Wisconsin rivers from the road and sometimes kayak

Big Rib River

Rib Falls

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Rib Falls is on the Big Rib River, near the intersection of CH U and S, north of Hwy 29, and about 4 miles as the crow flies northwest of Marathon City in Marathon County.

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Rib Falls of course is not Niagara Falls, but it is fun to watch. On this particular day, she was filled with energy as we had had a few rainy weeks before I walked down to the river. There is a put-in for kayakers just below the falls.

By Kayak Wausau Area

The Big Rib River rises in northeastern Taylor County at Rib Lake and flows into Marathon County where it joins the Wisconsin River at Wausau. There are two rapids which require some pretty good skill, one of which is at Rib Falls, but the rest of the river is rookie friendly.

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This photo shows the sections I have been on thus far, close to Wausau.

Trail’s End upstream to vicinity of 50th Street, Wausau: October 4, 2011

In the section that follows this one, photographed in August 2011, I began at Neuske’s at Gulliver’s Landing, Wausau, and made my way up to Trail’s End Tavern, Sherman Road Wausau. In this section, I started at Trails’ End Tavern and continued working my way upstream until I reached the vicinity of an apartment complex on 50th Street, in western Wausau. I ran aground after 1.5 hours of paddling, and faced having to portage my way across some tree obstacles, so I stopped, turned around and returned to Trails’ End for a brew.

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I put in at Trails’ End, which by the way is now under new ownership, and paddled my way out from that small creek you see just right of center. I then hooked a right, to the left on this photo, to head upstream the Big Rib.

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I’m now on the Big Rib. It was October 4 so the trees here were just starting to turn. In all honesty, the colors were not their usual magnificent selves, largely because of the warm sunny days in the fall, which tend to make the colors less intense. Nonetheless, the sights were great.

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Of course, being a little kid, I had to paddle under the leaning tree branch!

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Just below center, you can see the rear end of a white tail deer. I’ve got a lot to learn about photographing wildlife from the kayak. I hung around for 30 minutes waiting for this bad guy to turn around. Whenever he did so, I was not in position, would then get in position, and he would turn around again, and then finally left. Argh!

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Good color. This was my rookie year. Next time up here, I’m going into these little offshoot streams you can see just below center.

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I always wonder what’s around the corner. The landscape is remarkable.

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It’ only October 4, and the intensity of fall colors was not as good as I’ve seen it, and I was surprised to see how many leaves had already fallen.

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Wow, I paddled under these leaves and just sat there for a while, alone, quiet, just lookin’.

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As I made my way upstream, the Big Rib narrowed. You can see the sand beach. The water levels started to be barely above the sand bars. I had to move through slowly, as I hate going aground. I wove my way through lanes I could spot by watching through the water below the kayak. I have yet to get a good feel for how shallow the water can be for me to sneak through.

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The landscape started to change a bit. Just prior to this, I noted a lot of rock on the small cliffs. Here the cliffs rose up a bit. Behind those trees is an apartment complex in the 50th St. area of west Wausau. Un fortunately, I had visited this area by car and there is no good place to put in here, at least for an old guy!

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Okay, trouble ahead. You can see a tree trunk lying horizontally on the left, and the beach extending from the right. I approached this slowly.

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I think I might have been able to make it through, though right at this moment I was aground on a sandbar, but it was easy too get off. I certainly could have portaged through here but I had been out 1.5 hours, my limit this season had been about 2.5 hours, so I decided to turn around and head back to Trails’ End.

So now I’ll head back. I’m going downstream so the paddle was much easier. The sun was to my back, so photography became a little easier too.

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Note the ridge in the center in the distance, and the tower. That’s Rib Mountain.

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I noticed several spots where falling tress from both sides of a small offshoot stream would form a bridge. I should have gone under it for chuckles.

