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Totogatic Wild River

The Totogatic Wild River is managed to preserve and protect the river in a wild and free-flowing natural state by working with counties, landowners and partners to prevent development adjacent to the river and by restoring sections of the river to an undeveloped condition.

The Northwest Barrens Properties Master Plan [PDF] was completed in 2017 and guides the long term management of this property.

Wild River Designation

From the beginning, the goal of the Wild River designation has been for all landowners and visitors to work together to keep the river wild. The land ownership includes county forest frontage (some in all five counties), commercial forest, private recreational parcels and some state and federally owned frontage. Ch. NR 302, Wis. Adm. Code, specifies how land and water activities will be managed on Wild Rivers. This law specifies that the landowners along the river need to recognize and protect the wild characteristics. The rule limits grading on the banks to less than 10,000 square feet (the point at which a permit would be needed from the DNR), and prohibits docks, dams, bridges (other than on public roadways), dredging, filling and removal of natural obstructions.

A special case was written into the Totogatic Wild River bill to allow docks that were placed before the designation to remain, provided they are sized to meet current pier standards (or smaller if the dock in place at the time of designation was a smaller than newer standards allow). These docks can be repaired and replaced, but not enlarged. New docks will not be allowed, in order to preserve the wild appearance of the river banks.  

Achieving Wild River designation is a great accomplishment on the part of local landowners, the counties, Washburn County Lakes and Rivers Association and all of the citizens and agencies involved. It is one of the highest levels of stream protection possible under Wisconsin Statutes. With everyone working together, we can keep it not only "Wild by Law" but also "Wild by Example" with good stewardship, care and respect from all who live along it and visit it in years to come.

Other Designations

Although the Totogatic is a major tributary of the Namekagon, it was not included in the St. Croix National Wild and Scenic Riverway. However, it is classified as an "Outstanding Resource Water" under ch. NR 102, Wis. Adm. Code. This designation offers further protection from the effects of development and new wastewater point-source discharges. Also, the Washburn County shoreland zoning ordinance does include "resource conservancy" protection on many of the parcels along the river. This zoning category requires a 300-foot setback for building along the banks. Washburn County has also designated the Totogatic as a "County Wild River" under its Comprehensive Forest Management Plan.