Miles Paddled: The Eau Claire River

Paddling the St. Croix River's northernmost tributary, addressing its history, conservation issues, and tips for other paddlers.

This was the smallest river I’ve ever paddled. Not twenty feet across in many places and wadeable nearly its whole length, I liked that it still floated our 18-foot Grumman canoe down its length. We banged a few rocks and hung up in a couple spots but never had to get out and drag and it was all worth it for the closeness of the scenery.

This felt like a truly northern river. The forest was pine and fir and spruce, or beaver-beloved bogs of alders and willows. And the land, sculpted by glaciers. It joins the St. Croix farther north than any other tributary (other rivers extend farther north in Minnesota but join the St. Croix farther south) and cuts through sparsely-populated country near the edge of the St. Croix/Lake Superior watersheds.

Not surprisingly to anyone who knows the French translation, the water is clear as glass. Being able to see the bottom effectively doubles the scenery on a river, adding to the beauty on the banks. There were fish, including big redhorse sucker, a two-foot northern pike, maybe a couple trout and logs and rocks and sand and bright green river plants. I could watch it go by all day everyday and not get bored.

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Miles Paddled