Ozaukee is fast becoming a destination for kayakers and canoeists in the area, whether they prefer the open waters of Lake Michigan or exploring the rivers and creeks. Choosing a location truly depends upon the boat and how it, and the boater, handles different water conditions.
The Ozaukee Coast has a wonderful shoreline, flat and sandy in the north and rocky with towering bluffs in the south. The Ozaukee Coast is included in the developing Lake Michigan Water Trail https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/lakemichigan/ and there will likely be more kayaks along the coast as the trail attracts visitors from distant shores.
Just a note, if one kayaks south from Port Washington and stays close to shore, it seems far from civilization as the cliffs obstruct views beyond the rocky beaches. A kayak from the South Beach Kayak Launch to Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve takes anywhere from a half to an hour and a half in good waters. Lion’s Den is a nice place to pull in to shore for a rest and a beach walk before heading back to South Beach.
Remember to always check weather and wind conditions http://www.wunderground.com/MAR/LM/644.html before kayaking on Michigan. Be sure your kayak is designed for open water and you have experience in that setting. On many days, you may be the only boat along the coast so you need to be self-reliant.
Places to launch on Lake Michigan from north to south:
(Link to map goes here when map is completed)
Pebble Beach Road
There is a small access to the beach at the east end of Pebble Beach Road. Parking is limited to the road side. It could be a nice starting place to launch and then kayak over to Harrington Beach, especially if someone would meet you there with your vehicle as the parking is so limited.
County Hwy D - the very east end of the road. - parking lot for 11 or 12 vehicles
At the north border of Harrington Beach State Park, this is a great place to launch and land, and is a little shorter carry from parking to the water than inside of the park itself.
Harrington Beach State Park (kayak camp sites available)
Kayaks can be launched from the sandy beach just east of the Visitors’ Center. There is convenient access to bathrooms, changing areas and snacks when the visitor center is open. There are kayak only camping sites in the park.
Cedar Beach Road -
(At the south border of Harrington Beach State Park) Although this shows on the maps as water access, there is no actual parking and little space at all. Take Sauk Trail Road, just a little west of there, north and passing through the park, to Hwy. D or turn off in the park to the Visitor Center to launch. (Need a park sticker for your vehicle in the park.)
Sandy Beach Road
There is a small access to the beach at the east end of Sandy Beach Road. Parking is limited to the side of the road. Parking is allowed from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
South Port Beach Kayak and Canoe Launch - parking for 20 vehicles
This is the newest kayak launch site in the county. It is directly south of the WeEnergies Power Plant at the south end of Port Washington. There is plenty of parking, picnic tables and a very short carry to the sandy beach.
Places to land as noted on the Lake Michigan Trail map (LINK when available) in addition to the launch places above:
Lake Drive - north of Port Washington
This road deadends above the lake. There is no actual parking. The end of the road is lined with guardrails and there is a drop through woods to get to the beach. It is not currently marked from the shore, so ignoring this option on the map may be the best option.
Upper/Lower Lake Park Upper/Lower Lake Park - Port Washington
It is possible to launch from the lower park on the sandy beach, but it is long carry to get there from parking and with South Beach so close, seems unnecessary. One can launch easily at South Beach and then paddle north to the public beach.
A kayak can be launched at the public boat launch in the marina in Port Washington, but the traffic with larger motorized boats is usually heavy and launching there requires paddling out past the breakwater just to return to the shoreline either north or south.
Fisherman’s Park - Port Washington
On the maps as an access, but not much space for landing a kayak, if at all. Might be okay to paddle around in there, but watch for larger boats and lots of fishing lines.
Veterans Memorial Park - Port Washington
On the maps as an access, but not much for landing a kayak, if at all. Might be okay to paddle around in there, but watch for larger boats and lots of fishing lines.
Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve - Town of Grafton
This is a wonderful kayak destination from Port Washington. The beach is a bit rocky with some exposed bedrock here and there, so landing in calm waters is suggested. The beach is quite long and an interesting stream enters the lake right on the beach. It would be a very long carry up the bluff staircase and even longer to the parking areas, so Lion’s Den is best as a stopover.
Concordia University - Mequon
This is easy to spot from the water as the bluff has been terraformed. There is room to pull in for a landing but this site is not set up for launching.
Virmond County Park - Mequon
Very pretty beach but no access up the bluff to the park itself. Climbing is possible but very hard on the bluffs and increases erosion.
Rivers and Creeks
For river kayaking, it is important to understand the dangers present in rising and rushing flood waters especially in early Spring and sometimes later on. In the dry season, some stretches of the rivers and creeks become too shallow and require short portages or pulling your boat along as you walk The Ozaukee County main page site provides links to some Milwaukee River information on water levels (bottom center of page) http://www.co.ozaukee.wi.us/ or flow rates at http://www.usgs.gov
For kayaking and canoeing south into Milwaukee, check this link to the map of the Milwaukee Urban Water Trail which begins in Mequon-Thiensville on the north http://www.mkeriverkeeper.org/sites/default/files/muwt_map_0.pdf
Milwaukee River access sites from north to south
Waubedonia County Park - Fredonia
Riveredge Nature Center - Newburg
Tendick (County) Nature Park - Town of Saukville
Ehlers County Park - Town of Saukville
Town of Graftom Canoe/Kayak Launch - Grafton
River Island Golf Course - Village of Grafton
Veterans Memorial Park - Village of Grafton
Riverfront Park - Village of Grafton
Lime Kiln Park - Village of Grafton
Garrison’s Glen - Mequon
Villa Grove Park - Thiensville
Riverview Park - Thiensville
Donald A. Molyneux Park - Thiensville
River Barn Park - Mequon
Cedar Creek sites for launching and landing from north to south
Creekside Park - Cedarburg
Krohn Park Public Canoe Launch - Cedarburg
Covered Bridge Park - Cedarburg
Cedar Creek Farms Canoe Launch - Cedarburg
Grafton Lions Park - Grafton
Boy Scout Park - Cedarburg