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Old August 21st, 2009, 11:04 PM   #1
Steely Dan
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urban kayaking - the milwaukee river and other associated waterways

So I finally got up to Milwaukee this past Sunday to take my folding kayak out for a spin on the waterways of brew-city. I took megabus
from Chicago up there for only 12 bucks roundtrip, how freaking cool is that?! I put-in around 10:00am at the st. paul avenue launch dock and proceeded
to paddle for ~22 miles on the waters of Milwaukee over the course of 6 ½ hours. The map below shows my route, the numbers at each end of my
web-like journey mark the order in which I paddled the various rivers and waterways to give you an idea of the flow of the pictures. The pictures are
pretty much presented in the order that I took them so you can follow along with me on my day of urban waterway exploration. Milwaukee is a wonderful city
with some fantastic rivers and an amazing lakefront. If I should ever be forced to move from my beloved Chicago, I know exactly where I’ll be headed.

The weather was certainly less than ideal for photography, and the morning sun gave me fits as I was paddling south at the start. That soon gave way
to a heavy hazy overcast and eventually drizzle and rain at times. Later In the afternoon the sun started poking through the clouds again. So these pics aren’t
exactly top quality, but they work very well for showing the Milwaukee River system as it is. I’m most disappointed with the shots from the lake, the haze was
heaviest when I was out there and the waves were choppier than I was expecting due to the high winds, which made it difficult to steady the camera. Oh well, 95%
of the reason I do this is because I simply LOVE urban kayaking, the photography is just a nice tag along hobby.

anyway, if you dig this sort of urban kayaking photography thing, be sure to check out my other photo tours from the Chicago River that I did last fall:

Chicago River: north branch
Chicago River: south branch

And now, without further ado, enjoy the tour:

My route:

1. putting my boat together at the dock.

2. the put-in dock, everything is ready to go!

3. beautiful classics of the 3rd ward, since converted to residential lofts, lining the riverwalk.

4. newish condo development on the opposite side of the river in walker’s point. I really like this one.

5. a cool old rail bridge across the opening to the Menomonee river. We’ll be back to explore that later.

6. looking back at the 3rd ward, with downtown in the background.

7. this part of the river, like a lot of parts of the Milwaukee river, has gone condo crazy over the past decade or so.

8. a swing bridge that is left in the open position because it’s so low to the water.

9. staring up at a huge grain elevator. I wish that damn sailboat mast wasn’t in the way.

10. the mighty hoan bridge stretches across the mouth of the Milwaukee river estuary. Lake Michigan beckons beyond, we’ll be back later.

11. looking back over my shoulder, a glimpse of the skyline appears.

12. looking down a side slip off of the kinnickinnic river. That’s one huge clock tower down there.

13. Milwaukee might not have any 1,000 foot skyscrapers, but her port can accommodate 1,000 ft. ore boats. This is the stewart j. cort, the first
thousand footer to ply the waters of the great lakes. Built in 1972, she’s a bulk carrier that primarily carries taconite from the mesabi range up in
Minnesota down to the steel mills in the lower lakes and she also happens to be my favorite great lakes freighter. What luck that she was in port
when I happened to be paddling through, though she was riding extremely high and almost looked to be in temporary lay-up.

14. a panorama of milwaukee’s port facilities. SCROLL---------------------------------->

15. another large grain elevator. Yeah they’re very utilitarian and industrial, but I think they’re really cool.

16. leaving the port estuary, now we enter the kinnickinnic river proper. There’s another low railroad swing bridge left in the open position.

17. yet another large grain elevator.

18. the kinnickinnic avenue bridge across the kinnickinnic river.

19. shortly followed by another cool rail bridge. Steel trusses rule!

20. here’s a shot of a fantastically gigantic and ornate church somewhere on milwaukee’s southside.

21. going south of the becher street bridge, we leave the industry behind and the kinnickinnic river takes on a much more natural feel.

22. isn’t it cool that this scene is only about a half mile up river from all that industry?

