Milwaukee River

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Milwaukee River is a river in the state of Wisconsin. It is about 104 miles (167 km) long.[1] Once a locus of industry, the river is now the center of a housing boom. New condos now crowd the downtown and harbor districts of Milwaukee attracting young professionals to the area. The river is also ribboned with parks as it winds through various neighborhoods. Kayaks and fishing boats share the river with party boats. An extensive Riverwalk featuring art displays, boat launches and restaurants lines its banks in downtown Milwaukee.


The river begins in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin and flows south past Grafton to downtown Milwaukee, where it empties into Lake Michigan. Cedar Creek, the Menomonee River and the Kinnickinnic River are the three main tributaries.


Map of the Milwaukee River watershed.

The Milwaukee River watershed drains 882 square miles (2,280 km2) in southeastern Wisconsin, including parts of Dodge, Fond du Lac, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Sheboygan, Washington and Waukesha counties.

The Milwaukee River watershed is part of the Lake Michigan subbasin; this subbasin is itself a part of the St. Lawrence River Watershed, which is fed by the Great Lakes.


The Milwaukee River area was populated by Native Americans in the time before European settlement. Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet navigated from Lake Michigan through the Milwaukee River on their way to the Fox River and the Mississippi. Previously (circa 1834-35) the river had been known as the "Maynawalky," while the present-day Menomonee River was known as the "Milwalky".[2][3]

In the early 19th century, three towns were formed across the banks of the Milwaukee and Kinnickinnic rivers: Juneautown by Solomon Juneau, Walker's Point by George H. Walker and Kilbourntown by Byron Kilbourn. The quarrel over the formation of a bridge across the Milwaukee River was a key point in the merging of the three towns into the city of Milwaukee in 1846.


The Milwaukee River as it goes through downtown Milwaukee crossed by the Wisconsin Avenue bridge
The Milwaukee River frozen over as it is crossed by the Saint Paul Avenue bridge

The Milwaukee River has numerous movable bridges spanning it, allowing for pedestrian and vehicular traffic. These bridges include several different types, including bascule and hydraulically-powered table bridges. There are also many fixed bridges, as well as several pedestrian-only and railroad trestles.

The following is a partial list of bridges that cross the river, from north to south:

  • Brown Deer Road Bridge
  • Range Line Road Bridge
  • Good Hope Road Bridge
  • Green Tree Road Bridge
  • Bender Road Bridge
  • Silver Spring Drive Bridge
  • Hampton Avenue Bridge
  • I-43 Bridge
  • Port Washington Road Bridge
  • Capitol Drive Bridge
  • Locust Street Bridge
  • North Avenue Bridge (Milwaukee)|North Avenue Bridge
  • North-Humboldt Pedestrian Bridge
  • Humboldt Street Bridge
  • Holton Street Viaduct (1926)
  • Pleasant Street Bridge
  • Cherry Street Bridge
  • McKinley Avenue Bridge aka Knapp Street Bridge
  • Juneau Avenue Bridge
  • Highland Avenue Pedestrian Bridge
  • State Street Bridge (Milwaukee)|State Street Bridge
  • Kilbourn Avenue Bridge
  • Wells Street Bridge (Milwaukee)|Wells Street Bridge
  • Wisconsin Avenue Bridge
  • Michigan Street Bridge
  • Clybourn Street Bridge
  • I-794 Bridge
  • Saint Paul Avenue Bridge
  • Water Street Bridge
  • Broadway Bridge aka Milwaukee Street Bridge
  • Hoan Bridge

There are also several Union Pacific (former Chicago and North Western Railway) railroad bridges crossing the Milwaukee River, including:

  • north of Bender Road
  • south of Silver Spring Drive
  • Railroad Swing Bridge #1556 (1915)[4]


Public Parks along the Milwaukee River
Parks Location
Gordon Park, Kern Park, Lincoln Park, Pere Marquette Park, Pleasant Valley Park, Riverside Park Milwaukee
Kletzsch Glendale
Hubbard Park, Estabrook Park Shorewood
Village Park Thiensville
River Barn Park, Riverview Park, Scout Park, Shoreland and River Forest Nature Preserves Mequon
Lime Kiln Park, Veterans Memorial Park, River Oaks Park, Grafton Canoe Launch Grafton
Didier Field, East Riverside Park, Peninsula Park, Ehlers Park, Tendick Park Saukville
Waubedonia and Marie Kraus Park Fredonia
Riveredge Nature Center Newburg
Quaas Creek Park, Riverside Park, Riverfront Parkway West Bend
River Hill Park Kewaskum
Columbus Park Campbellsport


Current and former dams on the Milwaukee river, from downstream
Name Municipality Status Removal Year
North Avenue Dam Milwaukee Removed 1997
Estabrook Park Dam Milwaukee Removed 2018[5]
Kletzsch Park Dam Milwaukee Active
Thiensville Dam Thiensville Active
Lime Kiln Dam Grafton Removed 2010
Grafton Chair Factory Dam Grafton Removed 1999
Bridge Street Dam Grafton Active
Waubeka Dam Waubeka Removed 2003[6]
Newburg Dam Newburg Removed 2012[7]
Woolen Mill Dam West Bend Removed 1988
West Bend West Bend Active
Gadow Mill Dam West Bend Active
Kewaskum Dam Kewaskum Active
Lake Bernice Dam Town of Ashford Active
Campbellsport Dam Campbellsport Removed
Gooseville Dam Gooseville Active

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map Archived 2012-03-29 at the Wayback Machine, accessed May 19, 2011
  2. ^ Google Books: An Accompaniment to Mitchell's Reference and Distance Map of the United States; Containing an Index of All the Counties, Districts, Townships, Towns, &c., In the Union; Together With an Index of the Rivers; By Which Any County, District, Township, &c. or River, May Be Found on the Map, Without Difficulty [1], Samuel Augustus Mitchell, 1834, Mitchell & Hinman Publishers. Accessed September 19th, 2019.
  3. ^ The Tourist's Pocket Map Of Michigan Exhibiting Its Internal Improvements Roads Distances &c. by J.H. Young. Philadelphia: Published By S. Augustus Mitchell. 1835. Sold By Mitchell & Hinman No. 6 North Fifth Street. Entered ... 1834 by S. Augustus Mitchell ... Pennsylvania. Engraved by J.H. Young. [2]
  4. ^ "Final Designation Study Report" (Spring 2005). Milwaukee Department of City Development.
  5. ^ "Estabrook Dam Removal".
  6. ^ "72 Dams Removed to Restore Rivers in 2016" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Newburg Dam History".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°01′32″N 87°54′10″W / 43.0256°N 87.9029°W / 43.0256; -87.9029