Many varied paddling experiences on the Net River in Iron County
By BILL ZIEGLER
For The Daily News
CRYSTAL FALLS – The Net River is a good canoe and kayak stream. The West Branch of the Net River starts in southern Baraga County and both West and East Branches flow south through eastern Iron County.
The Net has many varied paddling experiences depending on what stretch you choose to paddle. This river has sections that can be selected by advanced paddlers; or beginners can pick easier sections and avoid challenging stretches.
Paddlers can select reasonable access points to avoid long trips if a day trip is your preference. The Net River is not a trout stream although several decent trout streams enter the East Branch and Net River.
Although the East Branch of the Net is not a designated trout stream, under ideal conditions for several years (non drought and low numbers of beaver dams) it has a reputation of producing some notable-sized brook trout. The pool areas of the Net are known for smallmouth bass, an occasional walleye and numerous small pike.
Paddling is a good activity on days when fishing is slow and you want to get out and have a fun outdoor activity.
The lower stretches of the Net are navigable all season although the East and West Branches are best paddled at spring runoff or after a major rain.
It is always good to check water levels before you go, since some river sections can also become difficult in high water as well as low water levels.
Prospective paddlers can check water levels by checking the U S Geological Survey River Gauges on line at waterwatch.usgs.gov/new/index.php?id=ww_current.
There is not a gauge on every stream; although there are enough in the area you can usually find a gauge that is indicative of other area streams in the county. The gauge at U.S. 2 on the Brule River is a good one to show if streams in Iron County are rising or falling. When that Brule River gauge depth is about four feet the local streams are about bank full. The gauge at the Sturgeon River near Sidnaw would be a second one to check to see if water levels in the area of the Net River are rising or falling.
At spring water levels most of the West and East Branches including the main Net River are navigable. We have paddled down the East Branch from the Lukes Road to the old U.S. 141 crossing at high water conditions of spring runoff.
If you are an advanced white-water paddler, there is one short stretch that you could paddle several times (by spotting a vehicle at both U.S. 141 and Old 141) from U.S. 141 down to Old 141 at higher water. It is a fast rapids for just over a mile. It is only about 0.7 mile to the Main Net from old U.S. 141 if you want to paddle from there down to a take-out at the Net Wide Waters.
My son and I have paddled from Arnold Dam/Net River Flooding in southern-most Baraga County at very high water and I would not recommend it.
There is a reason the log driving companies in the Pine Days had two logging dams on this relatively short stretch to flush the logs through, since it has extensive shallow rocky rapids.
We ended up pushing our canoe most of the time in the upper portions of that stretch even at high water.
A more navigable stretch in terms of water level is from the Cable Lake Road down the West Branch. That section to the forks of the West and East Branch is only about one mile.
The distance from the confluence of the West and East Net Rivers down the Public Access site and the Net Wide Waters is about 5.2 miles. Most of this stretch of river is flat meandering water.
The Net Wide Waters is a wide spot in the river that is naturally impounded in the river by rock outcrop formations in the outlet area. Historically the Wide Waters was further impounded by a Logging Dam (named Lake Dam) to drive pine logs downstream.
The next river stretch downstream has all the channel features that characterize the mid-section of Net River. Considerable sections of the mid Net River are a series of pools and flat water with rapids separating them.
The stretch from the Wide Waters down the Net River Association Bridge crossing is about 4.6 miles in length of more challenging paddling.
This section would best be paddled after the river rises from a rain in the summer.
There are approximately five small rapids in the this section and one more challenging but relatively short in length rapids called Chipmunk Falls.
Chipmunk Falls would be rated about class III. Class III rapids are the most difficult any paddler should attempt in an open canoe.
The section from the Net River Association Bridge down to the DNR Public Access site below Snake Rapids is about 2.3 miles with similar river channel features to the section immediately upstream.
This section is long pools separated by two rapids. Snake rapids are the lower most rapids and would be rated about Class II. This section is best avoided at summer low water periods.
An excellent afternoon trip for paddlers that want to go in most summer conditions and avoid most the challenging white-water is down from the Snake Rapids DNR Public Access site.
The distance down to the confluence of the Net and Paint Rive is about 2.3 miles of flat water. It is about five miles from the Net River mouth down to a take out point on the Paint River.
This section is mostly flat water and small riffles although a short rapids is located on the lower portion of this stretch.
This small rapids is very runable for paddlers comfortable with white-water although it is also easy to portage around this fast water section on the right descending bank.
The take out point is at the end of the unmarked trail road off Parks Farm Road east of Amasa at Paint Dam No. Two.
This was the site of a log driving dam built by the Menominee River Boom Company during the pine log drives of the late 1800s.
This DNR-owned access is in Township 44N Range 34W section 11. This site has driving access to the water, with state-legal easement to the state land and access point on the Paint River.
The Net River passes through some wild sections of Iron County. Every time we paddle the Net we see quite a bit of wildlife.
If you paddle sections of the Net River you will not likely see another canoe or kayak, and have the river to yourself.