A living "tree museum" and so much more!
An arboretum can loosely be defined as a “living museum of trees.” Collectively this land now harbors representative samples of 70 trees indigenous to Southeastern Wisconsin (there were 28 species in Riverside Park prior), as well as a vast number of native wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs and an impressive array of Wisconsin plant communities.
The Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum is an urban oasis that combines Riverside Park and Milwaukee River frontage with reclaimed post-industrial land into a public green space, natural habitat, and outdoor classroom for experiential learning and growing, right in the heart of the city!
Who is this for?
For you. For everyone!
The Arboretum is 40 acres of urban nature uniquely managed as an outdoor classroom, research site and public sanctuary - free for everyone to enjoy! The Arboretum is all about connecting people with nature in their neighborhood, and provides many community and ecological benefits, including:
- Expanding the outdoor classroom used by Urban Ecology Center educators.
- Increasing diversity of native plant species that provide a source of seed stock for the region and provide a better habitat for native wildlife.
- Improving water quality and reducing storm water runoff by replacing invasive species with deep-rooted native species.
- Increasing opportunities for ecological research in a unique urban environment.
- Increasing community access to the Milwaukee River with a path accessible to those with limited mobility and families with strollers.
What can you do here?
Learn, play, and relax in an urban oasis.
The Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum is specifically focused on connecting kids and families with nature. Dedicated as a Children's Forest by the USDA Forest Service, there are "ImagiNature stations" scattered throughout the Arboretum intended for children to discover, be it a well-placed hollow log or a tree enhanced for safe climbing. Of the 22 designated Children's Forests in the country, the Arboretum is one of the only ones located within a major urban area.
And that's just the beginning! Here are some more fun ways for you to enjoy the Arboretum:
- Take a hike! The Arboretum has a two-mile loop of trails meandering through open prairie and wooded riverfront for you to explore.
- Go on a tour! Led by one of our trained volunteer docents, an Arboretum tour will teach you about the history, ecology, and community involvement surrounding the creation and maintenance of this beautiful park. See the current tour schedule here!
- Be a birder! The Arboretum's collection of diverse native plant communities provide a perfect environment to spot over 150 different species of our feathered friends. Join one of our birding programs and try to find them all!
- Paddle the river! The Arboretum's boat landing provides convenient access for canoes and kayaks to this scenic stretch of the Milwaukee River. Don't have a boat? Contributing members of the Urban Ecology Center can borrow them for free!
- Warm up to winter! Summer isn't the only time to visit the Arboretum; in winter snowshoes are a great way to see it from a different perspective. Members of the Center can borrow them for free!
- Visit the Urban Ecology Center! Our Riverside Park branch is located right next to the Arboretum. Stop in during our open hours to learn about the latest programs in the Arboretum, borrow recreational equipment, enjoy a free cup of coffee or tea, or just to use the restroom.
Where is it?
A stretch of green space in the heart of the city.
The Arboretum is located between the Milwaukee River and the Oak Leaf Trail and stretches from North Avenue to Locust Street. The Arboretum's location along the southern portion of the Milwaukee River Greenway (the 800-acre green space that has been developed to provide and enhance public access to the Milwaukee River) makes the Arboretum a natural gateway to this valuable resource.
Who helped make this happen?
Friends and neighbors, donors and volunteers.
The engagement of thousands of volunteers, experts from across the state, a dedicated team of staff and numerous partner organizations have helped the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum transform from an exciting vision into reality. The opening of the Arboretum is a testament to the collaborative partnerships that lead to transformative change that has helped connect more people to this outdoor oasis. More than 800 Milwaukee-area residents attended the grand opening of Arboretum, further increasing awareness and appreciation of the biological diversity found in this area.
The Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum would not be possible without the tremendous support of many groups and individuals, including:
- Rotary Club of Milwaukee
- Pieter Godfrey, a visionary and dearly missed friend and nearby land owner
- Environmental Protection Agency as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
- The River Revitalization Foundation
- Milwaukee County Parks
- Wisconsin Department of natural Resources
- USDA Forest Service
- City of Milwaukee
- Milwaukee River Greenway Coalition
- Milwaukee Public Schools
- Milwaukee Area Workforce Youth Initiative
- Fund for Lake Michigan Wisconsin Coastal Management Program (WCMP)
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Local community members
How can you get involved?
There are lots of ways you can help!
There are many ways that you can continue to appreciate and expand the work of the Arboretum! We offer the following weekly volunteer opportunities where you can get outside and explore this amazing urban park:
You can also support the Deep Roots: Native Tree and Plant Sponsorship Program and help us keep the native eco-system of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum flourishing, ensuring it's enjoyed by people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities for years to come. Additionally you will help us reach more kids, families, and community members through our school-age, citizen science, urban adventures, and family programs that will use the Arboretum year-round for learning, recreation, relaxation, and inspiration.