Kayaking in Milwaukee River:Experience


Kayaking with Milwaukee Kayak Company(MKC)

As we rowed our left paddle to turn right and right paddle to turn left to maneuver our kayak in synchronicity with water current of Rivers of Milwaukee,we knew that our experience today of 4 hours,was going to be a different perspective altogether.Before we were at the active boat yard,we had no idea where the river started where it ended though we had seen it in bits and pieces when we walked on the river walk.

We took the tandem kayak partly because it was less expensive(45$ for two) than solo kayak($30 per person) and partly because kayak solo would have had been a little more exhaustive and we wanted to cover every part of the river in the time we had got.The urban water trail of Milwaukee is unique,so unique that I wished if Venice had it on the grand canal or I am not sure if it does,but Milwaukee's water trail takes you to Milwaukee Downtown,the suburbs and the rivers of Milwaukee,Menomonee and KK,covering 35 miles or 56 kms.

For previous posts on America click here

Tents by MKC

Beth from MKC

 Beth,the founder of MKC(Milwaukee Kayak Company) had been doing it for last 3 seasons out of her passion.Last weekend she had cancelled our kayak due to cold weather and bad winds(15-40 mph) but today luckily was a better day,a bit sunny,a bit windy but nothing that would cancel our kayak.She also told us that MKC closes last week of Oct and then opens in May next year.During that time she takes care of her kid at home.

 For those who want to venture solo please do.It's an easy sport especially when the river is favorable as the rivers we have in Milwaukee are.It goes slow and steady and its quite easy to handle.

 After she gave us our life jackets.she asked us if we needed dry bags to keep our cell phones,cameras etc.She told us to not proceed beyond Hoan bridge as that's where the river meets the ocean like Lake Michigan and that is for experienced kayaks. She showed us the river map,and told us the directions to go.She told us if we want to go to even more calmer river than Milwaukee river we can venture to Menomonee River.And she also told us if we go to further end of Milwaukee River,there would be a Dam and there the water level is less,so we may have to take our kayaks and walk to the other end.

 Tips For NewBies

  • Wear Quick Dry Clothing
  • Jeans not recommended(because you'd have to sit inside for long)
  • Wear Wind Cheater/Light Jacket(it can get cold/windy)
  • Wear Flip Flops,Sandals,Light Shoes
  • Get Water bottle,Sunscreen,Snacks
  • Get the dry pouch 
  • Get anything that plays music(we missed that part!)
  • And a gopro/digicam if you have(these pics are from my phone)

 How to do it

 Keep on the sides of the river(left end/right end) at all times to give space to larger boats that might come and also because the middle has more currents.Row smoothly with paddle and do not keep paddles way high up because that would throw water in when paddling.

Milwaukee River that goes through Downtown

Milwaukee is a beautiful place....

 Row both paddles to keep straight.But the direction also depends on river current and wind,so if your kayak doesn't go straight try to paddle right more/left more for equilibrium.

Always remember paddling right would make kayak left and paddling left would make kayak right.

 So when we started kayaking,we had almost no idea on how to do it.We were basically learning by our own.Initially we did hit a boat that was standing on a dock,but as we had feared our kayak didn't topple.So anything that's stable/stationary that your kayak hits wouldn't likely topple your kayak because kayak goes slow.It would hit and automatically goes back.Then you have to paddle reverse/back and get your position.Similarly hitting a deck wouldn't topple your kayak.

Kayaking on River is fun!

Be safe from Big Boats and Ships

Ideally keep a distance

Nothing much will happen if you hit these :P though as they are stationary

 But hitting a larger boat which is coming opposite you(in motion) could be disastrous something I wouldn't want to think about.So you have to steer left or right or a complete halt at a side so that you prevent it.

Kayaking nonetheless is easy,and very much worth doing.

 You also do not have to continuously paddle.If the river has a flow,then your kayak has a flow.And if that's where you want to go,voila!Your work is done.But if you want to go faster or want to go in direction that's opposite to where the river is taking you,you'll have to paddle against and sometimes paddle hard.The another thing that Tandem Kayak eases is sometimes you can paddle,sometimes he can,sometimes you both can paddle together.

The letters written on the paddle should be your side.This is the right position of paddle.

Good going.

And the bridges.

 The beauty of wading through the river is you are so much enthusiastic about what comes next,that the miles and miles are paddled and you realize when you go to bed at night that your arm and shoulder hurts like hell.We had to apply pain relief spray to get rid of that at night.Now I wouldn't say that for someone who's kayaking lets say in a small lake or a stable sea,but specially when you are doing it for 3-4 hours and the river has waves and sometimes you paddle against or for and if you are not actively into sports that does great things for your arms,you might meet the destiny we both had.Not that I am complaining but yes something you must know.

Hoan bridge that goes to Lake..

Riding through waves.

Us on tandem.

 We did venture into all rivers and we did go to further end of Hoan Bridge which was very wavy and as Beth had told to not venture into lake,we didn't. The side of Menomonee river is extremely stable,so stable that we wished it had some waves because sometimes waves do favor paddling than no waves because here your moves were the only propeller otherwise the boat would be stagnant.

 Now the beautiful part of kayaking on River is it takes you on all these perspective and you learn how to stabilize and be in the direction you want to be in.It continuously tunes your eyes to something new,either the pedestrians walking or the fall colors or the bridge or the trees or the downtown or the factories or the breweries or small little towns.I have done a bit of kayaking in a small lake before,but I found it to be boring because the view remains the same unlike the river that's constantly changing.In an overall 3.5 hours of kayaking,we didn't know how to park on dock and wander on land if we have to.So if you guys have any idea,do give us the clue.And do share your kayaking experience as I did.


  1. Sounds exciting. I'd love to see myself in that kayak. I love such adventure rides.

    1. Thanks Gowthama :) Try it..As I said,its an easy sport.

  2. need to try this sometimes. Didn't do it when I had a chance in CPH

    1. Hmm..Europe has some nice places to do kayaking.When are you going there next?

  3. kayaking for 56 kms!!!!!!!! Sounds exciting.

  4. Thrilling experience! Nice write up.


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