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The Chippewa River in Wisconsin flows approximately 183 miles (294 km) through west-central and northwestern Wisconsin. It was once navigable for approximately 50 miles (80 km) of its length, from the Mississippi River, by Durand, northeast to Eau Claire. Its catchment defines a portion of the northern boundary of the Driftless Area. The river is easily accessible for bikers and pleasure seekers via the Chippewa River State Trail which follows the river from Eau Claire to Durand.
The river is formed by the confluence of the West Fork Chippewa River, which rises at Chippewa Lake in southeastern Bayfield County, and the East Fork Chippewa River, which rises in the swamps of the southern part of the Town of Knight in Iron County, Wisconsin. The rivers' confluence is at Lake Chippewa, a reservoir in central Sawyer County, which is the official "beginning" of the Chippewa River.
The river flows from Sawyer County through Rusk, Chippewa, Eau Claire, Dunn, Pepin and Buffalo Counties, in Wisconsin, before emptying out into the Mississippi River. 
Historically, the Chippewa River was important as a floatway for lumbering and paper making.
The pine forests in Wisconsin in the 1800s, the Chippewa River system held more than even the Wisconsin River. It is estimated that the Chippewa system drained 34% of Wisconsin's pineries, as compared to 21% for the Wisconsin, 14% for the St. Croix, and 7% for the Black. Before logging, the Chippewa Valley probably held about 46,000,000,000 board feet of lumber. Frederick Weyerhaeuser described it as "a logger's paradise, a very large part of its area being heavily forested with the finest quality of white pine timber, while rivers, streams, and lakes offered an excellent network of transportation facilities."
The first sawmill in the Chippewa Valley was probably functioning at what would become Menomonie around 1831. By 1840 Jean Brunet and associates were sawing wood at Chippewa Falls. Floods destroyed these early mills, and the lumbermen rebuilt them. In the late 1800s, Chippewa Falls was said to have the largest sawmill under one roof in the world.