Wild Rivers Tour

Florence County contains 2 of the original state designated Wild Rivers. Our new 100 mile Wisconsin Wild Rivers Tour provides highway signs that guide you to 15 different access points on the Pine and Popple Wild Rivers in northern Wisconsin. The term 'Wild' refers to the undeveloped shorelines along these rivers. While there are a few class 3 rapids and several waterfalls, there are numerous stretches suitable for beginning paddlers and there are portages around the challending stretches. The access points can be used for more than just paddling. Fishermen, hiker's, photographers and folks looking for berries or mushrooms will love our wild rivers.
Wild Rivers Tour Info
Begin WI Wild River Tour at Visitor Center
5628 Forestry Dr., Florence, WI888-889-0049Map

This new 100 mile loop features 15 access points to enjoy the Pine and Popple Wild Rivers in Florence County, Wisconsin. Whether you are a paddler, fisherman, hiker, sight seer, bird watcher, photographer or geocacher, you'll find new places to explore on our State designated Wild Rivers. There are places to camp, historic sites to see and friendly people to meet. Start your tour from our Visitor Center on the corner of Hwy 70/US 2. You can pick up a brochure, explore the interpretive displays or browse the Wild Rivers Gift Shop. Our free Mobile App "Explore Florence County" will help you plan your trip and explore as you go through the tour or throughout the County.

Define "Wild Rivers"

The term WILD River refers to their undeveloped, pristine quality. Visitors tell us they feel like they have escaped to Canada when they discover the Pine and Popple Rivers. In 1965 the State designated 3 rivers, the Pine, the Popple and the Pike as Wild Rivers. The legislative intent was to "preserve some rivers in a free flowing condition and to protect them from development" for the purpose to "afford the people of this state an opportunity to enjoy natural streams, to attract out-of-state visitors and assure the well-being of our tourist industry.

You can expect rustic, rugged beauty and quiet solitude as you escape the city and explore in our Northwoods. The Pine and Popple Rivers offer a variety of slow and meandering stretches to rapids and waterfalls; with activities for everyone.The public owned land along these rivers are managed to show as little human intervention as possible within 150 feet or the visual horizon whichever is greater. Florence County has an additional ordinance that regulates activities within 400 ft.

Pine River

The Pine River offers high quality paddling and fishing in a secluded, natural environment. Other activities to enjoy along the river are hiking, bird watching, hunting, and photography. The shoreline is heavily wooded with sugar maple, yellow birch, hemlock and white cedar on the upper stretches and aspen, silver and red maple, white and jack pine the most common trees on the lower reaches.

The 89 mile long Pine River has two different personalities. The upper 79 miles offers deep, slow meandering sections mixed with a few rapids and falls ending with Florence County's largest water fall, 22 foot LaSalle Falls. Beginners can portage the falls and Class I and II rapids while more skilled paddlers are encouraged to portage Meyers Falls. All paddlers should portage LaSalle Falls.

The 10 miles below LaSalle Falls offers relaxed paddling with a steady current for paddlers of all skill levels. A well used feature is the Oxbow. The river makes a big 3.5 mile loop so the Oxbow put-in and take-out are only a 1/4 mile apart. Paddlers and tubers love the convenience of the Oxbow with access on County N.

Popple River

The Popple access points offer good opportunities for stream fishermen who like to wade for trout. The Popple offers rapids, riffles and pools where native and/or stocked trout can be found. Paddling the Popple River is best done in the spring and early summer when water levels are highest. The lower stretch of the Popple River downstream of Access Point #5 on Morgan Lake Rd. is recommended only for expert paddlers. Portages are available for Big Bull Falls and Washburn Falls. Access Points #6- #10 offer easy but often shallow paddling trips. A reading of two is recommended on either the Hwy 101 or Morgan Lake Rd gauges.

Rivers on our WI/MI Border

Florence County boasts two other excellent rivers for paddling and fishing enthusiasts, the Brule and the Menominee. These rivers offer a more consistent water level due to several dams. Where the Michigamme River joins the Brule River the two form the Menominee River which flows all the way to Lake Michigan. The dams form two flowages, the Brule River Flowage and the Twin Falls Flowage on the Menominee River. These Flowages are wider and deeper for motor boat fishermen and water sport enthusiasts in addition to paddlers. These Flowages offer excellent bass, musky, northern, walleye and panfish opportunities while the upper stretches of the Brule also contain native and stocked brook and brown trout.

For Twin Falls Flowage fishing info click here and Brule River Flowage fishing info click here

The 55 mile-long, Brule River is one of the most secluded, navigable rivers in the state, flowing through a remote wilderness setting with few cabins and even fewer roads. The river provides an excellent, relaxing "get-away" experience for canoers and kayakers. Most of the river forms a segment of the border between Florence County, Wisconsin and upper Michigan. The Nicolet National Forest borders nearly the entire length along the Wisconsin side, while the Michigan DNR owns most of the land on the Michigan side. River campers may camp anywhere on national forest lands along the sourthern shore of the upper Brule River.

The Brule has a pleasant small-river character in a beautiful, often intimate, northwoods setting. The river meanders past a landscape that varies from small rolling hills with steep wooded banks, to dense northern lowland forest, spruce swamp, and open wetlands. Cedar, spruce, balsam fir, red pine, aspen, maple, birch, and various species of thickets cover the river banks.
Paddlers are likely to see: white-tailed deer, beaver, muskrat, raccoon, and river otter. Among the bird-life you are likely to see are: wood duck, bald eagles, common merganser, belted kingfisher, spotted sandpiper, great blue heron, and several species of warbler.

For river paddling details and maps for Hwy 139 to FR 2150 (16 miles) click here
For river paddling details and maps for FR 2150 to Brule River Flowage (14.2 miles) click here

Water Flow

USGS real-time water data for Wisconsin

Wild River Access Pts
a) Access #1 Pine River Crossing on Hwy 101
Fern, WI

Paddle access, fishing, parking area - improved access area
A short but beautiful flat-water float for novice paddlers. It is only 1.4 river miles and takes a minimum of 30 minutes. This section features 2 interesting Quinnesec Formation Precambrian rock outcrops. Also, just before the takeout the Popple River joins the Pine from the river’s right side. At the point of this confluence Charles LaSalle, a locally historic figure, operated his trading post for a number of years. Between the confluence and immediately before the takeout is a full-river class-1 rapids that is formed by the remnants of an old bridge. On the right is a public takeout. The landing on the left is private property. The most significant hindrance to enjoying this float trip is that travel to the public takeout is by a long, potentially very rough, backwoods road. It is possible, with considerable effort, to float down and paddle (or pole back upriver to highway 101.)

b) Access #2 Jennings Falls on Hwy 101/Mulberry Lane
Fern, WI

Waterfall, fishing, parking area - rugged access site
A hike into this small falls provides a glimpse of one of the are's little known mini-canyons. In the low and warm waters of late summer it is challenging but possible and interesting to hike the riverbed and along the bank all the way to the confluence. This affords an opportunity to see more if the rock outcrops along this section of the Popple River.

c) Access #3 Big Bull Falls on Hwy 101/West River Rd
West River Rd, Fence, WIMap

Waterfall, fishing, parking area- rugged access site
The hike-in trail provides access to both the falls and the length of Long-day Rapids below the falls. Fishing along the banks of the rapids is possible. The Falls provide a dramatic look at a massive Precambrian, Granitic, Quinesec Formation rock outcrop. The high bluff overlook of the falls is amazing. The island has some extraordinarily beautiful water-sculpting of the outcrop.The smooth scalloping of the outcrop was created by glacial melt-water.

