The Namekagon River (pronounced NAM-uh-KAH-gun) is a tributary of the St. Croix River. It is approximately 95 mi (155 km) long and is located in northwestern Wisconsin in the United States. Its course is protected as part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The Namekagon River varies from an intimate cold-water trout stream, closed in by a predominantly coniferous forest, to a slow-moving body of water which flows through marsh and swamp land. A narrow, twisting river, it is best navigated by canoe or kayak.
According to the Geographic Names Information System, the river's name has also been spelled Namakagon and Namekagan. Its name is derived from the Ojibwe language Namekaagong-ziibi, meaning "River at the place abundant with Sturgeons."
The Namekagon River issues from Namekagon Lake in southeastern Bayfield County and flows southwestwardly through Sawyer and Washburn Counties, past Hayward, and northwestwardly into Burnett County, where it joins the St. Croix, 45 mi (72 km) south of the city of Superior. Near its mouth it collects the Totagatic River.
The St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers offer 252 miles of clean water gliding past a lush green landscape, with glimpses of a human presence. Choose to canoe and camp amid the north woods, or boat and fish surrounded by wooded bluffs and historic towns. This river corridor provides a wealth of scenic views and a haven for wildlife.
The Namekagon Is well known in the area for its beauty. Many species of wildlife are abundant for viewing in their natural state. The Namekagon has been quoted as "a great alternative to the increasingly busy boundary waters".
In 1968 Congress passed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to protect streams and rivers that were still relatively free flowing and possessing unique scenic beauty or ecological significance. Eight rivers were included in the original act. One was the St.Croix River with its main tributary, the Namekagon River. They are among the cleanest and most pristine river systems in the Midwest. The Riverway embraces significant resources centered around the free-flowing, high quality waters and their riparian environments. Diverse habitats explain the variety of plants and animals. The rivers are nurseries for many common flying insects such as dragonflies and mosquitoes, as well as homes for many aquatic insects. The variety of fish ranges from minnows to muskies. The rivers also contain the greatest diversity of mussels in the Upper Mississippi River system.
St. Croix National Scenic Riverway
In 1965 Gaylord Nelson paddled down the beautiful Namekagon River with Senator Walter Mondale, 138 canoeists and tribal members from Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Tribe to help protect the Namekagon from development. In 1968 the beautiful Namekagon and St. Croix Rivers became the first rivers east of the Mississippi to be protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
In the spring of 2003 Gaylord Nelson returned to the river banks of the beautiful river he had personally protected while serving as the US Senator from Wisconsin. He was joined by hundreds of supporters, both Indian and non-Indian, who honored him with ceremony, an honor dance and the highest honor in Indian Country, the feather of the sacred eagle.
Gaylor Nelson (1916-2005)
Information provided by:
The Milwaukee Journal
Monday, June 21, 1965
There were 138 canoes in the flotilla that toured the Namekagon River Sunday to promote it as a national scenic waterway. Leader of the expedition was Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.) who paddled a canoe (left) with his Indian guide, William Barber of Hayward. The canoeists (upper) with Sen. Nelson (right)and Sen. Walter F. Mondale (D-Minn.) (checkered shirt, second canoe from left), in the lead, pulled into Rat river camp for a noon lunch. The trip started at Historyland and ended 20 miles and several hours later at Springbrook on highway 63. An Indian style feast of chicken and wild rice, organized by Hayward businessman Tony Wise, was held that evening at Historyland. The trip was planned to call attention to the Namekagon and St.Croix rivers for inclusion in a bill being considered by congress to protect scenic waterways of the Nation.
-Journal by Fred L. Tonne
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