23. a family of geese hanging out on a small island in the river.

24. just shy of the I-94 bridge, the kinnickinnic gets really, really shallow. I started scraping bottom on some rocks, so I decided to turn around here.

25. now heading down river, another nice church on the horizon.

26. a general kinnickinnic river scene

27. a boat storage marina along the river.

28. now back at the estuary, the skyline comes into view again.

29. cool urban texture looking back up the Milwaukee river.

30. now it’s time to head under the hoan bridge and out onto the lake.

31. but one last glimpse of the skyline.

32. underneath the hoan bridge.

33. milwaukee’s harbor lighthouse. Sorry for the pixelization, I had to use some digital zoom here as the lighthouse is way the hell out there.

34. now out on the lake, let’s start with a skyline panorama. SCROLL---------------------------------->

35. US bank tower, milwaukee’s tallest. Great building; awful signage.

36. pier Wisconsin.

37. with all those flags flying, Milwaukee is clearly a “genuine American city”.

38. the residential east side skyline looms above veterans park and the lakefront.

39. the art museum and skyline.

40. art museum close up.

41. the downtown skyline.

42. university club and kilbourn towers.

43. back into the river estuary, there’s that massive building with the huge clock tower again. It’s gotta be one of the largest buildings in Milwaukee.

44. condos! condos! condos!

45. a better view of the swing bridge we saw earlier.

46. heading back up the Milwaukee river.

47. more condos.

48. and here we are back near where we started.

49. the sleekly modern chase bank building.

50. this used to be a grand old department store, but is now part of grand avenue mall.

51. Milwaukee sure loves its pointy top buildings.

52. 100 east Wisconsin, the city’s second tallest.

53. I love the glass jewel-box entrance for the chase building. Very elegant.

54. a general downtown river scene.

55. rock bottom brewery has a lively riverside dining patio.

56. the lovely Germania building.

57. Milwaukee center, milwaukee’s 3rd tallest.

58. The kilbourn avenue bridge.

59. looking back over my shoulder.

60. a shot from underneath one of the downtown bridges.

61. Marquette park along the west bank of the river.

62. sausage mecca of the western hemisphere, USINGERS! Just imagine the sheer amount of deliciousness contained within this building!

63. a pedestrian bridge across the river.

64. the venerable sydney hih building awaits either demolition of rehabilitation. Let’s hope for the latter.

65. new construction on the river.

66. manpower’s newish riverfront headquarters.

67. a funk-tacular glass block deco bridge tower of the cherry street bridge.

68. I think this was some kind of medical building, but I’m not sure.

69. here’s a a building that looks primed for some rehab.

70. new riverfront condos

71. the Houlton avenue bridge with lakefront brewery off to the left (seems to me it should be called “riverfront brewery”, but whatever).

72. the new riverfront condo mania just doesn’t stop.

73. and on. and on. and on……..

74. a neat circular plan tower rising high on the east bank.

75. north avenue dam. Or at least what’s left of it. The damn has been busted through to restore the river to a more natural flow.

76. the rapids just south of the north avenue bridge. The river was running really fast here, and knowing I couldn’t paddle through the rapids ahead, I turned around here.

77. the Humboldt avenue bridge reconstruction.

78. heading downriver again, a skyline view.

79. some buildings on the MSOE campus.

80. you gotta love milwuakee’s pointy skyline.

81. riverfront townhomes with a tower rising above.

82. the tower of milwaukee’s magnificent city hall.

83. the cliché Milwaukee river “money shot”. Well, with a view this fantastic, no wonder it’s become a cliché.

84. there’s city hall again.

85. a view down one of downtown’s urban corridors from the river.

86. a view underneath the river walk.

87. a peek of some super-ornate second empire architecture downtown.

88. this poor old structure south of I-794 could use some TLC.

89. the Milwaukee public market and nice terra clad beauty in the 3rd ward.

90. here we are back at the 3rd ward for the 3rd time. It’s ok though, because these buildings are just gorgeous.

91. just stunning.

