Wisconsin rivers from the road and sometimes kayak

Eau Claire River (Wisconsin)

There are three rivers named Eau Claire. One is the Eau Claire River (Chippewa), a tributary of the Chippewa River; then the Eau Claire River (St. Croix), a tributary of the St. Croix River (Wisconsin-Minnesota) and finally, the Eau Claire River (Wisconsin), a tributary of the Wisconsin River.

The Eau Claire River (Wisconsin) in central-northern Wisconsin rises in Langlade County and empties into the Wisconsin River in Wausau in Marathon County.

Ormsby

Ormsby is an unincorporated community located in the town of Peck, Langlade County, about 9 miles northeast of Antigo.

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The first photo below is of the West Branch of the Eau Claire River in the area of Ormsby. The photo was taken, I believe, where the red arrow points at the Wst Branch. The east-west road is Mushrashi Rd. It ends, but as gravel continues and crosses the West Branch. I took the photo from there. The second photo is from Ormsby Pond, which is formed by a dam at its eastern end, after which the West Branch continues to flow generally southward until it meets the East Branch near Hwy 64 a it west of Antigo. The two then form the Eau Claire River which then continues to flow southward, then southwestward, and then westward until it meets the Wisconsin River in Wausau.

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West Branch, Eau Claire

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Ormsby Pond


Dells of Eau Claire


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The Dells of Eau Claire is in northeastern Marathon County between Hwy 52 to the north and CH Z to the south, about 14 miles as the crow flies northeast of Wausau.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources describes the Dells this way: "The Dells of the Eau Claire River protects a scenic, narrow rocky gorge and waterfalls where geologic processes have resulted in an unusual tilting of bedrock. On this picturesque stretch of the Eau Claire River, the river cascades over rock outcrops ... the river tumbles and spills across the rock's cleavage planes while it runs smoothly in other areas."

I have done a special story on the Dells of Eau Claire, entitled,
“Dells of Eau Claire, a summer-winter contrast.” I’ll show just a few photos here.

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A look upstream from the Dells.

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The Dells at Eau Claire can get powerful during the flooding season.

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In summer, people swim in this location.

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Heading downstream.

Intersection CH N-Q with South Eau Claire River Rd.

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The next few shots were taken about 5.5 miles south-southwest (downstream) of the Dells, about 10 miles east of Wausau.

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Placid as placid can be.

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And shallow enough to where the lads could see the fish they were trying to catch.

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She’s heading downstream to the southwest. A few miles downstream she’ll take a sharp turn to the west after which she’ll meet the Wisconsin River at Schofield, a town adjacent to Wausau’s south side.

By Kayak Wausau Area

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

For this foray into the Eau Claire I put-in on the east side of the small dam at Scofield Ave. where S. Grand Ave., Wausau changes names. It is an easy place to put-in. So I headed upstream for an hour, and downstream for another. The upstream drive was not bad at all. I made it to Camp Sturdevant, about a 2 mile run.

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You can see the entry point into the section of the Eau Claire I wanted to explore.

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I don’t know why, but from my kayak on a great day like this, the tall marsh grass gives a great look.

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You see a duck standing off to the right. He had the whole clan there when I approached, but as I tried to get into position, all left except this stubborn one, who simply posed.

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Standing proudly!


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As a rookie to the kayak and the Eau Claire, this was a thrill for me as I entered the deep “Amazon Rainforest,” alone, unarmed and, well, slightly anxious! Ha!

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I knew it, I have no maps of these uncharted waters and here is my first decision, go left or right. The downed tree told me to go left, or as we say on the high seas, head to port side.

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This is a bridge for the Chicago & Northwestern rail, which once was a Class I rail line in the US, sold to Union Pacific in 1995. Chicago & Northwestern ceased to exist in 1996. Holy moley, do I hear a train coming?

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My lucky day. A freight train coming by as I floated under. This was fun. All little boys like me love trains.

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Couldn’t resist getting a shot of that great American iron. The architecture is wonderful.

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From this distance, it looked like I was approaching a trap, hopefully not a hostile trap.

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As I approached slowly, I saw I could weave my way through the fallen timber. But there was another issue. The water here was very low, or shall I say the bottom was very high. My paddle would occasionally hit the bottom as I moved through, so I slowed down and kept looking for the path where I could get the most water and still make it by the trees.

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If I were an artist, or highly skilled photographer, I think I would have something of beauty here to work with.

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Well, I knew this was going to happen. I think I am approaching a CIA outpost. Another rail bridge for them to get in and out. This is like the bridge over the river Kwai I thought! Had a very clandestine feel to it.

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Nope, it’s not a CIA camp, it’s a pygmy village of little people. Oh what? Those are kids at day camp? Yep, this is Camp Sturdevant and the kids had a great time yelling and waving at me. Thank God they were friendlies.

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I went upstream a bit more. I had seen this couple smoke by me in their really old and rustic motorboat and it looks like they set up shop here. They were neat to watch. The Mrs. opened up a chair and put it forward, got her sun cap on, opened a book, and started reading. The Mr. set up his chair aft with an umbrella and I think he started fishing. This looked like their hangout. They told me I could not go much more upstream as it was blocked by fallen trees. I ventured up a little and from a distance it did look like it was blocked.

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But when I got home and blew up the photo, I think there was a way through off to the right or perhaps even under the timber to the left. But I had been out an hour, my limit before I turn back this rookie season, so I didn’t bother with it and turned around. I now wish I would have gone up there to size it up better. People have told me they made it from Yellow Banks Park upstream all the way to Wausau, so I figure there might be a way through, unless this is new.

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I have learned in my first kayak season that there is a lot to look at when alone and moving so slowly, totally in control of your kayak. I did not see these logs on my way up, but pulled in close on my way back. Awesome.

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A friend had told me to be very watchful for wildlife. I’ve got a lot to learn in identifying the wildlife that I see, so I bought a book. Watchful indeed. Just left of center, to the left of that shadow in the weeds, there is a crane standing. I spotted that guy without my glasses, incredible.

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There he is. I chose not to approach him closely but blew up the previous image. My past experience is that just when I get positioned well, these guys boogie out of there. Their wing spans are amazing and one day I’ll catch one close by in full flight.

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I took this trip on August 17, 2011. My wife and I had been joking about the advent of fall. Sitting on our front porch at home, we always have a tree on a ridge a few blocks over that is the first to turn. She swore it was turning, and it was only August. I said, “Nah, those are just dead leaves.” She would not budge. Well here was proof she was right. Out here on this section of the Eau Claire, the leaves are turning in mid-August!

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Do you see him? Dead center.


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Got him! All the things I worry about in life, and I am really having fun out here getting a shot like this. Silly maybe, but it was an upper.

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So here I am returning to home port back in Wausau, heading straight into the sun to the west. I’m 67, so a two to two-and-one-half hour excursion is good enough for me this season.