Land around both East Branch and West Branch is posted against trespass. Some attempts to put-in on the East Branch have resulted in confrontations with a gun toting land owner with an ATV who has been known to 'escort' groups until they are beyond his property.
As a result, this reach is commonly accessed by carrying/dragging up a good trail from Hwy.61 (starting about a quarter mile the other side of the river/bridge from the wayside/parking). It is a long, sometimes strenuous hike, but once you see the river, you'll realize why most think it's worth it.
Put in (when doing the hike-in/carry/drag-up) is normally at a spot where the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) used to cross the river (near the bottom of a great sliding, twisting drop). That footbridge was washed out in a flood, but the bridge footings are still evident, and the site has a sign directing hikers to a footbridge a half mile upstream. Spring of 2001, that newer bridge was also swept off its footings. Since the SHT is a very popular route, the bridge will always be rebuilt. (Sooner or later they should figure out a way to have it not wash out every handful of years!)
The run consists of an amazing assortment of big sliding drops. All are runnable, at least at favorable levels, by boaters with confidence and skill. Most are surprisingly forgiving, in spite of their impressive size.
The final drop is probably of the most concern. A steep, broken slide leads to a wall of rock which diverts the river ninety-degrees left, to spill through a narrow slot, across some shallow splines of rock and large boulder rubble, before hitting the calm water below. The usual route slides down the right, into the 'elbow', then slides along the right-side rock wall (avoiding potential piton/hammer rocks in the left of the final chute), then rock-dodging through the pool below.
From this point downstream, there is barely more than riffles, rips, and shoals, so fish (and people fishing) tend to congregate below this drop.
Enjoy the following video showing (briefly) an access from one of the branches, and footage of most of the major drops:
At our listed (carry/drag-up) put-in, drainage is approximately 39 square miles (as calculated by USGS StreamStats Beta software).
Check out this helmet-cam video, which begins with ~35 seconds showing the paddle-in (accessing the run via one of the branches, rather than the carry-up):
While this river has not suffered the same 'improvements' by the DNR as some other local streams (dynamiting the beautiful slides to transform them into stepped fish ladders), it still manages to inflict it's share of damage on boats. It is not entirely uncommon for someone (out of a group of paddlers) to end up with a major gash and leak in their boat (a split boat from the Split Rock). (North Shore paddling can be hazardous to your pocketbook!)
Visual. Looking upstream from Hwy.61 bridge (at flatwater marshy area), look for small standing waves. If none exist, forget it.
One may also hike up a trail from the wayside to inspect the drops. Hike either just to the first (I.E., last) drop, or continue upstream to scout/preview the whole run.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Andy McMurray and Nora Whitmore
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American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
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