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Favorite Midwest Destinations

Posted by Darren Bush on 5/11/2013 to Where We Paddle

One question we are asked a lot is “Where should I go for my paddling trip?”

I did a quick survey of the staff. They helped me come up with a list of popular Midwest destinations. It’s where we go a lot, and you’d probably enjoy it too. Many of these areas are remote and dangerous to those lacking in judgement, skills, or worst of all, lacking in both. Be careful out there.

Wisconsin River

This is my favorite place on earth. Running from far northern Wisconsin to the Mississippi River in the far southwest, it’s a wild, remote river with rustic camping on sandbars. High water can cause problems for paddlers as well as campers, and the wind seems to always blow in one direction — in your face. That being said, there’s lots of beauty to be had just a few miles away from civilization.

Glass is not allowed on the river, so leave bottles at home (except your prescriptions, medicines, etc.). You can pick up other people’s bottles (the warden assured me that you won’t be cited for carrying out other people’s bottles. On that note, you also need to carry a waterproof container of some sort (to haul out your rubbish).

PFD’s should be worn at all times, as the current is tricky and undertows are common. Camping is allowed anywhere below the high water mark, which means mostly on sandbars. Not all land on the river is state owned, so an occasional owner may dislodge you. Leave nicely, it’s his or her property.

You can get more information at:
Tower Hill State Park — (608) 588-2116
Lower Wisconsin Waterway — (608) 588-9128

Apostle Islands

This is a wonderful place. Twenty-two islands were named for the apostles by voyageurs who couldn’t count past twelve. Lots of cold water and dangerous weather make this a place for experienced boaters, so be careful.

Camping is available at Dalrymple campground just north of Bayfield, or at Red Cliff Indian Reservation a few miles north of that.

Information available at (715) 779-3397.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

A lot of us have paddled here for years and years. Recently it has become a hot political topic as empty-headed politicians want to motorize the remaining 2% of Minnesota waters that are off limits to motors. They can’t seem to understand that people go to the BWCA to get away from power boats. The BWCA has a long list of people who love it, including the group “Friends of the BWCA,” and while we’re not out of the woods yet, it seems that people are realizing how vital it is to maintain this jewel of the north in its pristine state.

As George Orwell would say, “In the BWCA, muscles good — motors bad.”

Information: (800) 745-3399 (reservations)

Quetico Provincial Park

Just north of the BWCA, you’ll find its Canadian corollary, the Quetico Provincial Park. Similar to the BWCA in terrain, it’s generally less crowded and tougher to get to (which explains why it’s less crowded). The portage trails tend to be less defined (that means you can get lost more easily), but it’s wonderful.

Information: (807) 597-4602.

Woodland Caribou Provincial Park

One of the largest herds of woodland caribou south of Hudson Bay inhabits this northern Ontario wilderness. Ancient pictographs along waterways document the journeys of the Ojibway. Today, experienced canoe trippers and sport fishing enthusiasts enter this remote, silent park, paddling or flying in to camps or lodges.

Wilderness parks are large areas left to nature where visitors may travel on foot or by canoe. Offering little if any facilities for visitors, these areas provide the solitude of an undisturbed, natural setting. Woodland Caribou is no exception. If you’re craving solitude, here’s a great place to start.

Information: 1-888-ONT-PARK (668-7275) or visit their website at

Wabakimi Provincial Park

Wabakimi Provincial Park is a world-class canoeing and recreational area in the heart of Northwestern Ontario. Home of the elusive woodland caribou, and renowned for its high quality fly-in fishing and hunting, it is one of the world’s largest Boreal Forest reserves and wilderness canoeing areas.

Originally established in 1983, Wabakimi was expanded almost six-fold in 1997, bringing the park to its current size of 892,061 hectares (8,920 square kilometres, 3,444 square miles, or almost 2.3 million acres). It is now the second largest park in the Ontario Parks system (the largest is Polar Bear Provincial Park, near Hudson Bay).

Information: (807) 475-1634 or check their website at

Sylvania National Forest

This place is a wonderful little gem just over the Michigan border in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Not all that big, but beautiful, and a great place for solo canoe trips. It’s a gem.

Information: (906) 932-1330

Voyageurs National Park

This is one of John’s favorite places. Basically, think of it as the BWCA without portages, and with an occasional houseboat. This isn’t a bad thing, really. Along with the occasional houseboat comes the occasional beer or soda pop for a thirsty paddler. If you like the BWCA but want to take a sea kayak, this is a great alternative.

Besides, hundreds of islands and secluded bays make for isolation if you want it. A great place for flatrocking*.

Information: (218) 283-9821

Namekagon River

One of the first national scenic rivers, the Namekagon was designated in the 1960′s and is a gorgeous remote river in Northern Wisconsin. Running from Lake Namekagon to the St. Croix river, the Namekagon is a wonderful flatwater river punctuated with Class I and II rapids. Campsites are designated along the way, and there are no black flies! Check out the book Whitewater, Quietwater for more information about this wonderful place, whose name in Ojibway means “where the sturgeons are plentiful.” Break out the caviar…

Information: (715) 634-2688

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