Chippewa River Water Trail

The immensely popular Chippewa River Water Trail courses through historic downtown of Eau Claire, WI. Though the 4.2 mile water trail flows through an urban landscape it is endowed with natural beauty: clean water and strong fishery, native grasses and trees, sandstone cliffs and cave formations. The Chippewa River Water Trail provides a conduit for paddlers to retrace the former logging paths of the mid-1800’s and understand the river’s role as economic and cultural driver for the city.

photo: CRWT Tubing: Fav University of WI Student Activity

Length: 4.20 miles
Loop Trail? No
Type: National Water Trails Syst
Agency: City, Town, or County
Entry Fee? No
     The segment below the dam receives high flows during spring run-off. Real time flow information is available from the USGS gauge in Eau Claire is available at USGS website.

Parking Fee? No

Allowed Uses:

Boating, non-motorized: Canoeing
Boating, non-motorized: Kayaking
Boating, non-motorized: Rafting
Boating, non-motorized: Tubing
Heritage and History
Swimming: Wading
Wildlife Observation

     The Chippewa River is the vibrant heart and soul of the City of Eau Claire: it defines the identity of the city and its residents. Love of the river and desire to be on and near it spearheaded the Chippewa River Water Trail project.

See more details.


Location: The Chippewa River is the mainstream of the upper Chippewa River Basin that is geographically located in Northwestern Wisconsin. The Chippewa River Water Trail is a 4.2 segment of the Chippewa River roughly 90 miles east of the Mississippi River at the Mi
State(s): Wisconsin
Counties: Eau Claire
Longitude: -91.5195
Latitude: 44.827395

Driving Directions

The official starting location of the Chippewa River Water Trail is at the Dells Pond (RM: 60.3 Lat. 44.827395, Long. -91.488206) From State Highway 53 drive north on Madison Street and then eastward for less than a mile on city streets until you reach Mount Simon Park. Once on the Chippewa River, follow the natural flow of the river to the exit point of a community boat landing (RM: 56.1 Lat. 44.7993, Long. -91.5195) less than a mile from County Hwy. 12.


The Chippewa River Water Trail is a 4.2 mile segment of the Upper Chippewa River watershed. The Chippewa River flows 183 miles south towards the Mississippi River through the regional Northwestern portion of Wisconsin. The Chippewa River Water Trail will specifically guide paddlers along a 4.2 mile of the Chippewa River to connect with the ecological, geological, historical and cultural importance of the river in Wisconsin.
The Chippewa River Water Trail meanders through three ecosystems known in Wisconsin. The Northern Boreal Forest is apparent at the northernmost point of the trail, especially at the Mount Simon Park at Dells Pond (RM: 60.3) Portions of the trail feature a deciduous wood ecosystem, specifically at Owen Park (RM:57.5) A prairie/ savannah ecosystem is apparent along the southern route of the water trail at Hobbes Boat Landing (RM: 56.1). Overall, the variety of ecosystems along the Chippewa River speaks to its unique natural beauty.
The Chippewa River is home to Federally Endangered Crystal Darter, Goldeyes, Redhorse, and Paddle fish and Sheepnose mussel. The river provides habitat to six types of mussels: Buckhorn, Bullhead, Butterfly, Elktoe, Fawnsfoot, and Purple Wartyback. Also the Chippewa River has many tributaries that feed trout streams. Paddling on the Chippewa River Water Trail, one can view sandstone cliffs and natural cave formations.
The Chippewa River has played a key role in the heritage and cultural development of Eau Claire and Wisconsin. The Chippewa River made it possible for the lumber and logging boom in the Eau Claire and Wisconsin in the 1830s. Lumber was cut in upper Chippewa River Basin and was floated to mills in Eau Claire. The logging boom directly impacted the economy and culture of Eau Claire and Wisconsin. After the height and fall of the logging era, the Chippewa River became a source of energy productions and numerous dams were built. In the last 30 years, the city of Eau Claire took steps to invest restoring the Chippewa River. The community is dedicated to protecting the water quality and adjacent pedestrian trails and parks to increase outdoor recreation and tourism in Eau Claire.

Additional Details

Primary Surface: Not Available
Secondary Surface: Water, rapids
Water, moderate moving
Water, slow moving
Grass or vegetation
Rock, boulders
Rock, smooth
Snow or ice

Elevation Low Point: Not Available
Elevation High Point: Not Available
Elevation Gain (cumulative): Not Available

Year Designated:

Supporting Webpages and Documents

Brochure: Facebook page dedicated to tubing on the Chippewa River in Eau Claire indicates popularity of this local tradition to college students and residents.
Brochure: "Celebrate the Chippewa River" annual event which combines learning and recreation opportunities along the water trail
Brochure: "Celebrate the Chippewa River" annual event which combines learning and recreation opportunities along the water trail.This event is coordinated by several CRWT committee members and others from the community.
Brochure: City's Waterways Plan describes measures to protect riparian area along the Water Trail.
Brochure: Draft Celebrate the Chippewa River conference agenda
Brochure: Poster for Celebrate the Chippewa River conference
Brochure: YMCA- Eau Claire offers new kayak course to improve safety on the river; concept resulted from work being done by Chippewa River Water Trail committee.
Brochure: "Eau Claire Waterways Plan" details the City's vision and goals for the Chippewa River. It includes aspects of conservation and recreation directly related to the water trail. The CRWT follows through on recommendations by giving form, function, and publ
Brochure: Chippewa River Water Trail Map and Brochure. 10,000 printed copies will be distributed throughout Eau Claire. Printed June 2017.
Brochure: TV coverage of CRWT opening June 21st. Includes video.
Brochure: Another TV coverage of CRWT opening June 21st.
Map: CRWT website copied into word document.
Other: Chippewa River Water Trail Concept Plan summarizes past, present, and future work of the CRWT committee. It documents the project's inception through planning and implementation. 2017.
Other: City of Eau Claire Resolution in support of National Water Trail Designation
Other: Results of Initial Stakeholder Open House; summary of recommendations from broadly represented individuals, organizations, and agencies.
Website: Chippewa River Water Trail

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Public Contact:
Todd Chwala
City of Eau Claire
910 Forest St.
Eau Claire, WI 54703 -7401
[email protected]




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Submit an Edit

Trail Managers: please use the official NRT update form to update your trail for any of the following changes:

  • Change in trail mileage through trail extension
  • Change in trail mileage through trail retraction
  • Change in trail mileage through significant trail reroute
  • Change to trail name
  • Change in trail description or use
  • Undesignation of trail (removal of NRT designation status)
  • Other significant updates

>> Download the official NRT update form.

All other edits can be submitted via the below form: