Canoers and kayakers develop a certain reverent tone when they talk about paddling the Bois Brule River. I don't know if it is the history, scenery, trout fishing, rapids, or what, but a trip on the Bois Brule is a near-religious experience for many Badger State floating aficionados. Bois Brule Campground is conveniently located midway along the river, offering float trips encompassing different characters of the river amid the 42,000-acre Brule River State Forest.
This river, called the "River of Presidents" from the many American leaders who have cast lines here (from Grant to Eisenhower), first saw the Chippewa tribe make their way up the chilly waters from Lake Superior, then portage to the St. Croix River and on into the Mississippi River drainage. Voyageurs and fur traders followed the Chippewa. Later, summer residences, including Cedar Island Estate, were built along the Brule. Still later, Nebagamon Lumber Company donated Bois Brule land to the state, which along with the riverside landowners, have attempted to keep this spring-fed watershed beautiful.
Bois Brule Campground has many stellar campsites, as well as some that are merely desirable. Enter the campground and come to campsite #1, a walk-in site shaded by white pines and balsams. Campsite #2 offers a secluded drive-up campsite, while campsites #3#5 rest on a flat shaded by towering red pines. While these lack privacy now, Forest Service personnel have planted evergreens that will separate the sites in time. The campground road splits, and large boulders keep cars where they should be. The sites along the right road lie on the edge of the escarpment above Bois Brule River. Near this road are three excellent walk-in tent sites, #7#9. Drop down steps to the heavily shaded and wooded river plain. These next three sites stretch along the river and are worth toting gear up and down the steps. I stayed at campsite #10, which has much privacy vegetation. The campground opens up again with sites #11#14 under pines. Campsites #15 and #16 are closest to the canoe landing and picnic area.
The left campground road holds sites #17#22. These sites are generally open under the pines and lack an understory. Most are large, so bring the big tent. The final campsite, #23, sits by itself, offering maximum privacy and shade.
Water can be had at the artesian well by the park headquarters garage, just a bit down Ranger Road. Vault toilets are near any site in the campground, which fills nearly every summer weekend. I advise making a special effort and coming during the week, when the campground and river are serene.
Most anyone can paddle the upper 26 miles of the river, which drop at a rate of 3.5 feet per mile, though there are some named rapids. Then comes a stretch of 12 miles dropping at 17 feet per mile, much of it just below Copper Range Campground, including Mays Ledges, which has been known to dump a paddler or two. The last part of the river levels out before reaching Lake Superior. Luckily, Brule River Canoe Rental is located a mere mile distant from the campground. They offer canoes, kayaks, and shuttle services covering the entire river; call them at (715) 372-4983.
Hikers have options here, too. The Stoney Hill Nature Trail runs 1.7 miles just across from Bois Brule Campground. You can enjoy a view of the landscape from an old fire tower site. Hikers can also travel 16 miles of the North Country Trail here. The Historic Portage Trail in the forest's southwest corner follows the two-mile portage route connecting the Bois Brule to Upper St. Croix Lake. Many angler parking areas are located along the Brule, especially the lower river. Coldwater species range from trout to salmon. A picnic area is located at the mouth of the Brule, where you can overlook Lake Superior from a bluff, and even take a swim if you dare. A long sandy beach stretches along the big lake. After your first visit, you may be stretching out your tent-camping adventure in the Brule River State Forest.
To get there: From the intersection of US 53 and Highway 2 south of Superior, drive east on Highway 2 for 16 miles to the town of Brule. Turn right on Ranger Road, just beyond the bridge over the Bois Brule River, and keep forward on Ranger Road for 1 mile to reach the campground, on your right.
Address: Bois Brule, 6250 South Ranger Road, Brule, WI 54820; (715) 372-4866, www.wiparks.net
Open: Year-round, water available May through October
Individual sites: 23
Fee: $7 per night residents, $9 per night non-residents
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication