Oconomowoc River

The Oconomowoc is a nice paddling river famous for its chain of lakes.  Located in suburban Milwaukee, some stretches have overly developed shorelines but it’s still a nice river for kayaking.

Trip Reports

St. Augustine Road to County Line Road

Date Paddled: June 13th, 2020
Distance: 4.4 miles
Time: Expect 2 hours

This trip was a twist on the classic Loew Lake section of the Oconomowoc River.  While most prefer to paddle this as an up-and-back...we decided to do this as a one-way trip starting from St. Augustine Road.


Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive to West Shore Drive

Date Paddled: September 22nd, 2018
Distance: 5.9 miles
Time: 4 hours 9 minutes (3 hours would be more typical)

An "Up North" river hiding in suburban Milwaukee.  Highlights include clear water, boulder gardens, scenic bridges, fun rapids and attractive marshes.  Only a few logjams prevent this from being a five star trip.


Upper Oconomowoc Lake Boat Launch to Fowler Park

Date Paddled: July 23rd, 2016
Distance: 3.95 Miles
Time: 3 hours 47 minutes (2 hours is more typical)

Passing through glacial kettle lakes in the far west suburbs of Milwaukee, the Oconomowoc is a surprisingly nice river with diverse scenery and remarkably clear water. 


Fowler Park to North Golden Lake Road

Date Paddled: September 16th, 2017
Distance: 4.2 miles
Time: 4 hours 19 minutes (2 hours is more typical)

Last of the Oconomowoc chain of lakes, this suburban paddle features lake paddling, two dam portages, some nice marshy sections, and crystal clear water.


Concord Road to North Morgan Rd

Date Paddled: September 11th, 2021
Distance: 2.7 miles
Time: Expect 60-90 minutes

Located just after the city of Oconomowoc, this is a generic stretch of the river.  It enjoys nice clarity, but it isn't as scenic as the upstream legs of the river.


Overview Map

Detailed Overview

Nearby Guages



May 6th, 2024 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Yikes! I'll warn paddlers. This isn't the only water trail the ash border has ruined.
May 5th, 2024 - Gregor Wilke from Milwaukee River
Aaron, I'm sad to say I paddled this section today 05/05/2024 at about 53 CFS. It is the worst trip I have ever paddle following your reviews. The entire river is now choked with dead ash fall, literally hundreds of trees in all directions of the water, of which about a dozen required portages and dozens required scooting over. There is a small reprieve of open marsh after the IAT bridge, but it doesn't last long. Once the water picks up after Kilbourn road, you are thrust into logs, or smack your face with trees growing across the river. Sadly, I think due to the emerald ash borer, this paddle is no longer viable for most. It took me 2.5 hours to go the 3.7 miles. Unless you want to put in at North Lake, hard pass. I would almost suggest you archive this trip as a fond memory, as such other inexperienced paddlers don't get their boats stuck doing this trip.
Sep 4th, 2023 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Yeah, the Oconomowoc is crazy low right now. It's too bad to hear that you had to walk part of your trip.
Sep 4th, 2023 - cnclathrop from Palmyra, WI
put in at chaffe rd park launch was not that great but free parking no bathroom justy to warn you . River must be pretty low bottomed out and had to walk numerous times . Water clarity was ok lots of fish and turtles to be seen total time was 4 hours till elm road take out it is pretty muddy with tall grass but parking was ok Second 1/2 of paddle we were pretty exposed to the elements ,a head wind and low water made this to be not one to remember. water discharge was 15cu'
Jul 4th, 2022 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Thanks for the updates. I've added your information the maps and review. Paddlers can alternatively take East Kilbourne Road or the North Lake Ramp.
Jul 4th, 2022 - Rick from Milwaukee from Milwaukee
Just a note from our visit yesterday, July 3, 2022: The "alternate take-out . . . behind the Bear Lake Post Office (west of the Hwy 83 bridge)" is now closed -- a new owner has declared it private property and put up no trespassing signs.
Jul 20th, 2021 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Yeah, it did have that exclusive/private vibe to it.
Jul 19th, 2021 - Dale from Hartland
LOL! Oconomowoc Lake probably is the most private lake in Lake Country and even SE Wisconsin. There is no public property because most of those properties have. Een handed down for generations. The lake probably has the highest tax base per foot of frontage in the area. It's its own "village" with its own police force There is an attedent at the launch to enforce that fact that they don't want extra boats on the lake. The property owners don't care what it costs. Be glad there is a public launch of any type on the lake. Every owner either has their own or is a YC member. Its a beautiful lake and is kept that way. 🤪
Dec 20th, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Hi Paul...I'll contact you via email for more info. For anybody else interested I have a kayak buying guide at: https://www.wisconsinrivertrips.com/tips-tricks.html
Dec 20th, 2020 - Paul Brozowski from Menomonee River, Washington County
Excellent trip report. I am interested in buying a kayak to paddle similar small streams like you did. What advice would you give in regard to type, size, etc.? I currently own 2 dual sit-on-top kayaks (used with my wife & kids numerous times on the Hwy Q - Loews Lake segment ~8 years ago) but would prefer to get a single. Thanks!
Aug 10th, 2020 - Aaron from Dell Creek
Appreciate those tips! I didn't know you could access those two lakes and will put them on my todo list.
Aug 10th, 2020 - Ralph Schneider from Oconomowoc
I've gone from the post office to fowler lake a couple of times.Great trip, stopped foolerys for lunch. On okauchee lake go into Garvin and tearney lake they are hidden jems.See if u can find the hidden pond in one of them.
Jul 27th, 2019 - Aaron from Dell Creek
This section does have its challenges, but it is rewarding. Downstream legs are likely much easier to paddle. Thanks for the review Megan.
Jul 26th, 2019 - Megan Ehster from Waukesha
My husband and I did the majority of this trip today (7/26). We put in just below the Monches Dam and took out at the North Lake Post Office and the whole trip took just about 3 hours 30 min. I would say that we're both at an intermediate skill level and the rapids on this trip were very doable for us. There are a few that get interesting because of logs in the water or sharp turns after a run of rapids, but overall they were fine. The water clarity for the majority of the trip was excellent but the water levels seemed a little low. There were some extremely nice parts of the trip but all the portages dulled the shine a bit. The first was at the Ice Age Trail Bridge, then the next 4 or 5 were over dead trees that had fallen across the water. The last was over Kilbourne Rd. I would highly advise NOT going through the culverts as they are completely covered in spiders. The whole opening of the middle culvert was web, water to ceiling, with spiders as big as your fist. No joke. Overall a wonderful experience.

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

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