The Manitowish River originates at High Lake, just northeast of Boulder Junction where it then flows 44 miles through many lakes in the Northern Highlands-American Legion State Forest. These twenty-four miles are the last before the Manitowish joins the Bear River near the eastern edge of the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage and eventually forms the North Fork of the Flambeau River.
Highlighted as one of the DNR’s six recommended paddle routes within the Forest, this paddle will appeal to quietwater enthusiasts. Great for all skill levels, this largely calm section with only the occasional riffle meanders through a mix of lowland forest and marshland environment. With several first-come, first-served primitive campsites along almost entirely state-owned lands, it’s a popular multi-day paddle-camp adventure set in the solitude of northwoods Wisconsin.
Paddling Style: Quietwater Paddling
Best Suited For: Canoes + Kayaks
Camping Location: Riverside
Availability: First-Come, First-Served Designated Sites
Paddle-in: Yes | Walk-in: No
Camping Fee: No | Camping Permit: No
There are seven remote and secluded primitive campsites on this section of the Manitowish. Three are located between the Highway 51 Landing and Highway 47. There are four more between 47 and the take-out at Murray’s Landing. This is a popular canoe-camping river so be prepared with a Plan B incase your intended site is taken. All sites are marked and numbered with yellow signs and are outfitted with a box latrine, picnic table and fire ring. They are all available on a first-come, first-served basis and there are no fees, but access to them must be by boat and camping is limited to one night.
Paddling The Manitowish River:
While the upper Manitowish alternates from lake to river, this section is true river-like with less lake-paddling. Throughout, the river is gentle and the current is calm with only occasional riffles. Starting wooded and narrow, the first half of the trip is best characterized as a mix of forest and marsh as it flows alongside attractive tall wooded banks, marsh grasses and pines.
After highway 47, the river becomes more isolated and secluded as it veers south, away from Highway 51. In fact, there are no landings after that point so once you pass it, you’re committed until you reach Murray’s Landing on the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage. This half of the trip is far more remote than the first half, and the environment is less marsh-like but often more open along wetlands with lowland vegetation. The river widens as it enters Turtle-Flambeau Flowage where it becomes more lake-like and open for a couple miles.
Along the way, you’ll no doubt spot all kinds of wildlife. Beavers, otter, mink, heron, deer, eagles and mergansers are plentiful. You may even spot a black bear. Also, the river is prime for fishing, as these waters are stocked with northern, muskie, walleye and a variety of panfish.