Did you know that a free national park flows right through Wisconsin?
The Namekagon River is, hands down, one of Wisconsin’s most beautiful waterways. It’s part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway in northwest Wisconsin, which is the only river managed by the National Park Service. (In fact, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway was the first river declared “Wild and Scenic” by congress back in 1968.)
The Namekagon happens to be the cleanest tributary of the Mississippi River and it was the river that inspired Gaylord Nelson, who was the founder of Earth Day.
This 101-mile long river starts at Lake Namakagon in southern Bayfield County and flows southwest into the St. Croix River.
Part of what makes this wild and scenic river so beautiful is the way it meanders through uninterrupted stretches of pristine prairies and forests. At some points, the river consists of tight, twisting turns. At other parts, the whole river seems to open up to camera-friendly vistas.
The Namekagon—which translates loosely to “Place of the Sturgeon” in Ojibwe—is teeming with wildlife. White-tailed deer, painted turtles and even black bears pay visits to the riverbanks. And more than 100 species of fish call this river home. (Taking kids on your river adventure? Your little ones will love this Checklist of Common Animals found along the Namekagon.)
Mariah Haberman is a host and the director of Discover Wisconsin, the state’s leading media brand. Watch the show Saturdays at 10 a.m. on FSN Wisconsin’s outdoor block or online at DiscoverWisconsin.com. Follow Mariah on Facebook (facebook.com/mar1ahha3erman) and Instagram (@MariahHaberman)