top of page

Flatwater paddling
the four-corners area

The four corners area, where Sawyer, Rusk, Barron and Washburn counties meet near Birchwood Wisconsin, is a great place to go paddling. If whitewater is what you want, you can find lots of information elsewhere. But if enjoying an hour or two paddling quiet waters is what you want, you have come to the right place. Area lakes and the creeks that feed them offer countless opportunities for exploring. And if you know where to go and when to go there, you just about can't help having a good time. If you're looking for a paddler-friendly place to stay in the heart of all these paddling options, look no further than Nystrom's Resort. We've been there and paddled them all. 

Any area lake -- knowing when to go

All the lakes in the area are great for paddling at least some of the time. The trick is to know when to go. A paddler's best friend or worst enemy is wind. In the summer, many mornings start with little or no wind on area lakes, and very little boat traffic. It's my favorite time to paddle. And if you can go on a weekday, your chances of having the lake to yourself or sharing it with very few others is high. 

Any lake can be a good place to paddle on a windy day if you can choose where you start your adventure. Is the wind from the south today? Then look at the map and find an extended southern shoreline that will be protected from that wind. Even on the windiest summer days, there's always a place you can go paddling and stay out of the worst of the wind. 

Murphy Flowage Recreation Area

My favorite place to take novice paddlers is Murphy Flowage. It stretches along a narrow valley for about a mile and a half east to west so it is a great place to go even when the north or south wind is howling. The only dwelling and the only campground on the entire waterway are on the extreme west end, so most of the flowage is devoid of people. Because it's only three miles round trip starting and returning to the campground's dock, it's not too far for beginning paddlers. I love taking kids there and saying, "Over there at that dam is where the water leaves this like. Let's see if you can find where it comes in at the other end." And when they find that creek, it's fun to see how far we can go up. There are bathrooms at the boat launch, which is great for the young ones and us old people too. 

Big Chetac Lake

Big Chetac is home to us, so we know this lake best. Here are some of my favorite routes, all starting at Nystrom's Resort. 

Up the Creek 

Paddle 100 yards to the sand bar, then turn left and head south along the east shore until you get to the entrance of 33 Creek, AKA Knutson Creek. Be quiet! You may see beavers, deer, and bald eagles. If i can only get somebody in a canoe or kayak one time, this is where I take them. 

About 4.4 miles round trip. 

Biology Bay 

When the wind is strong from the south, the water is calm between the resort and what I call Biology Bay, a beautiful little bundle of life in the corner of the lake to the east of us. Relax in your boat and enjoy the sound of creation all around you. One British friend said while there with me, "I don't think there's a place in all of the U.K. as quiet as this." Less than a mile round trip. 

Around the North End

Circle the north basin of the lake. Explore the creek that comes in the north end. 5.5 miles. 

Around the Islands

Head straight west to the west shore near Bay Vue resort, then proceed south along the shore until you circle Garbutt's Island and Grutt Island, then head home along the east shore. If you are not in a hurry, stop in the beautiful bay in Grutt Island. I call it Bapa's Bay because my dad, whom the grandchildren all called Bapa, first pointed out to me how beautiful it was. Challenge: Can you get in and out of it on the south end? About 4.3 miles. 

Around the South End

Same route as Around the Islands, but continue south along the west shore to the bridge at Cty Hwy F. Pass under the bridge, then return via the east shore. About 8 miles. 

Bay near Fred Thomas Resort and Back

Same route as Around the Islands, but explore the big bay at Fred Thomas Resort. 3 miles round trip plus whatever exploring you do. 


Heron Creek (through the tubes!)

Head northwest from our dock and go through the culverts. Yes, though the culverts. Paddle about 100 yards to a beaver dam and portage carefully over it. Explore the creek. Challenge: How far can you get up the creek? I guarantee you won't see anybody else back there, at least not any humans. 

Paddle and Pedal Biathlon

Paddle 6 miles through Big Lake Chetac, Birch Lake, and Little Birch Lake to the boat landing in Birchwood. Bike 7.3 miles back to the resort. Don't have anybody to meet you with your bike? No problem. Drive to Birchwood with your bike and empty canoe/kayak rack on your car. Bike back to the resort. Paddle back to the landing, with your car keys of course. Then load up and head home. But why not reward yourself with breakfast at the Birchwood Cafe? 

Spider Lakes Chain

Start at the Spider Lakes Boat Landing. 

Paddle through the five lakes of this beautiful chain of lakes on a weekday morning and you may not see another human being. Only one cabin on the middle three lakes. 6 miles to the top of the chain and back. This one ties with Deer Lake as my favorite places to paddle. Spider Lake Saloon is at the northern end of this route. Lunch? Challenge: Can you find the entrance to the hidden lake when you are in the 2nd lake from the bottom (south end) of the chain? In high water, it's there. In lower water, it's not. 

Little Sissabagama Lake

A gem, but all the shoreline is privately owned. So unless you know somebody on the lake, accessing it is difficult and a bit controversial. However, it is perfectly legal to enter the lake if you know where the road right-of-way (public property) intersects the lake itself (public property). Where these two pieces of public property intersect is a de-facto legal public access point, despite any signs you may see to the contrary. The landing there is not easy, but it can be done. 

Deer Lake

Public access at the south end. 

Very few people

Very few cabins

Lets of islands

Lots of submerged logs. 


About 8 miles if you go all the way to the north end, then all the way to the south end. 

Red Cedar Lake

I like my Tour of the Islands route: Start at the public landing on Cty Hwy V. Paddle north along the shore, exploring the two creeks that come into the lake from that side. Proceed east around Faust Island, then southeast around McHenry Island, pass the the east of two small islands before going around the southern tip of the eastern leg of Stout Island. Pass between the two parts of Stout Island, then west back to the landing. A little over 5 miles. 

Hemlock Lake & Bolger flowage

Begin at the Hemlock Lake Boat Ramp. Paddle east to the SE corner of the lake where Bolger Creek comes in. ~4 miles?  Challenge: How far up the creek can you get? Can you find the ruins of an old bridge abutment?

Or you can go west and then north into Red Cedar Lake and exploring the narrow channel between the lakes and the small islands at the south end of Red Cedar. 

Sawmill and Loyhead Lake Canoe Trails

These are two primitive canoe trails in the Birchwood area. Small lakes. Portages are marked. 

Washburn County has info and maps here

More to come about . . .

Long Lake

Balsam Lake

Sissabagama Lake

Audie Lake

Twin Lakes (on Cty Hwy V)

Bear Lake (near Haugen)

bottom of page