The Wausau & Marathon County Parks & Recreation Foundation announced in early May the development of the Great Pinery Heritage Waterway as an overarching paddling trail on the Wisconsin River from Hat Rapids in Oneida County through Wausau to the Lake DuBay Dam in Portage County.

The scenic, urban and historical water trail, which is expected to be complete in the fall, is 108 miles in length and connects today’s paddler with the history, events and people of the river that runs through central Wisconsin. In addition to the creation of the river trail, a comprehensive website highlights the trail’s access points and its amenities. 

“A significant component of the plan is to market the greater Wausau region as an outdoor recreation mecca of the Midwest to attract and retain skilled workforce and innovative companies,” said Dave Eckmann, Greater Wausau Chamber of Commerce CEO and president, in a news release. “The GPHW proposal would help contribute to realizing this strategy and further enable the area to reach full potential as a nationally recognized outdoor hub, building upon its diverse menu of outdoor amenities including the world-class Wausau Whitewater Park, Nine-Mile County Forest and other local jewels.”

This paddling trail is an overarching trail of three waterways: The Wisconsin River, the Lower Big Rib River (17 miles) and completion of the Lower Eau Claire River (15 miles) into Lake Wausau. The trail touches 12 communities in central Wisconsin from Tomahawk to Stevens Point, with the heart of the project centered in Wausau and Lake Wausau. 

“What makes this trail possible is that it is based on a river trail that was developed in 2008 by the Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company’s Centennial Water Trail to celebrate their 100th year,” said Bill Bertram, Wausau and Marathon County Parks and Recreation Foundation president, in the release. “Additionally, the majority of the landings have been developed by our parks and recreation departments of the different municipalities and governments that border the rivers.”   

Communities along the Wisconsin River and two county parks departments collaborated to create the GPHW.  Trail stories told by the Marathon County Historical Society, Merrill Historical Society and the Tomahawk Historical Society enrich paddlers’ experiences with historical signs along the route.  

For more information, visit