Birding, Boats, and Breweries on the Milwaukee River
June 16, 2021 | Topics: Events
By Eddee Daniel
Away from the water the day was unseasonably hot, as so much of June has been so far. But once we were out on the river it was quite temperate and lovely. And the birds …
I had signed up for this event because I love kayaking and it was to be on a stretch of the Milwaukee River in Ozaukee County that I had yet to paddle. But as it turned out the birding was as wonderful as the boating. Let me quickly admit that I’m not a birder and if the tour had not been led by an experienced guide I would never have been able to identify all the bird song that we heard all along our route—or even distinguish the great variety of birds from one another probably. The most marvelous thing, though, was being able to hear them at all. You see, I’ve become hard of hearing of late and I was blessed with spanking new, very effective hearing aids. I knew I’d been missing out on a lot in recent months, but I had no idea how much! The Milwaukee River corridor has a wealth of lively bird life!
Sadly, you won’t see many in this photo essay. I managed to catch just three species (counting the flotilla of Canada geese that accompanied us for a while) that were close enough and held still long enough to shoot from my kayak. The others were a glorious soundtrack to a lovely paddling trip on the river. We heard, according to our guide Tina Kroening of Ozaukee County Parks, at least 38 different species along the way, including several green herons, a belted kingfisher, and a great crested flycatcher.
We put in at a City of Mequon park called Garrison’s Glen and paddled approximately 2½ hours to Villa Grove Park, another City of Mequon park just upstream from the Thiensville dam (see map). This was a last-minute substitute route, however. The plan had been to do a different stretch farther upstream. However, due to our hot, rainless June, the water level in the river was far below normal and our guides said we would have had to walk our boats across riffles a significant portion of the way. I was happy the trip wasn’t canceled altogether, which had already happened once before this season.
The event, sponsored by Ozaukee County Parks, was organized through the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF), which has a wonderful guidebook of tours, hikes, paddle excursions, and other activities all over Wisconsin. (Full disclosure: I am leading an NRF hike in Three Bridges Park on July 30.)
The “breweries” component of the tour took place after we completed our paddling. We all gathered for lunch and brews at the Milwaukee Ale House, which is located right on the Milwaukee River in Grafton.
Eddee Daniel is a board member of Preserve Our Parks. Ozaukee County Parks and Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin are both partner organizations to A Wealth of Nature.