Milwaukee Urban Water Trail In Wisconsin

Here is everything you need to know about the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Wisconsin
  • Length: 25 miles.
  • Type: Water trail.
  • Surface: paved
  • Managed By: Milwaukee Riverkeeper
  • Permit Required?: No
  • Website: Info not available.

The Milwaukee Urban Water Trail holds a significant place in the history of the city, serving as a vital transportation route and a source of economic growth. The trail traces its roots back to the early 19th century when Milwaukee emerged as a bustling port city on the western shore of Lake Michigan. The city’s strategic location at the confluence of three rivers, namely the Milwaukee, Menomonee, and Kinnickinnic, made it an ideal hub for trade and commerce.

In the mid-1800s, the Milwaukee River became a bustling waterway, with steamboats and schooners navigating its waters to transport goods and people. The river’s importance as a transportation route led to the development of industries along its banks, including sawmills, breweries, and tanneries. These industries relied heavily on the river for the transportation of raw materials and finished products, contributing to the city’s economic prosperity.

As Milwaukee continued to grow, the need for a comprehensive water trail became apparent. In the late 20th century, efforts were made to establish the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail, aimed at promoting recreational activities and preserving the historical significance of the waterways. The trail encompasses approximately 25 miles of interconnected waterways, allowing residents and visitors to explore the city’s rich history while enjoying various water-based activities such as kayaking, canoeing, and boating.

Today, the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail stands as a testament to the city’s vibrant past and serves as a reminder of the crucial role that waterways played in shaping its development. The trail not only offers a unique recreational experience but also provides an opportunity to appreciate the historical significance of Milwaukee’s waterways and their contribution to the city’s growth and prosperity.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Estabrook Park: Located in Milwaukee’s East Side, Estabrook Park offers access to the Milwaukee River for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. It is a popular starting point for the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail.

2. Riverside Park: Situated along the Milwaukee River, Riverside Park provides access to the water trail and is a great spot for launching kayaks and canoes. It is located in the East Side neighborhood.

3. Schlitz Audubon Nature Center: Located in Bayside, just north of Milwaukee, the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center offers access to Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River. It is a beautiful natural area with hiking trails and a kayak launch.

4. South Shore Park: Situated in Bay View, South Shore Park is a popular access point for the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail. It provides access to Lake Michigan and offers a boat launch, fishing pier, and beach area.

5. Lakeshore State Park: Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Lakeshore State Park is a popular access point for the water trail. It offers a boat launch, fishing opportunities, and beautiful views of the city skyline.

6. Veterans Park: Situated on the lakefront, Veterans Park provides access to Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River. It offers a boat launch, fishing pier, and beach area, making it a popular starting point for the water trail.

7. McKinley Marina: Located in downtown Milwaukee, McKinley Marina offers access to Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River. It is a popular spot for boating and fishing, and it provides amenities such as boat rentals and a fuel dock.

8. Milwaukee Kayak Company: Situated in the Third Ward neighborhood, the Milwaukee Kayak Company offers kayak and paddleboard rentals, as well as guided tours along the water trail. It is a convenient starting point for exploring the urban waterways.

9. Riverfront Paddle Sports: Located in the Harbor District, Riverfront Paddle Sports offers kayak and paddleboard rentals, as well as guided tours. It is a great starting point for exploring the Milwaukee River and the Menomonee River.

10. Three Bridges Park: Situated in the Menomonee Valley, Three Bridges Park provides access to the Menomonee River and is a popular starting point for the water trail. It offers a kayak launch, fishing opportunities, and scenic views of the surrounding area.

Transportation Available

1. Milwaukee County Transit System – Public bus service covering the Milwaukee area.
2. Bublr Bikes – Bike-sharing program with multiple stations near the water trail.
3. Uber – On-demand ride-hailing service available in Milwaukee.
4. Lyft – Ride-hailing service providing transportation options in the area.
5. Milwaukee River Cruise Line – Offers scenic boat tours along the Milwaukee River.
6. Milwaukee Boat Line – Provides sightseeing cruises and private charters on Lake Michigan.
7. Milwaukee Kayak Company – Offers kayak rentals for exploring the urban water trail.
8. Milwaukee Pedal Tavern – Group bike tours where participants pedal a bar-on-wheels.
9. Milwaukee Water Taxi – Water taxi service connecting various points along the water trail.
10. Milwaukee Electric Boat Company – Electric boat rentals for a unique water trail experience.


The amenities available at the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail include:

1. Restrooms: There are public restrooms available at various locations along the water trail, including parks and recreational areas.

2. Parking: There are designated parking areas near the water trail where visitors can park their vehicles. These parking lots are usually located near parks or boat launches.

