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Designated Reach: March 3, 1992. The East Branch from its origin to the Ottawa National Forest boundary. The Middle Branch from its origin to the northern boundary of the Ottawa National Forest. The Cisco Branch from its origin at Cisco Lake Dam to its confluence with Ten-Mile Creek south of Ewen. The West Branch from its confluence with Cascade Falls to Victoria Reservoir.

Classification/Mileage: Wild -- 42.9 miles; Scenic -- 41.0 miles; Recreational -- 73.5 miles; Total -- 157.4 miles.

Description: In this back country setting, the gorge-like landscape, exposed sandstone cliffs, and waterfalls provide a unique recreational area for the Midwest. The river also has excellent fishing for resident brown trout, Lake Superior run salmon, and steelhead.On the Cisco Branch of the Ontonagon River, 37 miles were designated as wild and scenic, with the 10-mile segment from the river originating at Cisco Lake Dam to County Road 527 designated as a“recreational” river, and the 27-mile segment from the Forest Development Road 527 to the confluence of Cisco Branch and Ten-Mile Creek as a “scenic” river. The Cisco Branch provides valuable winter deer range, and the northern hardwoods offer habitat for bears, beavers, fishers, mink, and other wildlife. The river has an excellent native brook trout fishery, and the public owns only 39% of the river corridor.


The Ontonagon River is fed by four major tributaries before it finally leads to Lake Superior. Known as a good trout stream that generally has relatively low water levels throughout the summer, the Ontonagon's presence is prominent in the Western U.P.

The main section of the river is 25 miles long. The Ontonagon River's principal tributaries are its West, South, Middle and East branches, all of which flow in part through the Ottawa National Forest

  • The West Branch Ontonagon River flows for its entire length in Ontonagon County. It emerges from Lake Gogebic near Bergland and flows east-northeastwardly for approximately 30 mi (48 km), collecting the South Branch and passing through a dam which forms the Victoria Reservoir.

  • The South Branch Ontonagon River is formed in southwestern Ontonagon County by the confluence of Tenmile Creek and the Cisco Branch. The Cisco Branch begins at Cisco Lake in eastern Gogebic County and flows generally north-northeastwardly for 27 mi (43 km) to the South Branch. which then flows northwardly for 33 mi (53 km), passing the community of Ewen, before joining the West Branch.

  • The Middle Branch Ontonagon River, 58 mi (93 km) long, issues from Crooked Lake in eastern Gogebic County and initially flows eastwardly, passing Watersmeet. After collecting the Tamarack River, the Middle Branch turns northwardly into Ontonagon County, where it collects the Baltimore River and joins the East Branch.

  • The East Branch Ontonagon River, 51 mi (82 km) long, issues from Jingle Lake in northern Iron County and flows generally northwestwardly through Houghton County into Ontonagon County, where it joins the Middle Branch.


Below the confluence of its various branches, the Ontonagon River flows generally north-northwestwardly for 25 mi (40 km) in Ontonagon County to the village of Ontonagon, where it flows into Lake Superior.


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