Over the years it seems Wisconsin’s summer weather has become less and less dependable. Often, it doesn’t start to warm up until mid June or later.
September, however, might be the new summer.
With temperatures regularly above 70 degrees, lots of sunshine and a crisp "fall is in the air" breeze, it seems like a more dependable time of year to plan an outdoor activity.
We had this exact thought recently when we went to Milwaukee Kayak Company and canoed the Downtown waterways on a beautiful afternoon.
"Fall is a great time to spend on the water because the heat of summer has finally broken, allowing a comfortable and pleasant air temperature," says owner Beth Handle. "The change of season brings different characteristics of nature as well including the change of colors, scent of the air and overall comfort."
As Tom Held originally reported last spring, Handle – the former marketing manager for Laacke & Joys – opened the small canoe and kayak rental business with money she saved up from her marketing job.
Handle opened Milwaukee Kayak with 15 kayaks, two canoes and two stand-up paddleboards. The cost to rent a kayak is $25 for four hours and $35 to rent a canoe. Each additional hour is $10.
Children under 12 must paddle with a partner. Tandem kayaks are available.
Paddlers can explore parts of the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers for a truly city-meets-nature excursion. Handle provides a map – laminated and therefore waterproof – which is really helpful.
Even though we had some prior experience canoeing (which you don’t need to have), we quickly realized that the wind was in charge. On the way out – we paddled toward the Harley Museum – it was in our favor and made the canoeing effortless. On the way back, however, we really got a workout.
One of the high points of the paddle was pausing under a Third Ward bridge and watching it rise for larger boats. So often we had observed this from our car on the street; it was an interesting perspective to see it from below.
Sitting in a kayak or canoe is a very up-close-and-personal way to access the waterways. Because you are physically closer to the water – closer than when on a pontoon or a sailboat – it’s a totally at-one-with-the-water experience. (But not too "at one" because, let's face it, no one wants to swim in the river.)
Paddling around Downtown and beyond also makes a great date, especially because you can stop for food and drink. There are numerous places with docks, including the Milwaukee Ale House, Rustico, Water Buffalo, The Harp, the Twisted Fisherman (you'll get a free drink with a meal purchase if you paddle up), Barnacle Buds and Horny Goat.
"We'll provide ties for your boats and ask that you bring your life jacket with you when you exit your boat," says Handle. "We'll show you how to get in a boat from a dock so you'll be familiar with getting in on your own. And we'll review the Urban Water Trail Map."
The business is open until the end of September.
"Or until I have my baby, due in early October," says Handle.
Milwaukee Kayak Company is a member of Local First Milwaukee, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Visit Milwaukee and the ACA Association.
"My love for our city, local waterways and the sport of paddling is what drove me to open Milwaukee Kayak Company. We are lucky to have an Urban Water Trail and I wanted to share the sport of kayaking through our city in a safe, healthy, fun, educational and unique experience," says Handle.
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.