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Great Paddling, Fishing, and Floating on Red Cedar River

While recreational opportunities abound in the rolling hills of Barron County, don’t forget the fun to be had in the area’s waterways, including the famed Red Cedar River. The river flows south through Rice Lake, Cameron, and Sand Creek on its journey to the Chippewa River, west of Eau Claire.

The Red Cedar earns its reputation for fine fishing. The headwaters of the Red Cedar River is at Mikana, where Red Cedar Lake drains its excess water through a small dam. The small pool below the dam holds a few bass and walleye, and as we’ve discovered over the years, some snags. Smallmouth bass and walleye are plentiful. At other times, northern pike and panfish will keep you occupied. Great blue herons and eagles are frequent visitors to the river, and an early morning or late evening float might reward you with the sight of a doe and its fawn drinking at water’s edge.

Paddlers will discover several excellent landings courtesy of Barron County along the route. No camping is allowed at these landings, however. The county does have three county-owned campgrounds and there are several private campgrounds at Rice Lake, Cameron, Barron, and Chetek areas.

Overall the stretch of river from Mikana to Rice Lake is shallow, a perfect leisurely trip for novice paddlers. You will find the access point just behind the original 1884 log dam. A 3- to 4-hour trip of 7.4 miles takes you to the Red Barn landing. The next access/exit point is 3.8 miles further south at the UW-Barron County Campus. The next stretch of 2.8 miles, or 1.5 hours, takes you to the Sawyer landing.

While the fishing can be good along the previous stretches, county officials say the next stretch is excellent for fishing—especially at the deep holes situated along outside bends.

From Sawyer landing to Johnson landing is 3.8 miles long and a float of about 2 hours, depending on water levels. The OO landing is 4.7 miles or three hours south of Johnson. County D access to the County I landing is 2.7 miles or 1.5 hours down the river. Finally, the Barron County stretch, to the A&I landing, is about 4 miles or 2.5 hours.

If you don’t have two vehicles to park at the drop-off and pick-up locations, contact Chetek River Campground at (715) 924-2440 to make arrangements to use their tubing service. Rod & Gun Sport Shop—(715) 924-4181—also offers tubes and a drop-off service.

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