Skip to main content


Totogatic Wild River

The Totogatic Wild River provides rich habitat for diverse aquatic and terrestrial species, has excellent water quality and beautiful scenery, and offers great fishing, paddling, hunting and wildlife watching opportunities.

This large 2,113-acre property is split into seven different blocks, spread over three townships in two counties with the majority of the acreage in northwestern Washburn County along the lower reaches of the Totogatic River. The property was former Wausau/Mosinee Paper land and is approximately 90% upland woods and 10% lowland and swamp. Several town roads intersect the blocks creating points of access to the land.  

Due to the highly erodible steep banks and the natural vegetated state of the river shoreline, access to the river from these parcels is not recommended. Better access is available to the river from other access points in the county, e.g., at County Highway I below the Minong Flowage. Please tread lightly at any point of access as the shoreline along the river is fragile and erodible. Also remember that river water levels are variable. Check out the river, let someone know your plan and establish your route ahead of time.


The free-flowing reaches of the Totogatic River are designated wild, with the four flowages (Nelson Lake, Totogatic Flowage, Colton Flowage and Minong Flowage) excluded. Here is a description of the designated reaches:

  • First Reach — From the outlet of Totagatic Lake (in Bayfield County) to the upstream end of Nelson Lake (in Sawyer County).
  • Second Reach — From a point 500 feet below the dam in the Totogatic Wildlife Area to the upstream end of the Colton Flowage (both in Washburn County).
  • Third Reach — From a point 500 feet below the dam that forms the Colton Flowage to the point where the river crosses the Washburn-Douglas County line immediately above the upstream end of the Minong Flowage.
  • Fourth Reach — From the bridge on County Highway I in Washburn County to the confluence of the river with the Namekagon River in Burnett County.

What's in a name?

The name "Totogatic" comes from the Ojibwa word "Totogan" meaning "place of floating bogs" or "boggy river" (according to "Romance of Wisconsin Place Names," Heartland Press, 1988). Plat books, maps and tour books show a couple of spellings for the river and its namesake flowages. "Totagatic" and "Totogatic" are used interchangeably in these reference materials (sometimes both are used on the same page). Pronunciation is varied among several versions including "Tuh-TO-ga-tec," "To-TA-ga-tec," "To-to-GAT-ic," "To-TA-tec" and "TO-ga-tec," according to long-time local residents. Each of these spellings and pronunciations seems to have a strongly defended local following, and devotees of one will consider use of the others as incorrect.