Lisa Bonvissuto
City Business

Milwaukee Kayak Company

With its rental kayaks and canoes, you can easily explore all three rivers.

By - Jul 21st, 2014 12:58 pm
Kayaking toward the Hoan.  Photo courtesy of Beth Handle.

Kayaking toward the Hoan. Photo courtesy of Beth Handle.

For six years, Beth Handle worked as a marketing manager for Laacke & Joys, saving her money and dreaming of opening her own kayaking company. Handle was always outdoorsy, but her work at Laacke & Joys introduced her to the sport of kayaking. While working with local organizations and tourists and doing paddle demos around town, she gained an appreciation for the city’s rivers and wanted to work more with them. Thus Milwaukee Kayak Company was born in 2013.

The company rents kayaks and canoes and offers “guided paddles” from a marina along the Milwaukee River at 318 N. Water St., not far from the Next Act Theatre. The location starts paddlers on the Milwaukee River, but also allows easy access to the Menomonee River and the Kinnickinnic River. As the company website notes, “Our unique location provides a beautiful view of the Milwaukee River, Hoan Bridge and historic train bridge.”

Handle’s goal is simple: “to provide a healthy activity for locals and for people visiting Milwaukee to get them on the rivers,” she says. But she also hopes that through this, they can “see the city from a different angle and gain a deeper appreciation for it and the quality of its rivers.”

Customers are given a quick lesson in how to operate a canoe or kayak and an explanation of various pathways and sights to see along the way, and then set off on their trip. Rates allow up to four hours of use, and are $25 for kayaks, $40 for canoes, $40 for tandem kayaks and $25 for paddleboards. The company also offers guided paddles on Wednesday nights, which Handle says “are perfect for people kayaking by themselves, and for beginners.”

Milwaukee Kayak Company offered a free paddle demo on July 19th at Lakeshore State Park and will also be bringing kayaks to the Urban Island Beach Party (hosted by Newaukee) on August 1st, as well as partnering with Milwaukee Riverkeeper for guided paddles on the last Tuesday of every month at 5:30 p.m.  The next one, on July 29th, will feature a discussion on river restoration and the biology of rivers.

Handle is very active in the community with groups such as Visit Milwaukee and Local First Milwaukee.  For the latter, she serves on the board of the marketing committee, which helps organize and schedule events in town.  Being a member of Visit Milwaukee has allowed Beth access to travel writers who encourage tourists to check out the Milwaukee rivers by kayak.  “They’ve been good to us,” Beth says.

Milwaukee weather, of course, makes kayaking and canoeing a seasonal business. Milwaukee Kayak Company typically runs from late May until late October, with July its busiest month.  Reservations are recommended for those looking to rent on weekends, but otherwise you could probably get away with showing up at the launch site. Rentals are available Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 9:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.

The company website recommends you wear lightweight, synthetic, quick dry clothing. “Try to avoid wearing jeans and heavy clothing. You may want to bring a rain jacket… Bring sunglasses, sunblock and a hat for protection.”

Milwaukee Kayak Company, 318 South Water Street.

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Categories: Business, City Business

One thought on “City Business: Milwaukee Kayak Company”

  1. Andrey says:

    Save some money and sign up at the Urban Ecology Center to borrow a kayak or other equipment for up to three days.

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