In his poem The Song of Hiawatha, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow describes how Hiawatha "crossed the rushing Esconaba". It is a wide river that cuts into limestone beds. The upper river is rocky and scenic and supports brook, brown and some rainbow trout throughout along with warmwater species in the impoundments. John D. Voelker, writing as Robert Traver, authored fishing stories set on the Escanaba in Trout Madness.
The East Branch and the Middle Branch of the Escanaba converge in the town of Gwinn to form the main stem. The stretch from this convergence south to the Delta County line is mostly wide and smooth, ideal for a canoe trip. Dams on the river's branches require caution, however. From the Delta County line, the river runs south to its mouth on Lake Michigan at 45°46′37″N 87°03′30″W, near the city of Escanaba.