One of the wildest rivers in the St. Croix River watershed recently got a bit more protection. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has acquired 262 acres along the Totogatic River, the largest tributary of the Namekagon River.
An example of the sum being greater than its parts, the acquisition is especially valuable because it connects two other pieces of publicly-owned land, making a new contiguous preserve of 822 acres along 3.5 miles of river.
Seventy miles of the Totogatic were designated as part of Wisconsin’s “Wild Rivers” system in 2009, making it the fourth river in the state to get such designation. The new public land is included in that stretch of river.
In a story published by the Spooner Advocate, two people involved in the purchase spoke glowingly of the river:
“I’ve canoed parts of that river and it’s amazing how wild and pristine it’s remained,” said Board Chairman David Clausen of Amery.
Before the unanimous vote awarding the Stewardship grant, State Rep. Nick Milroy, D-Superior, called the Totagatic, a river of “regional importance” that fits the county’s tourism destination for the area.
“It’s truly one of the few wild places left in Wisconsin,” said Milroy, who has canoed the river. “There’s abundant wildlife there as there’s little pressure on them. You see otters, merganser ducks, and it’s a great smallmouth bass fishery.”
The St. Croix River Association described the benefits of the acquisition in a recent newsletter:
“Through its protection, this property will conserve water quality, preserve an astoundingly beautiful stretch of undeveloped river, and provide permanent public access for recreation including hunting, fishing, trapping, cross country skiing and paddling.”
Totogatic regional writer Herb Wagner wrote a lengthy description of the river’s history, ecology and myth during the successful effort to designate it as a Wild River:
Where Totogatic River crosses the pine barrens its banks exhibit several landform types. Areas of uncollapsed outwash have steep shifting sand banks and a flat surrounding upland with a long history of frequent wildfire. There are also large areas of “pitted” or “collapsed” outwash where irregular masses of stagnant ice left behind by the retreating glacier later melted to form a vast jumble of basins and depressions today occupied by bogs, streams, swamps, and pristine lakes.
The land acquisition effort was led by the Washburn County Lakes & Rivers Association, working with the Conservation Fund.