92. the 3rd ward does urban corridors as well. what a great neighborhood!

93. a quick turn around and a skyline view before heading into the Menomonee river valley.

94. an old cold storage warehouse right by the mouth of the Menomonee river.

95. milwaukee’s giant central post office spans over the train yard of its Amtrak station.

96. we’re gonna take a quick detour down the burnham slip before continuing on down the Menomonee river.

97. here’s a bridge of the 6th street viaduct crossing the burnham slip.

98. some neat old loft buildings.

99. a cable stayed span of the 6th street viaduct. We clearly have some echoes of the calatrava art museum going on here.

100. the Menomonee slip branches off from the brunham slip. That’s I-94 flying high above.

101. some cool buildings near the end of the burnham slip. This is about where I turned around and headed back.

102. I-94 crossing the slip with a cool railroad swing bridge beneath.

103. paddling back down the slip, 100 east Wisconsin comes into view.

104. 6th street bridge.

105. the new Harley Davidson museum.

106. now we’re back on the Menomonee river proper and crossing underneath I-94 once again.

107. a general Menomonee river scene.

108. the potowatomie casino.

109. a nice old warehouse structure.

110. this cool 8 sided tower structure was next to the warehouse. I could not discern its function.

111. the 27th street viaduct parallels the Menomonee river for a bit.

112. the tops of the Mitchell park botanical domes were just barely visible from the river.

113. and just like on the kinnickinnic, the Menomonee river very suddenly became very shallow, so I turned around here to head back.

114. urban waterfall. aww, check out those sweet pipes! (obscure sealab 2021 reference)

115. the pilings underneath a railroad crossing.

116. heading back towards downtown.

117. the complex beauty of the Marquette interchange.

118. the skyline of the west side of downtown.

119. getting closer.

120. almost there. The bridge was up, but I couldn’t get over there quick enough to check it out.

121. and let’s finish things off with a massive 3rd ward/walker’s point panorama. SCROLL--------------------->

Well, that’s it. I pulled my kayak out of the water, packed it up and headed over to the Milwaukee Ale House along the river walk in the third ward for
some cold beer and a well-deserved cheeseburger. Then i was off to the megabus pick-up location and back to Chicago. I hope you enjoyed the tour.

Next up: the lakes of Madison, hopefully sometime in September.
"I wish they'd hurry up and just destroy humanity already........... it's the waiting that I can't stand" - Philip J. Fry
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Old August 22nd, 2009, 05:47 PM   #2
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Unique pictures, i like it.
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Old August 22nd, 2009, 08:02 PM   #3
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Very nice pictures of the buildings and ships! I like to kayak too!
For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love." Carl Sagan

"We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers." -Carl Sagan

For me, everything is remarkable.

Southeast Virginia.
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Old August 23rd, 2009, 03:14 PM   #4
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That was great! I really enjoyed the tour! Congratulations. Good work!
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Old August 23rd, 2009, 07:29 PM   #5
Johnny Blade
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I haven't had a chance to finish looking at all your photos yet but I've enjoyed what I've seen of Milwaukee so far.
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Old August 23rd, 2009, 10:39 PM   #6
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Nice trip, it would have been nicer if the weather was sunny but you seem to have enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing your photos.

If you ever get to Vegas, kayaking at Lake Mead is great. With the water level being low, rocky islands are sprouting, waterways in many directions with a view of the stunning desert. Pass Hoover Dam, the Colorado River is also a nice area for kayaking. Willow Beach in Arizona is the starting point. Water is cold though even in summertime because of the outflow from the bottom of the dam. Nice canyons here.
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Old August 24th, 2009, 06:53 PM   #7
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Really amazing thread; thanks for those photos
Urban Showcase: Athens Kalamata Trikala Thessaloniki
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General photography: Castles of France - Chateau de France and, since May of '08: Greece!
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Old August 24th, 2009, 09:34 PM   #8
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really nice waterfront , it's quite unique for the US ,i woud of take it for the old part of hamburg
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