Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Jane’s Walk — The Milwaukee River Greenway: our premier urban wilderness

Picture yourself in a canoe, floating silently on a wide river in a valley flanked by tall wooded bluffs. You pass the occasional fisherman. Through the trees a lone jogger runs by on a riverside trail. A great blue heron starts up at your passing, rises on thermals, circles and soars away upstream. An idyllic vision.

View south from Locust Street
Now imagine being just minutes away from the towers of downtown. Welcome to the Milwaukee River Greenway, which, at over 840 acres, is larger than Central Park in New York. How many cities can you name where you might have an experience like this? One that approximates wilderness in the heart of a densely populated urban area.

I have been writing about Milwaukee’s “urban wilderness” for many years and I have numerous favorite places to go when I want to rejuvenate a spirit that longs for nature. But the Milwaukee River Greenway is among the jewels in the crown of an exemplary park system. It is our premier urban wilderness.

Rotary Centennial Arboretum
When I was invited to lead a walk for Jane’s Walk Milwaukee I immediately thought of sharing my love of this place. And so, I invite you to come experience the heart of the Milwaukee River Greenway, one of the greatest urban natural areas in the country.

If, like me, you are new to Jane’s Walk, I encourage you to check out the website and read up on Jane Jacobs, the author of The Death & Life of Great American Cities and the inspiration for this month-long citywide series of events.

I have recently embarked on a new project with Preserve Our Parks that will promote parks and encourage people to get out and explore them. We are calling it A Wealth of Nature to emphasize how fortunate we are to have an abundance of places to enjoy. I will introduce the group to the project and explain how you might use its features, which will include a new website that will help you find places to experience nature nearby.

For this tour I will be teaming up with Vince Bushell, who is Project Manager for the River Revitalization Foundation (RRF), Milwaukee's urban land trust. Vince knows a lot more than I do about the plants and animals we might see on our walk as well as the historic efforts by RRF and others to protect the Greenway.

Riverside Park
The details:

View north from North Avenue
Sunday, May 20 at 10 – 12 am.

The 2-mile tour will begin at the River Revitalization Foundation, 2134 N. Riverboat Rd., the former site of the North Ave. dam, and will end at the same location. There is street parking available.

From the Caesar's Park pedestrian bridge we will hike along the East Bank Trail north to Locust Street. This section of the tour is hard gravel and wheelchair accessible. After crossing the Locust Street Bridge we will walk back along the West Bank Trail, which is not accessible and may be muddy, depending on conditions. Points of interest include the Rotary Centennial Arboretum, Urban Ecology Center, Riverside Park and Gordon Park, with ruins from the period when it was a resort on the lake behind North Avenue dam. The views from Locust Street Bridge are a special highlight.

For more information and to register for the walk, go to our Facebook page. The tickets are free but there is a limit of 30 participants.

The ruins at Gordon Park

The walk is co-sponsored by Preserve Our Parks and River Revitalization Foundation.

View north from Locust Street
 To see more photos from the Milwaukee River Greenway go to my Flickr album.


  1. I'm going. We need to promote these amazing natural resources of Milwaukee in every way we can. Cheri Briscoe