Turtle-Flambeau Flowage Manitowish Route and Turtle Route (Lake Paddling).
The 12,000 acre Turtle-Flambeau Flowage was created in 1926 and encompasses 9 original lakes and 150 miles of pristine shoreline. Much of the lake and all of the campsites on the flowage are owned by the State of Wisconsin.
Fishing is usually superb for walleye, musky and northern. Eagles, osprey, and loons are commonly seen.
The flowage can be thought of as two bodies of water: the eastern side from which the Manitowish River enters, and the western side from which the Turtle River enters.
Picnics are allowed anywhere on the flowage. Primitive camping is available on designated sites on a first come, first served basis. Most do not have water. Be sure to bring your own water or carry water purification gear. Please pack-out all your garbage so that these islands re main open to public use!
Bring a good map and compass. It is easy to become confused among the many islands and inlets of the flowage. Keep a close eye on the weather. The flowage is a large, shallow body of water that can kick up some wild waves rapidly and leave the unwary paddler far from shelter!
Detailed maps of the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage are available on request from the Mercer Dept. of Natural Resources office.
The Manitowish Route through the flowage from Murray's Landing to Turtle Dam-eastern portion of flowage: Total: 9 1/2 miles.
- Murray's Landing is a well-marked public boat landing and a favorite put-in for paddlers wishing to explore the Flowage. Murray's Landing is connected to Hwy. 51 via Murray's Landing Road, 1/2 mile west of the town of Manitowish.
Be aware that this route can provide navigational challenges different than river or lake paddling. Flowage water levels fluctuate. Channels and bays that are open during normal water levels may be grass-covered and hidden at other times. A good map and compass are a must!.
Continuing from Murray's Landing, generally follow the right or north shore, but avoid paddling into the first large bay to the right which is a dead end. After passing this bay, keep close to the right shore and pass through the "narrows" between an island and the mainland. An old hermit who used to entertain canoers with legends of the flowage once lived here.
Once past the narrows, you will enter the main body of the Manitowish-Flambeau River portion of the flowage. Look for a gumdrop-shaped island, higher than the others around it. This is Bonies Mound. The islands around Bonies are suitable camping and picnic sites.
The route continues west from Bonies following the original channel of the Manitowish River, passing through another set of "narrows" before turning south at the outlet of Blair Lake. A boat landing and campsite are located along the north shore approximately 2 miles from Blair Lake.
Once into the main body of this section of the flowage, head southwest. There are several good campsites along the route. The second site from the north end of Hot Dog Island is a favorite.
Portage right at the Turtle Dam over the dam's dike, about 500 feet west of the dam's gates. A portage of 200 feet leads you back to the water. There is no boat landing below the dam. You are now on the shores of the North Fork of the Flambeau River.
- Put-in below the dam and head left into the main river channel going through Haystack Rapids, a twin set of Class I rapids. The first is low hazard, the second pitch more challenging. A public boat landing is located on the right shore just after the rapids.
Turtle River Route through the flowage: Lake of the Falls County Park at Co. Hwy. FF to Turtle Dam-western portion of flowage / Total : 8 1/2 miles.
- The Lake of the Falls put-in will give you an easy one-day access (8 1/2 miles) to the Turtle Dam via the Turtle River route on the west side of the flowage. The Turtle is a faster river coming into the flowage than is the Manitowish which enters from the Eastern side of the flowage. Fishing is usually good along this route.
Downstream 1/2 mile from Lake of the Falls the river widens into "Sturgeon Bay" and passes to the right (west) side of Big Island. This is the original route of the Turtle River before it was flooded when the flowage was created. A rustic campsite can be found just left of mid-channel about 4 miles downstream from the put-in.
A shortcut under a low bridge around the east side of Big Island is an option.
As the route turns southeast, you will pass through Lake Bastine, one of the 9 original lakes flooded when the flowage was created. Many fine resorts, dining and lodging establishments can be found here.
- A public landing is on the right shore as you leave Lake Bastine. This landing is about 2 miles from the Turtle Dam, or take-out below Turtle Dam as previously described.
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