Between Big Bull Falls and Long-day rapids is a large, deep, still-water pond.

d) Access #4 Popple River Crossing on 101
Fence, WI

Paddle access, fishing, picnic area, parking area- improved access site
This landing has one of the area's thickest blanket of spring wildflowers, including trout lily, spring beauty and more.
Canoe trips on the Popple River require expert-level canoeing skills and is not a river for paddlers with novice or intermediate abilities. One-third of a mile downriver is a long, technically challenging class 2 technical rapids (Champeau Rapids). Long quiet water sections are between Champeau Rapids and Washburn Falls and between Washburn Falls and Jennings Falls. Portage around Washburn Falls is signed and has a very rugged, but well-worn path. Jennings Falls has no developed portage but in low water it may be possible to drag a boat over the rocks along the shore. The trip from 101 to the confluence is 6.3 river miles and takes a minimum of 2.5-3 hours.


e) Access #5 Popple River Crossing - Morgan Lake Rd
Fence, WI

Paddle access, fishing, parking area- improved access site
This 5 mile section is perhaps the most dangerous and ambitious single section of whitewater on either river. There are 13 sets of class 2-technical rapids and two falls that are class 3. For the advanced whitewater paddler this section at the right water levels is an excellebnt riun. For the full, upper-body, lower-body workout, returning to your car by bicycle is a dandy complement to this trip.
The USGS river monitoring station for the Popple River is located at the Morgan Lake Bridge. Immediately upriver from the bridge one can see the embankment remnants of an old logging-era dam. There are hike-in trails down river from the parking area for fishing.

f) Access #6 Popple River Crossing - Newald Tower Rd
Fence, WI

Paddle access, fishing, parking are, fire ring- rugged access site
This location is known for its beauty, wildlife, birding, turtle activity, wildflowers, hiking and 1-3 informal car-camping spots. A 1/4 mile long curving class 2-technical rapids (NT Rapids) terminate under the bridge. Upriver along the rapids is a popular and beautiul hike and is frequently fished. Dead-falls will commonly obstruct canoe passage down these rapids. Similar to other sections of the Popple River this section, while short and inviting, requires advanced paddling skills. Two miles downriver is a long complicated and fast class 2 rapids (Boren Rapida) that is immediately followed by the deceptively dangerous Camp 1 Rapids. Camp 1 Rapids start mildly and travel around a bend out of sight. Around the bend the river constricts, flow increases and suddenly there is a line of massive boulders that cross the entire river and block passage.
In all, this section is 4.7 miles of river which takes a minimum of 2.5 hours to paddle and portage. The south branch of the Popple River joins the north branch about 1/4 mile dooownriver from Newald Tower Bridge.

g) Access #7 South Branch Popple River

Fishing, parking along road only- rugged access site

h) Access #8 South Branch Popple River

Fishing, parking along road only- rugged access site
For a fascinating read about what life was like growing up on an isolated farm in the 1960's near this stretch of the Popple River read this book: "Fences in the Woods" by Ken Hedmark (2012).

i) Access #9 Popple River Crossing - Twin Rivers Rd
Fence, WI

Paddle access, fishing, parking along road only - rugged access site
As with other Popple River sections this one is not for paddlers with novice or intermediate abilities. A half-mile down river begins a long series of pool-drop rapids that are reliably obstructed by deadfalls and thus dangerous.
This section of river is remote and very beautiful with stretches of marshland and mature forest land along the bank. There are beaver dams to cross. In all this section is 6.3 miles of river which takes a minimum of 3 hours to paddle and portage. The river in this section has remnants of the logging era (2.5 miles downriver) including what remains of the embankment for Podunk Dam.



j) Access #10 Popple River Access - FS 2161/Hwy 139
Fence, WI

Paddle access, fishing, parking are- improved access site
In this area the Popple River travels through a massive wetalnd marsh that creates the natural water reservoir that sustains river flow between rainfalls. The river section through this marsh is surprisingly deep and navigable long after the rest of the Popple River gets too shallow to allow canoeing. The thick marsh makes shore land virtually impenetrable for the first 4.5 miles downriver from the put-in.Typical of the Popple River the section after the marsh has some very challenging stretches of rocky rapids that culminate in a massive blockage to river passage. No portage trail exists but it is possible to travel through the mature forest land uphill from the river for the required 1/3 mile portage around the blockage. In all, this section is 8 miles of river which takes a minimum of 4-5 hours to paddle and portage.

