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Access to Lake Michigan is largely from Milwaukee County parks.  Note:  the parks are officially closed from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.  I know from personal experience that the 10:00 p.m. is enforced.  The following are the most kayaker friendly (have parking and reasonable access to a launching/landing zone).  Some also have restroom facilities and concession stands that are open on a "seasonal" basis.  From south to north the Milwaukee County sites are:

Bender Park--the first stop in Milwaukee County when coming up from the south.  This is largely an undeveloped park, but it does have a developed parking area, boat docks and ramps, beach landing area, restrooms, and drinking water.

Grant Park--wide sandy beach, lots of parking and restrooms.  Suppose you could hike up the road to the golf course club house for some food if you really needed to, but I'd suggest keeping someone behind to watch over your equipment.

South Shore Park--the most frequented site in Milwaukee County by those of us who live here.  There's a group of kayakers launching at 9:00 a.m. virtually every Sunday, when the Lake is in a liquid state.  These Sunday morning paddles are more a get together of kayakers with a wide range of skills who paddle for a couple of hours (when it's cold and nasty we paddle for an hour or so) and then go for coffee and soup or whatever.  The launching here is protected by a breakwall, and if the Lake is really kicking-up, you can have a nice paddle south for a couple of miles or north for about three miles, all within the protection of the breakwall.  But, don't be lulled into thinking this is all a "a paddle in the park".  The water is Lake Michigan, which means it's cold most of the year.  And the wind from the south, SE, SW or north, NE, NW has been know to be brutal and kick up a lot of chop on the water, even inside the breakwall.

Lakeshore State Park--located in the Milwaukee harbor and just north of the entrance to the Milwaukee River is the 17-acre site of the new Lakeshore State Park.  With groundbreaking in 2005, the Department of Natural Resources will be developing this site into an urban oasis complete with boat docks and a protected beach landing area for kayakers.  This will most likely be a "touch and go" point on the water trail as there won't be camping on the island and access will be by foot, boat or bike only. 

McKinley Beach--north of the main harbor and downtown area. McKinley actually consists of two beaches, the southern one being sandy and the northern one is "pebble".  McKinley is just north of the McKinley marina, which from the water is accessed through the harbor.  At the marina you will find lots of parking, restrooms, water and a snack shop.  Across the street (Lincoln Memorial Drive) from the street entrance to the marina is one of the finer coffee shops in the Milwaukee area--Alterra at the Lake, they also serve food.

Bradford Beach--just north of McKinley about .25 mile is Bradford Beach.  A long sandy beach that at one time was a real gem--unfortunately it has not been maintained and is now famous for the rotting algae in the summer and is being taken over by invading plant life.  Bradford does have plenty of parking, restrooms, water, and seasonal concession stands.

Doctors Park--the last stop in Milwaukee County.  If the restrooms at the beach are not open, take the steps up the bluff and you'll find another building with restrooms that have longer "open" hours.  Doctors Park is a good place to paddle from--as a destination/take-out point the steep hill is brutal to haul a kayak and gear up.

  For questions and/or liaison needs contact John Browning at seakayakerjb@aol.com
  While there are no formal sea kayaking clubs there is a paddle sports club that meets on a regular basis, Badger State Boating Society (aka BS2). For more information regarding BS2 check out their website at www.bsbs.org.

Additionally, there are several Ozaukee County paddlers that participate in the Milwaukee area group that paddles on a regular basis, year-round. For more information regarding this group go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/milwaukeeseakayak/

  • there is no camping at, or adjacent to, the water trail sites in Milwaukee County.

  • there is very limited lodging available to sea kayakers at, or adjacent to, the water trail sites in Milwaukee County. Anyone using the water trail and needing lodging should contact the liaison and discuss their needs.


Take a trip up the Milwaukee River through the heart of downtown.  There are a couple of pubs that are accessible to sea kayakers (Milwaukee Ale House and Rock Bottom Brewery).  Continue up the river to Laacke & Joys for equipment needs (they have an accessible dock and sell and rent kayaks and other camping gear).

There is a boat ramp on South Water Street at the Milwaukee/Kinnickinnic Rivers that can be used to launch and land a kayak.  There's parking available both in the lots and on the street.  There are no restrooms though.


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