Wisconsin rivers from the road and sometimes kayak

Chippewa River


I should say at the outset that I have very few photos at present of the Chippewa River, and the few I do have were taken in winter.

The Chippewa River in Wisconsin flows approximately 183 miles through west-central and northwestern Wisconsin.

That said, this is one crazy river in my book --- for starters, I see differences in how and where the river originates.


There seems to be a consensus that the river’s source is Lake Chippewa. But, in northwestern Wisconsin, there are two lakes named “Chippewa.” As you see on the map above, Chippewa Lake is in southeastern Bayfield County. There is also a much larger lake named Lake Chippewa in north-central Sawyer County.

Let’s return to Chippewa Lake in Bayfield County. Many maps reflect the West Fork of the Chippewa River flowing from it in a huge set of twists and turns that take it into western Ashland County and then southwesterly into Lake Chippewa in Sawyer County. These maps also show the East Fork of the Chippewa River rising in western Iron County and also flowing southwesterly into Lake Chippewa. Then, everyone seems to agree the main river flows out of Lake Chippewa. One source goes so far to say that the river “officially” rises from Lake Chippewa. But to be technically correct, it appears the Chippewa flows out of the confluence of the West For Chippewa River flowing from Chippewa Lake and the East Fork which rises out of the swamps of Iron County, that confluence occurring at Lake Chippewa in Sawyer County. Got it?

Let me show you a satellite image of Lake Chippewa in Sawyer County.


This image “kills me.” Note the West Fork flowing into the lake on its northeast side while the East Fork flows in from the east. Now I can see how one might say the East Fork is of the Chippewa River given how close it is to the main Chippewa River, but it is mind boggling to see how there might be any relationship between the West Fork and the Chippewa River. I have only one explanation. Look closely at that area where the Chippewa River flows out of Lake Chippewa, see the next photo.


Yep, there is a dam there. So, what would be most interesting to see is what this area looked like without the dam. My guess is it would be easier to fathom how the West Fork and East Fork are related to the Chippewa River without the dam. Guess I’ve beat this dead horse to death, but most interesting. If you wanted to see something very interesting that would add to the craziness of this river, track the West Fork as she flows out of Chippewa Lake up in the north --- it is wild and reflects, I think, the wild character of the geography up in that neck of the woods.

Lake Hayward


Lake Hayward, part of the Chippewa River Flowage, and is just a bit west of Lake Chippewa.



Holcombe Flowage


Holcombe Flowage is in Chippewa County. It is formed by the Holcombe Dam which is located on the Chippewa River at the town of Holcombe. The Jump River empties into the flowage and the dam serves to build up the flowage from its waters as well.


It is February 20 and the flowage was completely frozen over.


As you can see, the lads are ice fishing on the flowage.



Cornell is in Chippewa County. The Chippewa River flows through through the city. It is about 70 miles northeast of where the Chippewa River empties into the Mississippi.


The Cornell Hydro Plant.


Downstream the hydro plant.

Eau Claire City


Eau Claire is Wisconsin’s ninth largest city. It is the “land of the clear waters.” The Chippewa River flows through the heart of the city. Eau Claire is about 40 miles northeast of where the Chippewa River empties into the Mississippi River.


There is a good size dam on the north side of Eau Claire that mainly serves the Dells Hydroelectric facility which in turn serves the adjacent Cascade Tissue plant and multiple counties in western Wisconsin.


A more distant look from farther downstream.


There are some rapids below the dam.


The ice buildup is interesting, as is the neat layer of rock underlying the land in this area. I believe the rock reflects a buildup of course-grained sandstone. Please note that the City of Ea Claire and this section of the Chippewa River were partly covered by the Wisconsin Glacier and partly left uncovered by that glacier in an area known as the Driftless area.


Heading downstream and out of Eau Claire.

Ella, Pepin County



The Chippewa has flowed to the southeast out of Eau Claire and at Ella in Pepin County is closing in on the Mississippi. You can see she is wide as she hurries to the south and "Big Guy."