3. Camping Sites: There are camping sites available near the water trail for those who wish to stay overnight. Some of the popular camping sites include McKinley Marina, South Shore Park, and Estabrook Park.

4. Picnic Areas: There are several picnic areas along the water trail where visitors can enjoy a meal or have a picnic. These areas are equipped with picnic tables, grills, and sometimes even shelters.

5. Boat Launches: There are multiple boat launches along the water trail, allowing boaters to easily access the water. Some of the popular boat launches include McKinley Marina, South Shore Park, and Riverfront Boat Launch.

6. Fishing Piers: There are fishing piers available at various points along the water trail, providing anglers with a convenient spot to fish. These piers are equipped with benches and sometimes even cleaning stations.

7. Bike and Walking Paths: The water trail is accompanied by bike and walking paths, allowing visitors to explore the area on foot or by bicycle. These paths are well-maintained and offer scenic views of the water.

8. Kayak and Canoe Rentals: There are rental services available along the water trail where visitors can rent kayaks or canoes to explore the water. These rental services often provide life jackets and other necessary equipment.

9. Food and Beverage Vendors: There are food and beverage vendors located near the water trail, offering refreshments and snacks to visitors. These vendors can be found at parks or recreational areas along the trail.

10. Informational Signage: Throughout the water trail, there are informational signs providing details about the trail, its history, and points of interest. These signs help visitors navigate and learn more about the area.

Please note that the availability of these amenities may vary depending on the specific location along the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail. It is recommended to check with local authorities or visit the official website for more detailed information.

Nearby Services

1. The Pfister Hotel – Historic luxury hotel offering elegant accommodations in downtown Milwaukee.
2. Hilton Milwaukee City Center – Upscale hotel with modern amenities located near the riverfront.
3. Iron Horse Hotel – Boutique hotel featuring stylish rooms and a trendy restaurant in the Historic Third Ward.
4. Milwaukee Marriott Downtown – Contemporary hotel with spacious rooms and a rooftop bar overlooking the city.
5. InterContinental Milwaukee – Sophisticated hotel offering comfortable rooms and a chic restaurant in downtown Milwaukee.
6. The Brewhouse Inn & Suites – Unique hotel housed in a former brewery, featuring industrial-chic rooms and a craft beer bar.
7. Kimpton Journeyman Hotel – Boutique hotel with stylish rooms and a rooftop bar in the vibrant Third Ward neighborhood.
8. The Westin Milwaukee – Modern hotel offering sleek rooms and a rooftop lounge with panoramic city views.
9. Hyatt Regency Milwaukee – Upscale hotel with comfortable rooms and a popular restaurant near the riverfront.
10. Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel – Art-focused hotel featuring contemporary rooms and multiple art galleries in downtown Milwaukee.
11. Milwaukee County Transit System – Public transportation service providing bus routes throughout the city.
12. Milwaukee Police Department – Emergency services for law enforcement and public safety.
13. Milwaukee Fire Department – Emergency services for fire response and medical assistance.
14. Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center – Full-service hospital providing emergency medical care and various healthcare services.
15. Froedtert Hospital – Acclaimed medical center offering comprehensive emergency care and specialized treatments.

Milwaukee Urban Water Trail Difficulty Notes

The Milwaukee Urban Water Trail presents a moderate difficulty level for outdoor enthusiasts. The trail offers a diverse range of experiences, from calm and serene sections to more challenging stretches. Paddlers can navigate through urban areas, passing by iconic landmarks and enjoying the vibrant cityscape. However, the trail also includes some obstacles such as low bridges and occasional boat traffic, requiring paddlers to be alert and skilled in maneuvering their watercraft. Overall, the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail provides an enjoyable and moderately challenging experience for those seeking to explore the city’s waterways.

Features And Attractions

Info not available.

Usage Guidelines

1. All users of the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail must follow local, state, and federal laws and regulations.
2. Pets are allowed on the water trail but must be kept on a leash at all times.
3. Users are responsible for cleaning up after their pets and disposing of waste properly.
4. Motorized watercraft are allowed on the water trail, but must adhere to speed limits and yield to non-motorized vessels.
5. Non-motorized vessels, such as kayaks and canoes, have the right of way over motorized vessels.
6. Seasonal restrictions may apply, such as closures during winter months or specific hours of operation.
7. Fishing is allowed on the water trail, but users must have a valid fishing license and follow all fishing regulations.
8. Swimming is not permitted in the water trail.
9. Littering is strictly prohibited. Users must dispose of trash in designated bins or take it with them.
10. Alcohol consumption may be restricted or prohibited in certain areas of the water trail. Users should check local regulations.
11. Camping or overnight stays are not allowed on the water trail.
12. Respect private property and do not trespass on private land along the water trail.
13. Users are encouraged to wear appropriate safety gear, such as life jackets, while on the water trail.
14. Respect wildlife and their habitats. Do not disturb or harm any plants or animals.
15. Be considerate of other users and maintain a safe distance from other vessels.
16. Report any accidents, hazards, or suspicious activities to the appropriate authorities.

