Bonnie Jolly and Nancy Lietzau are friends and kayak companions.
A river, a kayak, a friend
Adventures on the Willow Flowage and Tomahawk River are better together.
Kayaking the Willow Flowage and Tomahawk River in north central Wisconsin brings new friendship and many photo ops, while allowing us to discover nature at its best.
My husband and I love being outdoors and purchased kayaks as another way to explore the Willow Flowage/Tomahawk River area. He lost interest after a few trips, so I ventured out by myself. I loaded the kayak on a cart and headed off to the river. My neighbor, Nancy, expressed an interest in joining me. We have been kayaking for eight years and still get excited when the ice goes out. Last year, however, we just couldn't wait — and so we put up with a little ice and it was well worth it.
Our first trip was the most memorable and the start of a very special friendship. We put in at Kaubushine Creek, off of Cedar Falls Drive, with hopes of getting to the Tomahawk River.
As we rounded a bend, it seemed as though the creek vanished, only to discover a 3–foot–high beaver dam. Since turning around wasn't an option, we decided to lower the kayaks to the water below by standing on the dam. Nancy went first and stood in the water while I lowered my kayak. She promised to hold it as I got back in. Well, trying to get into a kayak in waist–deep water doesn't work, as I found out.
I came up sputtering, "Get the camera!"
Nancy still loves to tell that story.
Each new trip led to the planning of another and before we knew it, we had kayaked the Tomahawk River from Minocqua to Tomahawk. Not all at one time, and over the course of three years, but we did it.
On some trips not a word was uttered, as we were simply lost in the gentle flow of the river and in awe of what each new bend revealed. As we approached each bend, paddles went down and cameras came up.
We were greeted by turtles sunning, a young buck munching, ducks swimming along our kayaks, herons fishing, eagles drying their wings and loons feeding their babies.
There was often an adventure just in finding the put–in and take–out spots. We also saw porcupines, raccoons, grouse, sandhill cranes and turkeys along the way.
On the longer trips, we would say, "Take out is just around the bend!" Only to discover — another bend.
We kept journals of the trips including times, weather, highlights and dozens of pictures. Each trip had its own unique qualities and if we didn't see wildlife, we still saw wildflowers.
We took lots of pictures and anxiously waited to use them to identify the plants when we got home. We saw turtlehead, broadleaf arrowhead, water smartweed, fragrant water lily, marsh marigold and Joe–Pye weed.
We would be on a "kayak high" when we got home and then to come down from it, we would sit on the porch with glasses of wine and recount the day's highlights. Documenting the trip was just as rewarding as the actual trip. We shared our stories and pictures with friends and family, who now look forward to kayaking when they visit.
Our shared love of nature and photography has given us a deep appreciation of our natural resources and all that this area has to offer.
Bonnie Jolly writes from Minocqua, Wis.