How to Love a River

Written by Lesley Sheridan
    Thursday, 21 May 2015
How to Love a River

I once asked a friend of mine, if he could have anything for a birthday present, would he want? His response – a river. What an amazing answer! There is something about rivers that people are drawn to, something intrinsic. Maybe it’s the unpredictability and power of a river that commands our respect, or the mystery and intrigue of the life concealed beneath a river’s surface. Perhaps it’s the freedom and excitement we feel when we're recreating on a river. Or it could be the smell, the sound, the primal feel of the river that restores us. Maybe it’s something different for everyone…

For me there's the reminder of the comforts of home. I grew up in a small town with our river, the Apple River, right across the street from my house in my grandparent’s backyard. Later I spent time in living in a town along the scenic bluffs of the majestic Mississippi River.

paddling photo
A relaxing paddle down the Milwaukee River.

When I moved to Milwaukee, I was excited that I would again be living within walking distance of a river, but skeptical that the Milwaukee River could compare to either of "my" rivers. But having spent the last couple of years learning about the river, seeing the river almost every day, and leading programs with the Urban Ecology Center that help others experience the river, I’ve come to love the Milwaukee River just as much as the other rivers in my life!

Walking my dogs along the Milwaukee River trails is one of my favorite ways to enjoy my new river. The other is canoeing! I had never been in a canoe until I began working in environmental education, but it didn’t take me long to get hooked. Two summers ago a friend and I canoed from Newberg to Cedarburg in a trip that became known as “canoeing the ‘Burgs.” We paddled about 26 river miles in 8 hours and it was one of the best days of my life. I’d spend every summer day in a canoe if I could!

“A river, though, has so many things to say that it is hard to know what it says to each of us.”

 - from A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean

I encourage you to explore our local rivers and find out what draws you to the water. Contributing members can borrow our boats and chart their own course. But if you need a little help, the Urban Ecology Center has plenty of ways for you to play, discover, and learn to love a river too. Just check out the preview of our paddling programs below!


Paddling Program Preview

River Rhythms Paddle (multiple dates)

Full Moon Canoe (multiple dates)

History of Milwaukee by Canoe (multiple dates)

Canoeing for Beginners - (multiple dates)

Birding the Milwaukee River - June 6th

Canoe Camping Adventure - June 13th

Canoeing Basics - June 20th

Paddle Under the Summer Sun - June 27th

Lumberjack Paddle and Brunch - June 28th

Canoe Olympics - July 25th

Kayak Outing to Village Park - August 22nd

Fox River Moonlight Paddle - August 29th

Kinnickinnic River Paddle - September 5th


Photo Credit: Photo: Chris Winters
Lesley Sheridan

Lesley Sheridan

Lesley Sheridan is the Community Program Coordinator at the Urban Ecology Center -- Riverside Park branch.


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