Just Roll With It: Experience Logrolling in Wisconsin

By Dan Rose
Special to TravelWisconsin.com

Imagine this: the smell of fresh pine, a cool breeze in your hair and the warm summer sun reflecting off the water. Your feet grip a log underneath you. It’s a bit unsteady and starting to roll, but you move with it as it picks up speed. Now you’re almost running on the spinning log. There’s a moment of perfect clarity as you devote all your focus to staying on the log. But suddenly, your balance falters and you splash into the water. As they say, “it’s as easy as falling off a log.”

Logrolling – A Wisconsin Tradition

Thanks to Wisconsin’s rich logging history and abundance of rivers and lakes, logrolling has been a popular pastime in Wisconsin as far back as 1800. In 1891, Tom Flemming of Eau Claire became the first unofficial logrolling world champion at a contest in Omaha, Nebraska. Today, Wisconsin has experienced a cultural resurgence in its passion for the sport of logrolling. So whether you’d like to cheer on some Lumber Jacks and Jills or learn the art of log rolling yourself, this state is the place to be.

Roll with the Best – Experience a Logrolling Competition

Logrolling events are held all over Wisconsin during the summer months. If you’re planning a trip, consider checking out the Midwest Championships in Madison, the World Log Rolling Championships in Hayward or the Three Rivers Roleo in Onalaska.

Madison’s Midwest Championships are held at the beginning of June and feature two main events: logrolling and the boom run. In traditional logrolling, two competitors head off on one log as they try to knock their opponent off by turning the log in ways their opponent doesn’t expect. The boom run features a series of logs lined up end to end. Participants then run as fast as they can across a body of water using the logs.

Hayward’s World Lumberjack Championship is one of the biggest logrolling events in the world. This weekend in July will be filled with all things lumberjack: log rolling, boom runs, pole climbing, log sawing and chopping! Over the weekend, men and women from across the country compete for more than $50,000 in prize money.

The Three Rivers Roleo in Onalaska is a newer logrolling event featuring both seasoned professionals and amateurs. The event takes place on a historic logging site and entry is free, so pack up the cooler and prepare for a great day on the river.

Don’t Fall Off – Learning to Logroll

If you’re adventurous and ready to give logrolling a try, there are a number of places you can take classes and develop your lumberjack skills! Hayward, Holmen and Madison all have logrolling clubs offering seasonal classes on Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers. Madison’s club is unique in that it features an indoor practice area as well as outdoor lessons.

Specific class schedules are available online and generally open to school-aged children and adults of all ages. You should expect to pay anywhere between $15 and $33 for a lesson, with discounts available for multi-class packs. Don’t worry if it’s your first time. Unlike the competitions, you will have your own log, a small group and an instructor to give you instant feedback if you have trouble at first. You’ll be rolling with the best in no time!