A visual tour of one of the region’s most dynamic and hard-to-see places
Milwaukee owes its existence to its harbor. European settlers arriving here discovered an excellent natural harbor at the confluence of three rivers. The name Milwaukee was derived from an Ojibwe word that means “gathering of the waters.” That gathering place of water from the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers is now known as the inner harbor. The fertile estuary that had sustained its previous inhabitants was transformed into an economic engine that drove the region’s development as an industrial powerhouse.
Today the picture has changed again. The Port of Milwaukee is still active, shipping mostly bulk commodities such as salt, grain, cement and steel. However, a shifting economy has left vacant and underutilized land around the inner harbor. Plans to revitalize the area, known as the Harbor District, are underway. Public access being limited, the best way to experience the inner harbor is from the water.
Fortunately, you can rent a kayak right on the inner harbor. The Milwaukee Kayak Company is a little hard to find. There is no sign outside the fenced precinct at 318 South Water Street, which Milwaukee Kayak shares with Jerry’s Dock, a marine salvage, diving charter and boat storage facility. But once you’re there you will be well taken care of by the knowledgeable and attentive staff. I joined a tour organized and guided by Harbor District, Inc., the non-profit tasked with redevelopment of the district.
This story was published at Milwaukee Magazine. Click here to continue reading.
You can also see additional photos of the Harbor District on my website. I am currently serving as artist in residence for the Harbor District, Inc.