As woody boaters we love plying the placid ponds and lakes where wild creatures live. In Wisconsin we call it, “Lake Country”. Lake Country exists all over the country. But some of the best woody boatin’ can be had in the heart of the city. For us, what may be our “last gasp” ride, that city is Milwaukee. And no, Milwaukee is not in Minnesota!
Three rivers meet here. Century Boats were born here. Ole and Bess Evinrude built an empire here. And, yeah, they made some beer here, too; still do…more on that later. But on this crisp autumn Sunday, the river they named the city after was our “Lake Country”.We live just 30 miles from downtown Milwaukee. My wife Pam and our friend Robert hitched up the 1955 Correct Craft Atom Skier and were joined by our neighbors, Judy and Randy Wagner with their 1946 Higgins Sport Speedster Utility. Putting in south of the city at the South Shore Yacht Club, we head north along the western shore of Lake Michigan. The big lake is smooth as glass. Very rare conditions and perfect for a 14.5’ wooden ski boat.
Our first “float by” is the the Discovery World Museum and the Dennis Sullivan schooner. A public dock allows boaters access to Discovery World, a science and technology learning center you can learn more about here: Discovering Discovery World Museum
Docked at Discovery World is the awesome Dennis Sullivan Great Lakes Schooner.
The Atom Skier Takes on the Dennis Sullivan
4,597 Sq. Ft. of sail and a crew of 10
As the world’s only recreation of a 19th century Great Lakes Schooner, this all wood tallship serves as a floating classroom dedicated to environmental study of the Great Lakes. Want more? You can learn what a mizzen mast is here: http://www.schoonerdenissullivan.org/ Also on the lakefront is the Milwaukee Art Museum. Santiago Calatrava, the Spanish sculptor and architect designed this cool addition to the museum. The wings are sun shades and will automatically close when the wind is in excess of 23mph.
Santiago Calitrava’s first U.S. project The wings span 217 feet, weigh 90 tons and takes 3.5 minutes to open or close.
We head up river inland past rows of converted warehouses. Upscale condos now occupy the storage caverns of the industries of old.
Luxury condos on the Milwaukee River
The Atom Skier winds through the urban canyon
Here is where three rivers, the Kinnickinnic from the south, the Menomonee from the west and the Milwaukee from the north flow into Lake Michigan. All three rivers are navigable for many miles and offer numerous opportunities to tie up, shop, eat, drink or just mingle with the friendly city folk who ask endless questions about the “cool old boats”. Our first stop was at the Milwaukee Ale House.
The Milwaukee Ale House. Brews beers for what ales ya!
Captain Randy, Robert and Judy board Higgie after lunch
After a hearty Bloody Mary (or two) and a tasty lunch, we continue up river. It’s truly amazing how different a city you’ve known all your life looks from the perspective of the river.
Milwaukee City Hall. Remember the open from Happy Days?
Warehouse to condo next to old world factory
The Harp. Famous Irish bar in the shadow of the Milwaukee School of Engineering
Who knew there was a river behind those tall buildings?
This was the perspective from which Solomon Juneau viewed the area when he, the first white settler, met the many tribes of Native Americans already here. Later, Germans and Poles arrived. The Usinger family still makes what many believe is the world’s finest sausage here.
Just one of many micro brewers and brew pubs ready to quench a Woody Boater’s thirst
That’s when you need the designated captain….
Captain Pam takes the helm of the Atom Skier!
Heading back to the boat ramp we open ‘em up on The Big Lake!
The Higgins at speed in the big lake. I know, should have taken the shot from the starboard side! Our ACBS chapter, Glacier Lakes, hosts a River Run every summer. About a dozen or so woody boaters hit the river and its watering holes for a day of fun and camaraderie. Like a Harley group ride on the water!
Over the past two decades, Milwaukee civic leaders recognized the value of the Milwaukee River System by developing The River Walk. Both sides of the river are pedestrian friendly with parks, shops, condos and restaurants. Also included are numerous public docks for boaters. And just around the corner, Lake Michigan beckons. Yeah, I know. I need a bigger boat for that.
Last gasp? Let me check the forecast.