Go Outside and Play: Paddle

Written by Chad Thomack
    Wednesday, 01 May 2013
Go Outside and Play: Paddle

May day, May day… that is right, it is May 1st; the first day of canoe and kayak lending at the Urban Ecology Center. We are fully prepared at all three branches for people to borrow equipment. For those early bird paddlers, here are some recommendations of my favorite places to canoe on the Milwaukee River and beyond.

Washington Park Lagoon

The lagoon located at our Washington Park branch provides our most kid-friendly and accessible opportunity for canoeing and kayaking. Borrow a canoe from the Center and walk just a few yards to launch in the lagoon. The lagoon provides calm, still water perfect for beginners and families. Members may borrow canoes and kayaks at Washington Park during our public hours: Tuesday-Friday, 4-7 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Kletzsch Park to Estabrook- 3.4 miles

Start downstream from the Kletzsch Park Falls to avoid portaging around the falls. Paddlers will enjoy a more rural setting than is found farther downstream as they travel along the Milwaukee River from Kletzsch Park through Lincoln Park to just upstream of the Estabrook Dam. Take out before the Dam is required (on the east bank before the debris catchers.) When paddling on the Milwaukee River, unexpected portages may be necessary if water levels are low. (See locations 6 to10 on the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail Map)

Estabrook to Riverside Park   2.5 miles

The Estabrook to Riverside route begins downstream from the Estabrook Falls and takes paddlers past Kern and Hubbard Parks. This route offers some manageable rapids for intermediate paddlers looking for a bit of a challenge. After the initial portage around Estabrook Falls, there are no required portages along this route. However, shallow areas do exist when water levels are low. (11 to 14 on the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail Map)

Milwaukee Rowing Club Boathouse to Downtown  approx. 1 mile

Putting in at the Rowing Club allows easy access to many downtown destinations without the obstacle of rapids. Paddlers should be careful of motorboats and cruise boats whenever in the downtown area. Once downtown, paddlers have access to plenty of restaurants and other attractions via the Riverwalk.  Please bring a bike lock with you to lock the boat if you dock downtown. For a list of public access points located downtown, please reference the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail Map. (Launch at 16 on the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail Map)

Lake Nemhabin

Travel west on I-94, exit County P (Sawyer Rd.), take a left on Sugar Island Road. Parking lot and canoe/kayak launch is at the end of the road on the left. This is a perfect lake to paddle on with clear water and easy access. There are plenty of fishing boats and a few recreational boats but otherwise quite calm. You can also paddle down the Bark River that connects to Crooked Lake. You will have to have a car ready at Crooked lake as it can be difficult to paddle upstream on the Bark River.

There are plenty of rivers and lakes to explore in Southeast Wisconsin. If you want more information on Milwaukee urban water trails go to Milwaukee Urban Water Trail Map. Be sure to check out our Favorite Places to Canoe/Kayak pdf for more Milwaukee area paddling spots. For more information on Southeast Wisconsin paddling spots, check out the book Paddling Southern Wisconsin by Mike Svob.

Summer will be here soon, so if you are interested in borrowing a boat, become a member, take a water safety course, and you will be set. Happy paddling and stay safe!

Chad Thomack

Chad Thomack

Chad Thomack, Environmental Educator, has been a staff member of the Urban Ecology Center for over 15 years.  Chad received a biology/wildlife degree from UW Stevens Point and has been teaching about nature ever since.  His hobbies include outdoor adventures like kayaking, mountain biking, trail running and cross country skiing, as well as exercising, reading, playing video games, journaling and gardening.


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