Nicolet National Forest

North Branch Oconto River

This narrow river is generally runnable only during high-water periods in the spring and early summer or after periods of unusually heavy rainfall. The drainage basin of this river parallels the Wolf river. Even experts should not consider running this river if Cap Buettner's gauge on the Wolf reads less than 15, and it has been said that 10 should be the coins of turning back. Novice canoers should avoid this river at all times: The only time there is enough water to run it, the current is going to be extremely fast. In addition, both the lower and upper stretches are prone to downed trees. These hidden hazards will turn up around blind curves, along the banks, and even completely blocking the river. Anyone who is unfamiliar with the backcountry should not attempt the trip.

River Facts

Start of Trip: Tar Dam Road
End of Trip: Chute Pond
Difficulty (High Water): II
Width of River: 20-80 Feet
Difficulty (Usual Summer Flow): Not Runnable
Gradient of Streambed: 25%
Length of Trip: 10 Miles
Drainage Area: 193 Acres
Time of Trip: 8 Hours

Points of Interest

Tar Dam Road Bridge -- This is the put-in point.

Unnamed Rapids -- This unnamed rapid rates grade II and similar to most found on this run it has numerous boulders and moderate current. No special difficulties unless there are downed trees. Windfalls often tend to be a problem on this narrow river, so be on guard.

Old 32 Bridge -- This is another alternate landing. However, there is no developed parking.

Loon Rapids -- This rapid also rates grade II, but is a bit harder than the others on this stretch. There are numerous grade I riffles and minor rapids between here and the railroad bridge.

Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Bridge -- About one-third of a mile downstream of this bridge, there is a long, rocky rapid that rates grade III in high water. Scouting is frequently advisable as occasionally there are downed trees around somewhat blind turns. These are often in areas where there are no eddies that can be used as stopping places.

Highway 32 & 64 Bridge.

Old Krammer Dam Site -- The old dam has long ago been claimed by the river, so it cannot be used as a point of reference. However, there are several six-foot boulders on the bark that stand on the site. The river is less than 20 feet wide at this point and forms a natural point for flotsam to congregate, joined occasionally by a swamped canoe or two. This rapids only rates grade II, but the casualty rate should suggest scouting from the right bank, just to make sure the chute is clear. Grade I riffles alternate with quiet water below the Old Krammer Dam Site. The river approaches placidity in some spots. Then it meanders through alternating thickets and pasture land. There have been reports of barbed wire strung across the river, so beware.

County Highway W Bridge.

Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Bridge.

Bagley rapids Campground -- This is a National Forest Campground. There are some ledge type rapids here that rate grade II-III, but they are generally runnable only in relatively high water. The rest of the river downstream of Bagley Rapids to Chute Pond consists of one and a half miles of quiet water.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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