k) Access #11 Pine River Crossing - Hwy 139
Long Lake, WI

Paddle access, fishing, parking area- improved access site

l) Access #12 Pine River Chipmunk Rapids - Dream Lake Rd
Long Lake, WI

Paddle access, fishing, parking area- rugged access site
USFS campground with spring water. There is a staff gauge on the middle bridge support, downriver side.

m) Access #13 Pine River- Goodman Grade West
Florence, WI

Waterfall, fishing, parking area, paddle access- rugged access site
There is a very sweet, mostly flat water canoe trip starting below Meyers Falls and stopping above Bull Falls (or continuing further). This is a 2 mile river trip taking about an hour and the bike trip back is similarly about 2 miles on good dirt road. This is a beautiful trip full of spring wildflowers. The big difficulty is getting a canoe down the rugged path to the water below Meyers Falls and then back up the steep bank to the landing above Bull Falls.

n) Access #14 Pine River Hwy 70 Goodman Grade Center
Florence, WI

Paddle access, fishing, parking are- improved access site
The old bridge remnants are evident. Easier access than at Bull or Meyer Falls.

o) Access #15 Pine River- Goodman Grade East
HWY 70, Fence, WIMap

Waterfall, fishing, parking area- rugged access site
This is a beautiful area with rich, mature open woods and some amazing spring wildflowers. Also see #13 trip between Meyers and Bull Falls.

Waterfalls
LaSalle Falls (Not on Wild Rivers Tour route)
LaSalle Falls Road, Florence, WIMap

With a 22 foot plummet, LaSalle Falls is the most impressive waterfall in the area. The trail ends at the 35 foot rock outcrop next to the falls, but the best view on foot is to climb down the steep and challenging hill to the base of the falls.
Downstream of the falls is a gorge filled with rapids that runs for 1/2 mile. The best view of the area is in a canoe or kayak from the end of the gorge.
If you only visit one waterfall, make this the one!

Pine River Falls (Not on Wild Rivers Tour route)
Pine River Flowage, Florence, WIMap

Three tiers of cascading falls with rapids create this spectacular falls just below the Pine River Flowage Dam. Caution signs hang over the river here.
Unique rock formations show the power of the river and the beauty of nature. Other than LaSalle Falls, the Pine River Falls is the most impressive falls in Florence County.
This is not recommended for children or people with difficulty walking as climbing up and down rocks gain the best views.

Pine River- Bull Falls (#15)
Goodman Grade, Florence, WIMap

Waterfall, fishing, parking area - rugged access site
Bull Falls is small (5 feet), and some may not consider it a waterfall, but if you enjoy the sound of rushing water this is still a great place to visit. There are some very interesting yellow birch root formations next to the river.

Pine River- Meyers Falls (#13)
Goodman Grade, Florence, WIMap

Waterfall, fishing, parking area, paddle access - rugged access site
The best view of 7 foot cascading Meyers Falls is from the north. The surrounding geology is very interesting.

Popple River- Big Bull Falls (#3)
W. River Rd, Fence, WIMap

Waterfall, fishing, parking area - rugged access point
There is an island in the middle of the Popple River here. The north channel is Big Bull Falls, while the south channel is a cascade of smaller falls. Follow the rustic trail to the falls. Just downstream offers the best view.

Popple River- Jennings Falls (#2)
Mulberry Lane, Fern, WIMap

Waterfall, fishing, parking area - rugged access site
Once you reach the river, Jennings Falls doesn't look like much, but the farther you go downstream, the better it looks. There can be some physical exertion necessary to get to the best part of the falls. Jennings Falls and the ensuing rapids drops the Popple River about 10 feet.

