When Beth Handle’s old employer asked her to work outside the city seven years ago, she said, “No thanks, I’m staying here.” That’s when she founded Milwaukee Kayak Co., 318 S. Water St. Now she offers tours, rentals and lessons to folks who want to explore the sacred rivers of her beloved Milwaukee. Handle mapped out three lesser-known water paths that explore the city by her preferred mode of travel: kayak. (All three tours start at the Milwaukee County Boat Launch, 600 S. Water St.)
Head south toward the Harbor District and the Kinnickinnic River. You’ll pass several of Milwaukee’s iconic train bridges as you close in on Bay View, as well as UW-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences. This stretch of river has gotten substantially cleaner in recent years, thanks in part to UWM, Handle’s advocacy and other water-friendly groups around Wisconsin. “People really started to care about the river,” Handle says of a recent shift in MKE culture. The full tour will take you down to Chase Avenue and back, about three hours in total without stops.[alert type=white ]
Head north. At the confluence of the Milwaukee and Menomonee Rivers, head west on the Menomonee. Hang a left in front of the Harley-Davidson Museum and you’ll find two small canals. They’re short and run alongside some historic industrial structures, offering a different perspective of the two We Energies smokestacks on the west side of I-94.
Once again, head north and then west on the Menomonee. Continue straight past Harley-Davidson. The river will narrow, but depending on the water level, you might be able to make it all the way to Miller Park – rivers tend to be higher in spring and lower in fall. It’s more than three miles from the confluence to the stadium, so make sure to bring plenty of drinking water for an afternoon’s worth of paddling. On the return trip, stop at City Lights Brewing for a celebratory beverage.
“Make Waves” appeared in the July 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
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