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Milwaukee Urban Water Trail

Voyageurs once plumbed Wisconsin by rivers. Today, folks rediscover Wisconsin by paddle and portage. But that rediscovery isn’t constrained to tannin-stained rivers up north. One can see Wisconsin’s largest city on the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail.

“It’s a safe way to explore an urban environment,” says Angie Tornes, Wisconsin Field Office Manager of the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, National Park Service.

You can paddle past Milwaukee’s industrial past and present beside coal barges and beneath freight trains. But there’s more to see than steel.

“Green and great blue herons abound,” said Tornes.

Thirty-five miles in length, the trail is comprised of the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic Rivers. View a map here. Rent kayaks, canoes, and stand-up-paddleboards at Milwaukee Kayak Company.

Beth Handle of the Milwaukee Kayak Company, said, “We are located on the Milwaukee River in downtown Milwaukee with easy access to the Kinnickinnic River, Menomonee River and Milwaukee Harbor. Paddling through our Urban Water Trail provides a great opportunity to experience our city by water where you can take in the sights and sounds of our RiverWalk, local establishments, and nature throughout.”

Stop off at the RiverWalk for that quintessential Milwaukee quencher: beer.

Tornes said, “It’s an eye opener for people who didn’t know these rivers are there. It’s a great way to discover downtown and there are hundreds more people using the rivers each year.”

More Rust Belt Paddling

Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Water Trail

70 miles of paddling along the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers


Chicago River Water Trails

From concrete canyons to wild backwaters