Nueske’s at Gulliver’s Landing, Wausau, upstream to Trails’ End Tavern, Sherman Road Wausau: August 27, 2011


As I was new to going on the rivers and had spent some time during the summer 2011 on Lake Wausau, I decided to conduct my first exploration of the Big Rib by putting in at Nueske’s Gulliver’s Landing Restaurant just off the south end of where 17th St., Wausau crosses the area where the Big Rib merges with the Wisconsin River and Lake Wausau. For me, Lake Wausau presented an environment where there were a lot of people, in case I got in trouble during this, my first year in a kayak, and the rivers can get lonely. So this was exciting for me.

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You can enter the Big Rib from a location east of where it enters the Wisconsin River. It’s a bit of a paddle to do. If you put in at Gulliver’s Landing, more to the south of the Big Rub, you have a nice short-cut into the Big Rib which gets you there much faster.

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These guys had put in where I was doing so and they were just getting ready to hit the Big Rib. You can see a horizontal line of water mid-photo which takes you to and then through the short-cut.

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By now I have passed through the short-cut and have entered the Big Rib.

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It was August 27, 2011, a fabulous day, and this group of boaters has begun to party. They have a small beach and sand bar where they spread out their seats, cracked open a brewski, watched the kids playing games in the shallow water and just enjoyed the sun. The Big Rib turns to the right out of this photo. Keep these folks in mind as on my way back you will see this party will grow!

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Okay, I’m in there. The scenery is terrific, and I was alone, and I quickly came to love it. You can see some fallen tree obstacles center photo. I’ll get you a closer shot. Fallen trees into rivers, I have come to learn, can be the biggest headache for a kayaker when they block the thoroughfare. Sometimes you have to portage to get around them, which is time consuming.

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As you can see, these presented no problem.

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As I pressed ahead a bit, I came to a decision point, do I go right or left. As I looked to the right (yellow arrow), I saw some boats berthed which made me believe that is the way I ought to go. How come, 50-50 I always choose the wrong 50? This was the wrong decision, but I did have fun and I learned a lot about kayaking in the process. As an aside, when I turned around and left this area, and looked at the other choice of going left, I could not imagine how I chose the wrong turn. So be it. Now I know. The red circle denotes the Trail’s End Tavern, which is a place where you can put in and continue heading upstream.

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As I entered the area I chose, I could see the river was narrowing a great deal, which gave me an inkling I had made a mistake. But I kept on seeing the boats, so I kept on truckin’.

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The environment was neat. I show this shot because you can see the river bottom along the shoreline. I would soon learn I would run out of water depth.

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You can tell by the color of the water here that I am entering a very shallow area. I approached quite slowly, looking for the most depth I could find. I was surprised at how little depth I needed.

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The river bed bottom is quite visible here.

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You can barely see the front tip of my kayak lower right. At this point, I had passed the Trail’s End Tavern and had gone aground. This was my first experience with going aground. My choices were to try to back up, turn around, and go back out the way I came in, or get out of the kayak, get off the sand bar, and press forward. In looking at how the river kept narrowing and the tree obstacles ahead, and since I had already been out over an hour, my limit for one way this summer, I decided to back up. I was happily surprise that I could push backward with my paddles sufficiently to get off the sand bar. A huge relief for a rookie!

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I had a bit of a time turning around, since the water was so shallow, but finally managed to do so and headed out. You can see a group of boats berthed ahead.

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I pride myself on how I can sniff out a good tavern. That’s probably what drew me into hanging a right instead of a left earlier. Here is the Trail’s End Tavern, which I understand is for sale now. A very nice place, and I hope it remains open. The people inside were their usual great Wisconsin selves, very helpful and friendly.

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I finally emerged from the original decision point area. I took the right, which appears straight ahead in this photo. I did not get a good shot of what it looks like to the left, but now that I looked more carefully, I was astounded to see how wide it was. I do not know how I missed this, unless the sniffs of beer at Trail’s End lured me in like the Lorelei. Anyway, I am now heading downstream back out of the Big Rib.

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You will recall that party that was setting up as I came in. Well look how it has grown. I drifted by with the current quite slowly and enjoyed watching everyone enjoying themselves.

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Close to where I would turn into my short cut and return to home port, I spotted this “tree sculpture.” Again, an artist’s or photographer’s opportunity.