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a Wisconsin state park, forest, recreation area or trail.
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Contact information
For information, contact:
Wisconsin State Trails
P.O. Box 7921
Madison, WI 53707
608-261-4933

Wisconsin State Park System Lake Michigan State Water Trail

Kayak tours on Lake Michigan State Water Trail

DNR Photo

LocationThe Lake Michigan State Water Trail is Wisconsin's 523-mile segment of the Lake Michigan Water Trail, a continuous water route paralleling the shores of four states. The entire trail will provide 1,638 miles of scenic recreational opportunities when completed. It is Wisconsin's first designated State Water Trail.

Trips of varied lengths will be possible by evenly spaced access points, public camping sites and restroom facilities. Access sites are located in eleven lakeside counties and are managed by an assortment of public agencies and private organizations.

The trail was chosen as one of Wisconsin's two projects in the Department of the Interior's America's Great Outdoors Initiative which works to bring states, tribes and local governments together to reconnect citizens with our natural resources. The development of the trail has been done in conjunction with the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program of the National Park Service, as well as with the Lake Michigan Water Trail Association.

Natural treasures are plentiful along the Lake Michigan shoreline including cedar-lined gorges, oak savannas and coastal marshes. Scenic geologic features such as limestone cliffs and sand dunes also line the coast. Together with the small towns and big cities on the lake, both cultural and natural experiences await the paddler.

Access

The trail offers excellent developed and carry-in access sites along Lake Michigan. Developed access points are equipped with public boat ramps or docks, while carry-in sites provide easy kayak entry to the water. Most of these sites are located on public lands owned by the State of Wisconsin or local governments. Locate the access site closest to you with the interactive web map.

Camping

There are multiple public camping locations along Wisconsin's Lake Michigan shoreline. Campgrounds vary from primitive campsites to facilities with electric hookups. When the trail is completed, paddlers will not need to travel more than five miles between sites with restroom facilities and no more than ten miles between sites with public camping opportunities.

Safety

Paddling on Lake Michigan presents difficulties unlike those on other, smaller waterways. The potential for significant off-shore distances, cold water, high winds and tall waves create hazards which should not be taken lightly. Paddlers must dress for immersion and be aware of weather conditions. Use of the Lake Michigan State Water Trail is recommended only for experienced paddlers with appropriate equipment and training. Please review these important safety tips before paddling the LMSWT [exit DNR].

Suggested segments

Day trips

Rock Island – At the very northeastern tip of Wisconsin in Door County is the exceptional 912-acre Rock Island State Park. From Washington Island's Jackson Harbor, paddle east to Rock Island and travel eight miles around this beautiful and primitive place. Map [PDF]

Garrett Bay to Rowley Bay – Rounding the Door Peninsula in northeastern Wisconsin, this segment is approximately 15 miles long. You will encounter spectacular views of Washington, Detroit, Plum and Spider islands. Map [PDF]

Harrington Beach to Port Washington – From the north end of Harrington Beach State Park south to Port Washington Marina, this 8-mile segment is only a short trip from Milwaukee. For paddlers who also like to bicycle, a "self-shuttle" opportunity is available via the Ozaukee Interurban Trail. Map [PDF]

Milwaukee Lakeshore State Park to Concordia University, Mequon - This 17-mile paddle takes you past the wooded bluffs of Milwaukee's north shore area. Permission is required for landing or launching at Concordia University. The paved switchback sidewalk up the bluff at Concordia will provide a workout to end your day. Map [PDF]

Milwaukee South Shore Marina to Bradford Beach - Paddle along the shore or along the break wall. Either way, this five-mile trip takes you past striking views of Milwaukee's downtown lakefront. If you want to stop along the way, paddle into the lagoons near Discovery World and step out onto the pebble beach of Lakeshore State Park. At Bradford Beach, launch and land only at the far north end to avoid the designated swim area. Map [PDF]

Overnight

Port Washington to Kohler-Andrae State Park with an overnight stopover at Harrington Beach State Park - Put in at Port Washington's South Beach. You may need to park your vehicle on a side street if you plan to leave it in Port Washington overnight. Paddle nine miles to Harrington Beach State Park. Just south of the point, look for the blue post that designates the campsite location. On day two paddle 12 miles to Kohler-Andrae State Park or return to Port Washington. Map [PDF]

More information

Last revised: Wednesday November 09 2016