Milwaukee River

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The Milwaukee River has been in use by Native Americans since time out of mind and by European Americans since the early 1800's. It is used for fishing, boating, farming crops, hydropower for sawmills, and just basic scenery. The Milwaukee river is home to a variety of different species (invasive, and native), and a number of different pollutants. People also enjoy to river on a daily basis as it connects to the Milwaukee River Parkway, which is used for various recreational activities.


Before Milwaukee became the large inhabited city that it is today, the Milwaukee River was much different, and functioned much differently than it does today. The Milwaukee River was a point of settlement for the Native Americans and remained their land until 1833. The Milwaukee River Basin was rich in forests, water, and wetland which were essential for the first settlers for their development around the river. The river was a perfect place with an abundance of fish and the water attracted game such as deer and rabbits which provided the perfect hunting grounds. The land around the river basin was quickly deforested and clear cut for agriculture. Soon by the Mid-1800's farming on the river basin was the main activity. Farming along with the first industries which were mills. The mills became so large around the Milwaukee River Basin because the river was excellent hydropower for the mills. [1]

In the 1840's Milwaukee had small brewing companies, however when the Germans and Polish game the brewing industry in Milwaukee started booming. By the twentieth century Milwaukee because Americans top brewing city. With the booming brewing industry the river played a major roll in allowing to ship and take in different deliveries. Fredrick Papst even purchased a dock on the river to make deliveries and transactions that much faster and efficient for his company. [2]


There are many different species that inhabit the Milwaukee River that make up the ecosystem. Some people will consider the fish that are in Lake Michigan as well, while others do not. Looking at other inhabitants of the river besides the massive population of fish, includes invertebrates. The invertebrates that inhabit the river will tell us and help people determine the health of the river. Different invertebrates will tell you if the river is healthy or not. For example if invertebrates such as; water-penny, right-handed snail, dobsonfly larva, caddisfly larva, and a few more are found in the river, it tells you that the water is in good health. These specific examples of invertebrates can only survive water that is of a low pollution level, and will not survive when the pollutants in the water rise. A few examples of invertebrates with a high pollution tolerance include; leeches, and aquatic worms.




- Beaver - Grey Squirrel - Red Squirrel - Red Fox - Raccoon - White Tail Deer - Muskrat - Fisher - Woodchuck - Eastern Chipmunk [3]


- American Toad - Blanchard's Cricket Frog - Boreal Chorus Frog - Bullfrog - Cope's Gray Treefrog - Gray Treefrog - Green Frog - Mink Frog


- Dragonfly Larva - Waterpenny - Caddisfly Larva - Mayfly Larva/Nymph - Black Fly Larva - Cranefly Larva - Leech - Left-Handed Snail - Mussels - BloodWorm Larva - Aquatic Worm - Scud - Aquatic Sowbug - Ragtail Maggot - Planarian - Damselfly Larva/Nymph


There are many different pollutants that make their way into the Milwaukee River, and one of them includes lawn fertilizer, and manure. Lawn fertilizer and manure bring the chemical of phosphorus which is a nutrient that causes an excess growth of algae and weeds in the river. Also the water quality in the Milwaukee river is degraded because of suspended solids in the water such as sand, and soil, along with organic materials, liter, and all types of sewage. One major way that sewage can get into the river is from old, aging sewer infrastructure, causing sewage to leak into the river. Bacteria can also get into the river due to waste from animals, such as dogs and birds.

Another major pollutant that makes its way into the Milwaukee River is chloride. Chlorides are a large pollutant because of the salt we use in the winters in Wisconsin on the road and when snow plowed, and melting of the snow the salt makes its way into the river. This is detrimental because it makes makes the toxicity levels in the water rise causing harm to the aquatic animals in the water. [4]

Usage of River

Although most usage of the Milwaukee River used to consist of transporting beer from dock to dock, today the river is used for more for recreational purposes. The Milwaukee River is known for its 'booze cruises'. On these cruises people are taken along the riverwalk and drop people off at Lakefront Brewery, and the Milwaukee Al House. The river also is a great place to get some exercise in where people will kayak, canoe, and standup paddle board. The river also gives rowing teams a place to practice and compete. The river is also used for various fishing activities. A well known fishing style used in the Milwaukee River is what is known as fly fishing.


The Milwaukee River Parkway is located in Milwaukee County and located in the city of Glendale. It was built in 2008. It is a combination of cement and narrow natural surface trails along the Milwaukee River. The trails expand approximately 4 miles long. Spanning from North Ave to Hampton Ave. These trails also include 5 scenic parks to stop at Estabrook, Kern, Hubbard, Gordon and Riverside. Portions of these trails may flood when water levels are high as they in some place run just feet from the Milwaukee River. These trails are great for Mountain biking in areas that are legal to mountain but and to just simply take a nice hike. It is definitely a great place to visit in Milwaukee County for people who love to enjoy the outdoors. [5]


  1. "Milwaukee River Basin," Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Accessed 2018-1-05,
  2. "Milwaukee River," Encyclopedia of Milwaukee, Accessed 2018-01-05,
  3. "Mammals of Wisconsin," University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, Accessed 2018-01-05,
  4. "Chronic pollutants continue to plague Milwaukee River as outdoor enthusiasts flock to it," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Accessed 2018-28-04
  5. "WI Milwaukee River Parkway Trails," Trailville, Accessed 2018-26-04,

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