How to Paddle the Milwaukee River
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One of my favorite ways to explore a city is to paddle straight through the heart of downtown. My number one recommendation to anyone visiting Chicago is to take an architectural tour on the Chicago River, so it was number one on my list of things to do with my inflatable paddle board. It remains at the top of my list for paddle boarding in the city. I had kayaked the Chicago River years ago, which was pretty amazing, but the opportunity to essentially walk on water through the city is on another level! Paddling the Chicago River made me curious about other cities with a river running through downtown. Naturally, our neighbor to the north came to mind and when I was in Milwaukee for Summerfest a few years ago, I just had to find a way to paddle the Milwaukee River.
The Milwaukee Urban Water Trail is very similar to the Chicago River Water Trail in that it provides legal and safe places for non-motorized watercraft to launch. I find that Milwaukee has significantly more launch points than Chicago, which makes it easy to explore all parts of the city and surrounding areas. When I paddled the Milwaukee River, I didn't know about the water trail and it was still fairly easy to find a dock to launch my paddle board. I've included a map below of where I launched and also noted two launch points in the same area that are listed on the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail.
We stayed in an Airbnb rental located just off Brady Street, so these launch points were very accessible and we also found easy street parking near this location. The neighborhood east of the river on Brady Street is very cute with restaurants, bars and many shops to explore. Although, my favorite breakfast spot was Simple Cafe - I would highly recommend checking it out!
After launching into the Milwaukee River, we paddled south through downtown Milwaukee. The river splits just south of downtown and runs west or east. If you paddle east, there is another split where the river continues south or directly east out to Lake Michigan. This is where we turned around and paddled back through downtown Milwaukee to our launch point. I estimated this to be about a 4-5 mile paddle and took about 2 hours.
My paddle through Milwaukee was a great way to see the heart of the city and we also encountered a few tour boats and fellow paddle boarders along the way. I'm looking forward not only to my next paddle through Milwaukee, but finding more cities that provide the unique opportunity of paddling through downtown!