Milwaukee River

This is a classic paddling river located in Southeastern Wisconsin.  The highlight is the downtown leg which goes through downtown Milwaukee.

Trip Reports

Washington Street Dam to Quaas Creek Park

Date Paddled: September 5th, 2020
Distance: 3.9 miles
Time: Expect 90 minutes

The removal of the Woolen Mills Dam has revealed one of the nicer stretches of the Milwaukee River.  Highlights include great current, attractive urban riverfront and scenic prairies.


Quaas Creek Park to Goeden Park

Date Paddled: June 23rd, 2018
Distance: 6.3 miles
Time: 4 hours 6 minutes (3 hours is more typical)

A return to the Upper Milwaukee River for a pleasant and easy float.  Highlights include little development, clear water, and good access options.


Main Street Bridge @ Newburg to Hwy A Bridge

Date Paddled: September 6th, 2014
Distance: 6.0 Miles
Time: 2 hours 54 minutes

This is probably the best section on the Milwaukee River.  A fine paddle, with clear, red water; no jams/hazards; swift, fun current; good bank quality; and a surprising amount of wilderness for a river with this namesake. Put-in: Just downstream/east of the Main Street bridge in Newburg is a nice public put-in.  Note:  while this […]


Hwy A to Waubedonia Park

Date Paddled: October 15th, 2022
Distance: 5.4 miles
Time: Expect 2-3 hours

A decent leg with good current, some rocky stretches, and nice fall color. The North Branch joins up on this leg and significantly enlarges the river.


Waubedonia Park to Ehler's Park

Date Paddled: August 9th, 2021
Distance: 5.5 miles
Time: 2 hours

A guest review for the Milwaukee River between Fredonia and Saukville.


Thiensville Village Park Launch to Badger Meter River Park

Date Paddled: August 4th, 2023
Distance: 4.7 miles
Time: Expect 2 hours

This is a less popular stretch of the Milwaukee. While not bad, it had somewhat repetitive scenery and lack of unique features.


Riverside Park to McKinley Marina

Date Paddled: August 18th, 2018
Distance: 6.3 miles
Time: 4 hours 4 minutes (3 hours is more typical)

A fantastic paddle on the last segment of the Milwaukee River, which flows through the heart of downtown Milwaukee. Highlights include Wisconsin's tallest buildings, fantastic architecture, moveable bridges, large tour boats, and a great view of the Milwaukee Riverwalk.


Overview Map

Detailed Overview

Nearby Guages


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Apr 22nd, 2024 - Gregor Wilke from Milwaukee River
Katie, it does not look like any camping is offered on that island property
Feb 18th, 2024 - Aaron from Dell Creek
That's a good question I don't know the answer to. You contact the Mequon Parks department...if they didn't know the answer they likely would know who to contact.
Feb 18th, 2024 - Katie from Oak Creek
Hi, Curious about the large island that is passed just after the Thiensville Dam. Does anyone know if that is a private or state owned island? or of any signage posted on the island? Curious if that could be camped on.
May 27th, 2023 - John Jansen from West Bend
Paddle the stretch from below the Grafton dam to pioneer Road on 5/27/23. River stage was about 5 ft. Duration about 90 minutes. A nice paddle with some challenging little rapids. A little more water on the lower half would have been handy.
Aug 28th, 2022 - Miriam from West Bend
Thank you for reporting on your outing. Very helpful information. Looks like it was a find day!
Aug 3rd, 2022 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Monica, yes you can launch from Pioneer Park. Garrison's Glen Park is right there. See my overview map for more info:
Aug 3rd, 2022 - Monica Perkins from OAK CREEK
Is there a put in access on pioneer rd for the Milwaukee river in Ozaukee County? We would like to go kayaking but need some help with put in and take out points.
Sep 19th, 2021 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks for the thanks!
Sep 19th, 2021 - Carrie from Milwaukee River
I just want to say thank you for this incredible resource that you have compiled! We just bought our first canoe to get our five year old out on the rivers and I am overwhelmingly grateful to have stumbled upon your site!
Jun 14th, 2021 - Aaron from Dell Creek
No I paddled downstream...Newburg is both south of A and upstream of A. Few rivers in Wisconsin flow north, but this leg of the Milwaukee does.
Jun 13th, 2021 - Paul from Milwaukee
I’m confused are you paddling upstream on this ? It looks like Newburg is south of the Hwy A.
Sep 23rd, 2018 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Appreciate the comment! Today was a great day for paddling.
Sep 23rd, 2018 - Dan from Milwaukee River-2
Just got off the river today. 9-23-18 ...Put in at Newburg bridge & out at Hwy A bridge. Great! Will do this again & again. Took 2 1/2 hrs. Only problem was the one time we went right around and island instead of left. We had to pull kayaks over a log. Everyone stayed dry! Thanks again for a great website! Dan
Sep 9th, 2018 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks Dan for the question and the comments. It's been a while since I did this route, but if I remember correctly there is usually an obvious route around the islands, and the minor channel isn't navigable. There could be an exception now though because of the very high water.
Sep 8th, 2018 - Dan from Milwaukee River-2
I am new to kayaking. Been on the M. river a couple times farther down stream around Fredonia. I want to do the Milwaukee River-2 run and am noticing by your map that the black line on the river goes left at the first 2 splits in the river and then right the last 3 splits in the river. Is this a recommended route or am I over thinking it? Thanks for any input and thanks for a great website! Dan
Jul 30th, 2018 - Aaron from Dell Creek
I do appreciate the comments. While I liked our trip from Quaas to Goeden, I do think the upstream parts by West Bend would have been more interesting which seems to be backed by your observations. The Milwaukee has been low though...was the section by River Road on the shallow side? It's too bad to hear about your issues with the Potamogeton and downed trees. Perhaps this is a product of the the lower water levels and it being later in the summer.
Jul 30th, 2018 - David Deming from Milwaukee River 1
Thank you for your write ups, they have been very helpful planning my trips. I just wanted to add a note about the River Rd drop. I have done the drop in on the MKE river at River Rd in West Bend twice now in the last few weeks. Will say that the route from River Rd to Quass Creek Park is excellent. Navigable, nice looking, clear, etc. Very naturesque with little feel you are in the city. My first trip I continued to Goeden Park. I was less happy with the run from Quass to Goeden than I was from River to Quass. The whole area around the airport was bogged down with heavy Potamogeton which made paddling difficult. Beyond that, the first deadfall was exposed and required a hurdle and drag in 4' water (thankfully I'm tall). The second was not a problem, just a bit of a pain. The end before the bridge required mostly dragging the boat due to low water. Looking forward to trying some of the other spots soon.
Jul 24th, 2018 - Aaron from Dell Creek
I think your best bet would be to simply use Google maps. You can use the "Overview Map" embedded above. Up to you if you want to include the various branches.
Jul 24th, 2018 - Sandy from Des Plaines River
I am trying to make a list of all the cities and towns the Milwaukee River goes through. Can you refer me to a map. From Fond du Lac to Milwaukee. Please and thank you.
Jun 10th, 2018 - Aaron from Dell Creek
My personal preference would be for 200-400 CFS per this gauge This will allow for best clarity. The river is likely fine to paddle at 4-600 CFS as well, but won't be as attractive. 600+ CFS might be not as fun, but likely doable for the determined. The best times of the year will be mid-summer to late fall.
Jun 9th, 2018 - Cameron from Milwaukee
Hi - thank you for this post. Super helpful. Question - when did you find this trip when the depth was ideal? What time of year / month? Might have missed it, but couldn’t find it.

How did your trip turn out? Questions or comments? Feel free to leave your feedback.

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