The Eau Claire River in central-northern Wisconsin rises in Langlade County and empties into the Wisconsin River in Wausau in Marathon County. It hosts the famous Dells of Eau Claire, a great place to visit, and a Class III rapids for those of you with the ability. There are several sections between the Dells and Wausau that have some Class I and II rapids. You have to study this river based on your abilities and the kind of kayak you. I of course look for the easier sections.
This photo shows the sections I have been on thus far, close to Wausau.
Schofield Ave., Wausau to Camp Sturdevant and back:
For this first 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.
You can see the entry point into the section of the Eau Claire I wanted to explore.
I don’t know why, but from my kayak on a great day like this, the tall marsh grass gives a great look.
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.
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!
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.
I had expected the loggers to have been in this forest before me, and sure enough they’ve got tracks heading in and out. Kidding aside, 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?
My lucky day. A freight train coming by as I floated under. This was fun. All little boys like me love trains.
Couldn’t resist getting a shot of that great American iron. The architecture is wonderful.
From this distance, it looked like I was approaching a trap, hopefully not a hostile trap.
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.
If I were an artist, or highly skilled photographer, I think I would have something of beauty here to work with.
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.
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.
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. It was 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Do you see him? Dead center.
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.
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.