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Paddling the Ontonagon | Land O' Lakes WI


Paddling the Ontonagon

Dip a paddle into the wilds

Just across the border from Land O’ Lakes, you can paddle through a land that time forgot. The beautiful Ontonagon River travels through miles of forested land that is untouched by development and is as beautiful as it was centuries ago. The river has several branches that converge in the heart of the million-acre Ottawa National Forest, plunging through a series of dramatic falls before flowing into Lake Superior.

From Land O’ Lakes, the closest entry point to an Ontonagon River adventure is the aptly-named community of Watersmeet, about a ten-minute drive north of Land O’ Lakes. There’s an outfitter in town who can assist with your adventure and there’s a designated canoe launching point in Watersmeet, just off U.S. Highway 45. A good time to start your trek down the Ontonagon is early in the morning, when the sun is low, the wading birds are out and the pines leave impressive reflections in quiet stretches of the river. From here, you will follow the river east, joining the Tamarack River before curving north to a portaging through a bit of Northwoods history.

This location, Mex-i-mine (Burned Dam) Falls, was important during the logging era – loggers build a wooden dam to help move logs downstream. The dam operated from 1892 to 1895 but was destroyed a few years later by forest fires that swept through the area. More than a century has passed since those early logging days and the heavily forested site shows no obvious evidence of the logging operation or the fire, although you can see remains of the dam’s rock cribs.

After portaging past this site, you can head north through some moderate rapids and quiet river stretches to the Bond Falls Flowage, the location of a power generating dam and a dramatic waterfall. From shore you can admire the waterfall’s dramatic beauty as you relax in the land that time forgot.

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