Milwaukee River - Wisconsin

Date: July 3, 2020; Length: 16 miles; Duration: 4 hours 45 min

Put In: Fireman's Park (Newburg)

Park with a parking lot and a restroom. Easy access at a small landing along a shallow grassy bank.

Takeout: Tendick Park Canoe & Kayak Launch

Easy and marked takeout on river right at a wooden platform. A short walk back to the parking lot.

Paddling Experience = 4/5

For a 16-mile paddle on a rapid-less river this was a solid experience. There wasn't much of a designated current but the clear and hazardless water, plenty of aquatic life, and occasional riffles made up for it.

Natural Scenery = 3/5

There were trees along the banks of this section of the Milwaukee the whole way. Houses and bridges weren't a common sight either, but occasionally there.

Wildlife = 4/5

A nice range of birds were spotted; possibly an osprey, a blue heron, a couple bald eagles, and a large group of geese. A muskrat and a deer eating right in the river added to the wildlife sightings.

Gradient & Water Level

Gradient: ~6 feet per mile. Decent current to it at times, with occasional riffles.
Experience Paddling at this Water Level: Paddling at this water level was good. There weren't any hazards or shallow areas to be concerned with. But the water level could have been higher as there were some parts of the river nearly completely full of plants just at the surface, making paddling more difficult.

Gauge Information

Here is information on stream gauge readings around the date of this paddle (Note: Cedarburg gauge, located about 10 miles downriver of the takeout of this section):

  • USGS Number = 04086600
  • Discharge Rate = 520 CFS
  • Gauge Height = 6.45 ft

Overall Experience

Looking to paddle a section of the Milwaukee River, I decided on the 16 mile route of Newburg to Tendick Park. What appealed most of all to this section was the complete 180 degree turn of the river’s path going north then east then back south, leaving me with a short hike across. I parked in the parking lot by the takeout at Tendick Park, which had a nice wooden platform of a landing and started my hike towards Newburg with my packed packraft. About two hours later I was in Newburg and found Fireman’s Park, my put in. This park was well equipped as well with parking, a restroom, and easy access in the low grass banks of the river just after a bridge.
While inflating my packraft and strapping my backpack down, two small groups of paddlers put in before me. Once on the river, I was appreciating the difference in its water color and clarity compared to other Wisconsin rivers I had been on. This stretch of the Milwaukee had very clear water and lots of aquatic plants and islands splitting the river at times. It had riffles here and there but not much of a distinguishable current, feeling like flat water. Still, it didn’t have any hazards to be concerned with and the most difficulty there came with some parts of the river completely covered in aquatic weeds or plants just at the surface. As for fellow paddlers, I passed a handful of small groups of kayakers and canoes, plus some floaters at one point. Wildlife spotting so included an osprey, blue heron, 2 bald eagles, a large group of geese, a muskrat, and a deer eating in the river. Off the river were green surroundings of trees lining the banks the whole way. A nature center was located in the first part of this stretch, with kids coming out to the edge of the river at times to check out all the life there. And some sections had houses a little off the river, but nothing overly developed and seeming out of place. Paddling on this section of the Milwaukee was a pleasant experience, but I was definitely ready to spot that takeout at any second with over four hours paddling having already passed. As it was nearing five hours, I was welcomed with the sight of Tendick Park’s landing on river right.
The wooden platform made for an easy takeout and I brought my packraft up towards the parking lot and into a grass area to deflate it and pack it up. As I was doing this, a pair of people were in the opposite process of taking down their kayaks and about to put in here. Maybe I will come back to do the same in the near future and travel farther down the Milwaukee. As for now, I am content with the solid paddling experience of this trip on a surprisingly beautiful river.