Totogatic State Wild River in NW Wisconsin
Totogatic or Totagatic, however you spell or pronounce it, brings to
mind canoing, hunting, or fishing on a clean and wild river for many
people in NW Wisconsin.
The name Totagatic comes from the Ojibwa word â€œTotoganâ€ meaning
â€œplace of floating logsâ€ or â€œboggy riverâ€. Pronunciation is varied
between Tuh-TO-ga-tec, To-TO-ga-tec, To-BA-tec, and just TO-ga-tec,
according to long-time local residents. Each of these spellings and
pronunciations seems to have a strongly-defended local following, and
one will consider use of the others as incorrect.
The Totogatic flows approximately 70 miles through portions of five counties in NW Wisconsin. It begins in southern Bayfield County, just upstream of Totogatic Lake. From the lake, it flows westerly through Sawyer, Washburn, and a small portion of Douglas County,
crossing back into Washburn and eventually emptying into the Namekagon
River in Burnett County. It is impounded by four dams forming Nelson
Lake in Sawyer County, and the Totogatic, Colton, and Minong Flowages
in Washburn County. The shoreline is relatively wild for much of the
riverâ€™s length. A substantial portion of the land along the river is
owned by the state, county, or federal ownership.
The river has a very wild character with forested banks, waterfalls,
rock outcroppings, and relatively few road crossings. Fishing is good,
with many cool-water game species present and several tributaries that
support trout. There are challenging stretches for whitewater
canoists, as well as quiet water segments through forestland, and one
area known as the â€œDismal Swamp.â€
Retaining the riverâ€™s wild character and habitat is dependent on all
five counties and the state keeping their present holdings in public
ownership, and/or on responsible use and development of both public and
private shoreline and forestland.
The Totogatic River became a State Wild River in July 2009. It was
so designated because of its miles of scenic and relatively undeveloped
banks; significant public ownership; and excellent water quality,
habitat, and wildlife. There are four reaches or segments of the river.
- First Reach: From the outlet of Totogatic Lake in Bayfield County to the upstream end of Nelson Lake in Sawyer County.
- Second Reach: From a point 500â€™ below the dam in the Totogatic
Wildlife Area to the upstream end of the Colton Flowage, both located in
Reach: From a point 500â€™ below the dam that forms the Colton Flowage
to the point where the river crosses the Washburn-Douglas County line
immediately above the upstream end of the Minong Flowage.
- Fourth Reach: From the bridge on Cty Hwy I in Washburn County to the
confluence of the river with the Namekagon River in Burnett County.