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A love letter to our city's many waterways

We asked writer and November 2018 issue contributor Kari Lydersen to share with us the reasons she loves Milwaukee. Here are her picks:

See all of our Reasons I Love Milwaukee series here.


Kayaking on the Menomonee River

My number one favorite thing to do in Milwaukee is kayaking past the Harley-Davidson museum to explore the slips with abandoned boats and overgrown infrastructure…or past the old power plant and the casino. The water can be pretty gross after a storm, but it’s all part of understanding an urban river.

You can go long stretches without seeing another person on water or land, so it’s a place to really immerse yourself in the urban wilds: listen to the sounds of the paddle in the water, or the kayak plowing through drift wood and floating trash. The Twisted Fisherman also looks super fun, though I haven’t had the chance to tie up and drink a beer there yet. Next time.

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

Kayaking on the Milwaukee River

Kayaking on the Milwaukee River feels a little less adventurous but more pleasant than paddling the Menomonee. I like to go upstream as far as possible, then out into the lake, especially during Summerfest, catching strains of music while rolling on the waves. It’s impressive to see the repurposing of old infrastructure along the river and to imagine what it was like in the old days when this part of the river was a hub of commerce and industry.

Lakeshore State Park

lakeshore state park

Lakeshore State Park; photo by Russell Tinsley

The wind seems to always be roaring when I’m at Lakeshore State Park, and I love seeing the colorful kites over the expanse of grass. It’s such a great place to run, and of course the Calatrava-designed art museum is gorgeous. I don’t know if locals take the architecture for granted, but I still love seeing the wings every time I visit.

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The School of Freshwater Sciences at UWM

Photo by Dominic Inouye

The nation’s only graduate school devoted to the study of freshwater organisms and ecosystems is an amazing place to learn about fascinating things like the interplay of different invasive species and how mercury affects zebrafish behavior through multiple generations  — as professor Michael Carvan patiently explained to me on a recent visit. Their research will surely only become more crucial to our society’s well-being as a whole as the effects of climate change intensify.

The Wisconsin Green Muslims

Writing about energy, I’ve felt really lucky to meet members and allies of the Wisconsin Green Muslims and inspiring founder Huda Alkaff. Among other things I loved visiting the Dawah Islamic Center, where they are building sustainable gardens, composting and installing solar as a sign of faith in our planet and our people.

Leon’s Frozen Custard

Photo via Leon’s on Facebook.

I didn’t get the deal with frozen custard — how does it differ from ice cream, and how could it hold a candle to Dairy Queen? — until eating it and watching it made at Leon’s. It’s also nice to get away from the lake and downtown and see other vibrant neighborhoods and murals by taking different routes to Leon’s.


Lydersen is a contributor to our November, 2018 Issue, writing this month’s story, “The Great Lakes Now.”

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