Lake Michigan State Water Trail
Launch the interactive web map application.
The 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. The mapping application is a web-based system that allows paddlers to locate and obtain information for access to Lake Michigan.
- Trail overview, access and camping
The Lake Michigan Water Trail 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.
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.
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.
Paddlers are strongly encouraged to use developed and carry-in access sites. Alternative access sites are not ideal and could present challenges or conflict with adjacent landowners. Emergency sites should only be considered in emergency situations.
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 that 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.
- Web map features and frequently asked questions
Please press the toolbox icon in the upper right part of the interactive map to open up a list of map tools. While the toolbox features important functions you can perform within the map, the “I want to…” box will be the way you can customize the map layers and see the map legend.
Why is the map not available?
The web map server might be down temporarily. Please try again in a few minutes. If it still isn't available, contact us.
How can I see air photos/topographic information - or how do I use them?
Click on the Map Layers or Show Layers buttons. Scroll to bottom of list and select 2010 Air Photos (WROC). If the text is grayed-out, click the text and select "Zoom to Visible Scale" to see this layer. Aerial photos are designed to display between 1:200 and 1:500,000 scale.
How do I see additional detail?
You can zoom in or out by using the scroll wheel on your mouse. Users can also press the "Zoom In" or "Zoom Out" buttons on the left side of the map, then single click using your left mouse button, or draw a box around your desired destination using the Ctrl key and your left mouse button. You can also zoom in or out pressing the + or - keys on the zoom slider on the left side of the map.
How do I find out detailed information for a specific site?
After you've zoomed into your specific site, click on "Identify" button above the map. Then click on the site. A name should appear in the column on the left side of the map. Click on the name, and a pop-up box with specific information will appear.
I see coordinate positions reported on the map system; can I use these with my GPS?
The accuracy of these lat/long, utm, or wtm coordinates is unknown. While we have generally found it to be quite good, we do not consider it to be an appropriate tool for, say, collecting lat/long coordinates and incorporating them into a database. These coordinates are generated "on-the-fly" by the application. You must be aware of how your GPS collects, stores and displays data.
The information shown on these maps has been obtained from various sources, and are of varying age, reliability and resolution. These maps are not intended to be used for navigation, nor are these maps an authoritative source of information about legal land ownership or public access. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made regarding accuracy, applicability for a particular use, completeness or legality of the information depicted on this map.
For more information, see the Terms and Conditions.
- Suggested segments
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 8 miles around this beautiful and primitive place. Map
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
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
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
Milwaukee South Shore Marina to Bradford Beach - Paddle along the shore or along the break wall. Either way, this 5-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
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 9 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