconsin’s most gorgeous rivers at namekagonriver.org.

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I adventure down the Namekagon River in our upcoming episode, "The Trails at the Top," which premieres on discoverwisconsin.com Jan. 31!

I adventure down the Namekagon River in our upcoming episode, “The Trails at the Top,” which premieres on discoverwisconsin.com Jan. 31!

Mariah Haberman is a host and the director of Discover Wisconsin, the state’s leading media brand. Watch the show Saturdays at 10 a.m. on FSN Wisconsin’s outdoor block or online at DiscoverWisconsin.com. Follow Mariah on Facebook (facebook.com/mar1ahha3erman) and Instagram (@MariahHaberman)

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