Chippewa & Flambeau Snowmobile Tour

Two great rivers of the Wisconsin Northwoods flow out of Sawyer County to meet and mingle in Rusk County. The Chippewa and Flambeau Rivers have timeless beauty. They swirl around rocks heaped high with winter snow, flowing past mile upon mile of hemlock and white pine. Their waters echo with the history of the north; once canoe routes for Indians and explorers, once rivers of pine logs driven south to build America. A visit to Rusk, Sawyer and Washburn Counties is a ride through a woods and water wonderland. The city of Ladysmith is an anchor of services in a chain of small towns linked by the trails on this tour. And it's only a start. A slew of trails junction with this route and invite you back to explore again and again. Rusk County boasts 300 miles of trails, Sawyer County has 600 miles, and Washburn County adds 144 miles. Riding north from Ladysmith, you'll glide along Corridor Trail #27 past the Leg Lake Flowage to the little town of Winter. Just east of town, you'll pick up Corridor Trail #10, the Tuscobia State Trail. The Tuscobia is a 74-mile rail-bed trail that runs from Park Falls in the east to near Rice Lake in the west. The trail is different from many rail-bed trails. The trestles were taken out before the state acquired the right-of-way, so many of the stream crossings include a steep descent down to a snowmobile bridge followed by a steep climb back up. After the crossroads village of Ojibwa the trail runs close along the Chippewa River on its way to Radisson and Couderay. At Couderay a historical marker notes the visit of the first Europeans in the area. Pierre Esprit Radisson wintered a few miles north on what is now the Lac Courte Oreilles (pronounced La-coo-ter-ray) Ojibwe Reservation in 1660.After Couderay, Corridor Trail #10 heads southwest deep into the woods before junctioning with Corridor Trail #31. If you like the easy ride of the Tuscobia Trail, stay on Corridor Trail #10 to Birchwood. If you'd like a more scenic ride, take Corridor Trail #31 north on a loop through an incredible patch of wilderness lake area. There are almost too many tiny lakes to count between big Lake Chetac and Long Lake. Trails #140 and #25 will lead you through this gorgeous landscape and lake-scape, back to the Tuscobia State Trail and the Town of Birchwood. Now you're ready for the challenge of the Blue Hills along Corridor Trail #31, a real contrast to the low lake and stream country you've ridden so far. Rising 600 feet above the level of the Chippewa River, the hills are the remnant core of an ancient mountain range. Along the way you'll find a warming shelter maintained by the local snowmobile club; a great place to thaw out by the Franklin stove. At the Town of Bruce you meet the Chippewa River again. Traveling south, you'll cross its tributaries before crossing "The Big Chip" at its confluence with the Flambeau River. The meeting of these two fast-flowing rivers makes a great place for a scenic stop. Looking south you can see Flambeau Ridge, a solitary giant rising 400-feet above the forest. If you need services quickly, the hospitable Holcombe Flowage area is just a few miles to the south along Corridor Trail #27.Riding Corridor Trail #27 to the north you'll shadow the Flambeau River back to Ladysmith. On arrival, take some time to tour the collection of equipment and railroad memorabilia at the Rusk County Visitor Center & Depot Museum. It's interesting to ponder how the area's once-burgeoning railroads have faded into history; and, how snowmobiles have reaped the benefit with rail-bed routes like the Tuscobia State Trail.