Washburn Falls (Not on Wild Rivers Tour route)
LaSalle Road, Florence, WIMap

This is a very scenic spot to enjoy the tranquility of a truly wild river. Washburn Falls is a cascading waterfall that drops about 6 feet.
The best view can be attained by reaching a peninsula that juts out in front of the falls. Reaching the peninsula can be difficult with a steep hill and a small stream crossing. This is a great picnic spot.

Things To Do
Fishing

The Pine and Popple Rivers provide anglers with an aesthetic and challenging fishing experience. They are well known for the trout fishing opportunities they provide and both support native brook trout populations. Hatchery-raised brook and brown trout are also stocked in both rivers.
Trout fishing is generally best in May and June before water temperatures warm and again in September as the water cools. Warm water fishing is a bit more predictable on the lower stretches of the Pine. In the Pine River Flowage and downstream below CTH N expect to find morthern, walleye, small-mouth bass and panfish.

Geocaching

Paddle Trips

Pine River
Hwy 55 to Hwy 139 (#11) 16 miles
Hwy 55 to Stevens Lake Rd 13.4 miles
Hwy 139 (#11) to Chipmunk Rapids 7.4 miles
Stevens Lake Road to Chipmunk Rapids 10 miles
Chipmunk Rapids (#12) to Goodman Grade (#13) 8.5 miles
Goodman Grade (#15) to Hwy 101 (#1) 10.5 miles
Rochon Landing to Hwy 101 3.4 miles
Hwy 101 (#1) to Pine River Flowage 6 miles
Flowage to Base of LaSalle (round trip) 1 mile each way
Pine River Dam to County N 2 miles
County N to Oxbow take-out 3.5 miles
County N to Johnson Road Landing 5.9 miles
County N to Lake Ellwood Landing 9.3 miles

Popple River *Requires advanced paddling skills*
Twin Rivers Road (#9) to Morgan Lake Road (#5) 11 miles
Twin Rivers to Newald Tower 6.3 miles
Newald Tower to Morgan Lake 4.7 miles
Morgan Lake Road (#5) to Hhhwy 101 (#4) 5.4 miles
Hwy 101 (#4) to join the Pine River 6.3 miles

Tubing Trips

Pine River Oxbow- Cty N to Oxbow take-out 3.5 miles No shuttle needed. 1/4 mile walk from put-in to take-out

Amenity Stops
Food & Drink Stops

The following 6 businesses that serve food and beverages on the Wild Rivers Tour: You can find more information and contact info for each in the website or mobile app Dining Guide.

The Fence Post
Roadhouse 139
Grandma Sally's Cafe & Bake Shop
Fritz's Long Lake Bar & Grill
Knothead's Bar & Grill


The Fence Post

The Store in Long Lake

Historic Locations
CCC Camps
Long Lake, WI

There were four CCC Camps in the Florence County Nicolet National on the Wild River Tour route. CCC enrollees performed many duties, including forest fire control, tree planting, road construction, recreation area construction and maintenance, installation of telephone lines, fish and wildlife habitat improvement, timber stand improvement and surveying. Much of the work done by the CCC is still evident today. Many roads, recreation areas, ranger stations, the Trees for Tomorrow training center and countless timber plantations exist because of the corpsmen’s hard work. A sign is located on Hwy 139 designating the location of the former Newald Camp. The Lost Lake Forest Service cabins were built by former CCC workers. These cabins were renovated in 2012 and can be rented.

The camps within Florence County were:
Rainbow Camp at T40N, R16E
Long Lake Camp at T39N, R15E
Newald Camp at T38N, R15E
Dream Camp at T40N, R15E


Fern Town Hall
3204 Hwy 101, Fern, WIMap

The Fern Town Hall was listed on the National Register of Historical Places 1981. It originally served as school from 1921-1956, but now serves as a town hall for the Town of Fern. It is located on Hwy 101 between access points #2 and #3 on Town Hall Rd. The original cost of construction of school was $3,000. The architechture is consider Colonial Revival style. An addition for handicap accessibility was added in 2009.

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