Seasonal Information

The Milwaukee Urban Water Trail offers a unique and picturesque experience for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. The best times of the year to visit this trail are during the spring and summer months when the weather is pleasant and the water levels are ideal for various water activities. From April to September, visitors can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, and even fishing along the trail.

During the spring, the trail comes alive with vibrant colors as the trees and flowers bloom, creating a stunning backdrop for your water adventure. The temperatures are mild, ranging from the 50s to 70s Fahrenheit, making it comfortable to spend hours exploring the trail. Spring also brings an abundance of wildlife, including migratory birds, which adds to the charm of the experience.

Summer is the peak season for the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail, with temperatures ranging from the 70s to 80s Fahrenheit. This is the perfect time to soak up the sun, cool off in the water, and enjoy the scenic beauty of the trail. The trail is bustling with activity during this time, with locals and tourists alike taking advantage of the warm weather.

It’s important to note that there may be seasonal closures or restrictions along the trail. During the winter months, typically from November to March, the water trail may be closed due to freezing temperatures and ice formation. It is not safe to navigate the water during this time, and it is advised to check for any closures or restrictions before planning your visit.

Overall, the best times to visit the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail are during the spring and summer months when the weather is pleasant, the water levels are ideal, and the trail is bustling with activity. Whether you’re a water sports enthusiast or simply looking to enjoy the beauty of nature, this trail offers a memorable experience for all.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Launch Sites: The trail offers multiple launch sites that are designed to be accessible for wheelchair users, allowing them to easily enter and exit the water.
2. Accessible Restrooms: Accessible restrooms are available along the trail, ensuring that individuals with disabilities have convenient facilities.
3. Accessible Parking: Designated accessible parking spaces are provided near the trail’s launch sites, allowing individuals with disabilities to park their vehicles conveniently.
4. Accessible Pathways: The trail features accessible pathways that are wide and smooth, enabling wheelchair users to navigate easily.
5. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas along the trail are designed to be accessible, providing wheelchair users with the opportunity to enjoy outdoor dining.
6. Accessible Fishing Piers: The trail offers accessible fishing piers that are designed to accommodate individuals with disabilities, allowing them to enjoy fishing activities.
7. Accessible Seating: Accessible seating areas are available along the trail, providing individuals with disabilities a place to rest and enjoy the surroundings.
8. Accessible Signage: The trail features accessible signage with clear and visible information, ensuring that individuals with disabilities can easily navigate and understand the trail’s features.
9. Accessible Watercraft Rentals: Wheelchair-accessible watercraft rentals are available, allowing individuals with disabilities to participate in water activities along the trail.
10. Accessible Information: The trail provides accessible information, such as brochures and maps, in formats suitable for individuals with visual or cognitive disabilities, ensuring equal access to information.

Safety Information

Info not available.

Conservation Notes

The conservation status of the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail is of significant concern due to various factors impacting the health and sustainability of the trail’s ecosystem. The water trail, which stretches along the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan, faces numerous challenges that threaten its conservation status.

One of the primary concerns is water pollution. The Milwaukee River has historically suffered from high levels of pollution, primarily due to industrial and urban runoff. This pollution negatively affects the water quality, leading to the degradation of aquatic habitats and the decline of various species. Efforts have been made to reduce pollution through stricter regulations and improved wastewater treatment, but ongoing monitoring and conservation measures are necessary to ensure the trail’s long-term health.

Another critical issue is the presence of invasive species. Non-native species, such as zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil, have established themselves in the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail. These invasive species outcompete native plants and animals, disrupt the natural balance of the ecosystem, and can cause significant ecological damage. Conservation efforts focus on preventing the spread of invasive species and implementing control measures to mitigate their impact.

Additionally, habitat loss and degradation pose a significant threat to the conservation status of the water trail. Urban development and shoreline modifications have resulted in the destruction of natural habitats, including wetlands and riparian zones. These habitats are crucial for supporting a diverse range of plant and animal species. Conservation initiatives aim to restore and protect these habitats, creating a more resilient and sustainable environment for the water trail.

In conclusion, the conservation status of the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail is at risk due to water pollution, invasive species, and habitat loss. Ongoing efforts to reduce pollution, control invasive species, and restore habitats are essential for preserving the ecological integrity of the trail and ensuring its long-term sustainability.

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