Canoeing on the Manitowish River Boulder Junction WI

What to See and Do Along the Manitowish River

November 17, 2023

The Manitowish River is a recreational and scenic gem in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Starting at High Lake near Boulder Junction and flowing west for more than 40 miles before reaching the Turtle Flambeau Flowage, the river is a perfect place for paddling, camping, and wildlife viewing. Here’s a closer look at what you’ll find.

Kayaking along the Manitowish River Boulder Junction WI

Kayaking along the Manitowish River Boulder Junction, WI.


The Manitowish River flows through the heart of the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest (NHAL), and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has outlined four distinct trips along the river. Most trips are appropriate for canoers or kayakers of all skill levels and can be done as daylong or overnight excursions.

  • Trip #1: High Lake to Fishtrap Dam (7.5 miles, 4 hours)
  • Trip #2: Fishtrap Dam (6.1 miles, 3 hours)
  • Trip #3: Highway K to Highway 51 (15.5 miles, 8 hours; for a shorter 4-hour trip, take out at Island Lake)
  • Trip #4: Highway 51 to Murray’s Landing (17 miles, 12 hours; paddlers should plan this as a multi-day trip and use a USGS topographic map on the southern section)

These routes can also be found on the Map It Vilas County trails app, which can be downloaded for free for Apple and Android devices.

Learn more about paddling the Manitowish River in the NHAL here.


If you’re looking for an overnight stay on one of the routes mentioned above, the NHAL is home to more than 70 canoe campsites located across 20 lakes and rivers, including the Manitowish River. These primitive campsites must be accessed by watercraft, and stays are limited to one night only. Note that there is no fee to use the campsites and no reservation is required, but no more than 6 people can stay on a single site and trash must be packed out.

Manitowish River locations with canoe campsites include:

  • High Lake
  • Fishtrap Lake
  • Nixon Creek
  • Boulder Lake
  • Island Lake
  • Manitowish Lake
  • Manitowish River west of Manitowish Waters

Learn more about canoe camping in the NHAL and see a map here.

Young bald eagle along Manitowish River Boulder Junction WI

Young bald eagle along Manitowish River Boulder Junction, WI.


The Manitowish River offers a great route through the beauty of the Northwoods, and as you travel the waterway, you’re sure to come across some of the area’s wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for white-tailed deer (or even Boulder Junction’s white deer if you’re lucky), bald eagles, loons, beaver, osprey, and other birds and animals native to the area.

Rentals and supplies

If you’re looking to rent a canoe or kayak or need some gear for your trip, here are a few places to go: