Gordon MacQuarrie Annual Pilgrimage
This very popular event that we host is our annual “Gordon MacQuarrie Pilgrimage & Canoe Trip”. This event was first held in September 2016 by Dave Thorson, and was well attended by guests from near and far. Dan Small, from Outdoor Wisconsin on PBS, attended and filmed much of this first event and used it as part of two episodes. Unfortunately, Dave passed away in December of that year. It was so successful that we decided to continue what he started and dedicate this annual event to Dave’s memory. We added an optional canoe trip on the Brule River, Gordon’s favorite trout fishing spot that produced many stories he wrote about the escapades of “The Old Duck Hunters Association” on the river.
Our version is a three day outing that begins with check-in on Friday afternoon at The Barnes Town Hall. All meals are provided throughout the weekend. The Town Hall is filled with tables with interesting topics and demonstrations such as decoy carving, fly tying, split bamboo fly rod making, flycasting and MacQuarrie books and memorabilia. The Museum is also open for visiting. Then there is a buffet dinner with an orientation discussion. After dinner we move to the Museum for a guided tour of the MacQuarrie exhibit. Toward sundown, we then gather on the Museum grounds around a campfire for the “Pine Knot Campfire Chat”. We reverently and ceremonially burn pine knots and toast the memory of Gordon, and have a spirited group discussion about anything MacQuarrie.
On the second day, Saturday, we gather at the Town Hall for breakfast, and organize for the two optional tours of locations that served as settings for his many stories. On one tour we travel to the Middle Eau Claire Lake, visiting many of the spots he wrote about such as Blunt Point, The Hole in The Wall, Posey’s Point and The Thoroughfare. Also along the way there is a stop and an on shore visit to Gordon’s cabin and the cabins of his neighboring friends. Lunch is served on board. The second is a road tour of land based hunting and fishing favorite spots that he wrote about such as The Cathedral, The Ice House, The Thoroughfare and Ruprecht’s Sugar Bush. Lunch is on board and served along the way. We then return to the Town Hall from both tours.
Upon return from the tours, on Saturday evening we host a Banquet and Program with a Keynote Speaker, and we call on experts to talk about Gordon and his stories and experiences. You will meet local people who knew Gordon or will relate stories that their parents told to them about MacQuarrie experiences that they had with him. This area and his log cabin were the favorite places that he loved so much. Many of his stories were written about his experiences in this Northern Wisconsin Paradise, as he sometimes called it.
On Sunday, we offer an optional canoe trip down the Brule River, the most favorite place of fly fishing enjoyment of Mac’s. We gather for breakfast at a Café that was called “The Coffee Cup” in Gordon’s days in Barnes. We transport the participants to Stone’s Bridge on the Brule River and put in there for a guided tour and sightings of many favorite spots that Gordon fished and wrote about. This is about a five hour tour with lunch on board. The tour culminates at Winneboujou Landing, and the participants are then transported back to Barnes.
As previously mentioned, all meals from the Friday evening Buffet through the Saturday night Banquet are provided. The MacQuarrie theme and some of the menus contain dishes of his liking. Notices and registration forms are sent out early in the year to ODHA Circle members and are open to anyone who would like to participate and enjoy a historical weekend designed around the life and times of this prolific, nationally known Journalist. Information on local lodging is provided upon registration to attend the event.
Gordon MacQuarrie Pilgrimage & Tour
Paddle the Brule Canoe Float Tour
Visit the Put-ins and Story Settings described by MacQuarry in his Stories
River Guide: Damian Wilmot, is a famed local Brule Tour Guide, a restorer of Joe Lucius vintage canoes originally built on the Brule in 1911, which he uses on his unique private one-person tours of the Brule. Damain will donate his time and effort to the Barnes Museum for this MacQuarrie Canoe Tour Program.
Tour originator, host and Commentator: Steve Papp, MacQuarrie Fan, and leader of the Ducks Unlimited River Falls (Wisconsin) Chapter. A founding Barnes Museum Old Duck Hunter Association Circle Member, he will donate his time and effort for the Barnes Museum MacQuarrie Programs.
Put-in: Stones Bridge
Duration: Four hours plus 1/2 hr for lunch break. Riverbank lunch provided
Tour Length. 9 miles
Registration fee : $75. Your registration fee will be to support the tour expenses (canoe rentals, PFDs, lunch, hand outs, shuttle etc) and the Barnes Museum MacQuarrie programs. Additional donations to the Barnes Museum MacQuarrie Programs welcomed. A modest discount to this hopefully breakeven registration fee will be provided to the museum’s ODHA Circle membership.
The canoe trip will take you through several of Gordon MacQuarrie “put-ins”, starting at Stone’s Bridge and ending 4 ½ hours later at Winneboujou Landing. You will be literally paddling and floating over the footsteps of MacQuarrie, Hizzonor and other characters in the physical settings for several of his stories. We will take you to specific sites described by MacQuarrie and provide a commentary or read a passage or two from his stories set at these locations.
The upper reaches of the river offer a calm, serene beauty flowing through a narrow and intimate setting with quiet pools and small lakes before tumbling over a number of fun rapids and chutes. The nine mile trip will take you through a mixture of flat water, lakes, riffles and light rapids. This section is popular with fishermen and a great section for beginner paddlers
The Bois Brule River, from Stone's Bridge, is arguably among the best canoeing and kayaking rivers in the Midwest. Consistent flow and a diverse character provides appealing trips for paddlers of all skill levels.
Canoes, paddles, PFDs, Lunch, and transport will be provided.
The Brule is a catch-and-release river
Here’s what you should bring:
1. brimmed hat
3. Insect repellent
Data from Wisconsin Trail Guide.
Put-in: Stone’s Bridge Landing
Take-out: Winneboujou Landing
Distance: 9 miles
Approximate Time 4+ hours
Most Difficult Rapids : Class 1-2
Minimum Suggested Flow: 125 cfs / 1.4 feet
Water Level Info: Brule River State Forest HQ Phone 715.372.4866
GPS - NAD83 / WGS84
Stone’s Bridge Landing River:
A MacQuarrie Put-in
Hit The Drink, Big Fly- Big Trout
The river is slow, calm and narrow for the first 2.5 miles with a silty riverbed. Dense thickets, tall grasses, and scrub pine cover the riverbanks. This entire stretch is intimate and scenic!
Accessibility: The landing is on County Highway S at Stones Bridge. Trailer access, paved parking,
trailer turnaround, pit toilets, water. An excellent developed landing.
Several spring-fed sloughs and backwaters feed into the Bois Brule. Scenic pine forest surrounds the river.
A MacQuarrie Put-in
A named river bend, a popular spot to catch steelhead in the spring. The river forks around a small wooded island in the center with a third channel leading off to the right. Follow the current down the ‘middle’ channel as it bends to the north (left). After the island, the river bends to the right with a slough on river left. Cedars often overhang the riverbanks in this stretch, very scenic.
Mays Rips Rapids (Class 1): A MacQuarrie Put-in. Setting for The Kitchen Sink Fish
The river appears to come to a dead-end, look for the rocky constriction on river right. May’s Rips are more of a rocky riffles than a rapids in low to medium flows. In this stretch, the Bois Brule is starting to show the remarkably clear waters that it is famous for.
Cedar Island Estate
The river forks around several islands about a third of a mile past Mays Rips. The main buildings of the Cedar Island Estate appears on the left shore. This is the largest of the fishing lodges on the Bois Brule, with several buildings and a couple of footbridges spanning the river. The lodge was once a popular vacation destination for many famous people including several U.S. Presidents. The first of several pitches of riffles begin under the 'Green Bridge', these riffles are known as 'Hungry Run'.
The Falls Rapids (Class 1-2)
At the north end of a large pool, the river constricts to less than 15 feet wide and shoots through Falls Rapids, a fun class 1-2. There are a couple of ‘easy to hit’ boulders down the left center. Scout or portage on the left bank. Big Twin Rapids are around the bend just ahead.
Big Twin Rapids (Class 1)
A little easier than Falls Rapids, Big Twin Rapids have fun wave action in medium flows. The rapids end at the south end of Sucker Lake. Be careful of fallen trees across the river!
Little Twin Rapids (Class 1)
After Sucker Lake, the river runs through a narrow constriction with a class 1 rapids. The river flows into Big Lake at the end of Little Twin Rapids.
Big Lake is the largest of the “lakes” on the Bois Brule, roughly 0.85 mile long.
Wildcat Rapids (Class 1) A MacQuarrie Put-in).
At the north end of Big Lake the river narrows, bends right, then left and runs through Wildcat Rapids. The rapids end just before a grassy island, at the south end of Lucias Lake (A MacQuarrie Put-in).
Station Rapids (Class 1)
A long and sometimes scrappy class 1 rapids and riffles with a quick current through several bends. Be careful of strainers!
Winneboujou Landing River:
After Station Rapids, the river flows through a long s-turn with the landing appearing on river left, after the second bend. After the landing, the river passes under the County B Bridge. Winneboujou is the name of an Ojibwa god; "the Great Hare".
Accessibility: The landing entrance is west of the Highway B Bridge. Hand carry access, parking, trailer turnaround, pit toilets, water.
Pictorial Tour from Miles Paddled
Bois Brule River
Stone’s Bridge Put-in
The Ordway boathouse marks the start of the historic Cedar Island Estate
Cedar Island Estate
Cedar Island Road Bridge
Little Twin Rapids
Little Twin shoots you into Big Lake
Bois Brule River paddle trail image
Pic from Wisc trail Guide
An UPPER BRULE CANOE TOUR
Description provided by Miles Paddled
The put-in at Stone’s Bridge Landing is excellent. There are facilities and fresh spring water running from a pipe. It’s a popular landing and was quite busy on this particularly beautiful Friday morning. Some paddlers were going there-and-back, some canoeing, some kayaking but most were getting a head start on trout fishing.
This section starts as pretty, placid marsh with pine trees lining the banks. The water is crystal clear – marsh grasses, green and long, sway downstream – and sandy bottom alternated with rocky bottom to modest boulders lying just below the surface.
It was slow, with almost no current, but that allowed time to gaze at the streambed below and look for trout (for which we spotted Brown and Brook throughout the day).
It isn’t until after Rainbow Bend where the landscape starts to change, the river narrows a bit and hills appear in the periphery. Soon, you’ll come upon the Ordway boathouse, which is the start of the Cedar Island estate. You’ll paddle through the property which is quite modest
considering the wealthy politicians, businessmen and celebrities that once vacationed there. Its appearance is one of just pretty footbridges and well-kempt cottages.
Soon after the estate, and beginning the alternating interruption of lake, river, lake, comes Falls Rapids, a really lively run. Scout Falls from the left bank. It’s a broad sweeping left curve and it’s swift and narrow which might take the unsuspecting by surprise. It’s rated a class I-II but to be honest, all classes at these levels felt on the low end (so a II felt like a I – they all felt easy and doable at these levels).
Next come a series of lake sections that are essentially separated or “crimped” by other light-whitewater sections. A highlight of which comes just after the smaller Sucker Lake. It’s called Little Twin rapids and it’s a completely unique run where at the end, you’re literally spit out into a crystal clear lake by a wave of riffles. It’s something I’ve never experienced before and it was simply awesome. The riffles immediately gave way to flat water – almost like someone shut off the faucet while drawing a very large bath. And that might be a pretty accurate description because Big Lake is just that… Big. But it’s pretty, with some scattered boulders, and more of that crystal clear water. Really, it’s the perfect time to just relax on a shallow lake while enjoying the broadest body of water you’ll encounter the rest of the trip
At the end of Big Lake comes Wildcat Rapids which separates Big Lake from Lucious Lake. Eventually, the current picks up as the lake narrows into a river again and stays a consistent width the rest of the way.
While not overly-populated, we noticed that the landowners who are lucky enough to reside on this treasure take great care of their riverside cabins and boathouses. Of note, the cabins seemed similarly built – all quite attractive – as were the boat houses which could be perfect subjects for classic paintings and photographs of “up north”. Many were quite idyllic with red and green canoes attached to their docks (is there anything more perfect than those canoe colors? Especially when lined with wood?) just tempting guests to get in and get paddling.