Have you viewed Lakeshore State Park from the water?

There’s lots to love about summer at Lakeshore State Park, but one of our favorites: It’s the season for paddle boats!

“For my money it’s the best view in the city,” said Timothy Ritter, owner of Lakeshore Paddle Sport Rentals. Tim and wife Val operate their business mid-May through mid-September, depending on the weather. “The water is so clean, and the breezes, and going by Summerfest … it’s just a really unique spot.”

Lakeshore Paddle Sport Rentals gives visitors a chance to experience the park from a different vantage point by paddling around the Maritime Water Basin and the Quiet Water Basin between Lakeshore State Park and the Summerfest grounds. Rent a paddleboat or hydrobike and you’ll have a non-polluting way to get around while getting exercise, too.

It’s a great activity for families, friends, or anyone who enjoys being on the water.

For my money it’s the best view in the city. The water is so clean, and the breezes, and going by Summerfest … it’s just a really unique spot.

Timothy Ritter

A few tips to keep in mind when renting from Lakeshore Paddle Sport Rentals: 

  •  If you’re a 2022 Park Pal or Prairie Patron, you’ll have a separate email* from us today that you can use to get discounted paddle boat and hydrobike rentals.  Don’t lose that email – it’s good all summer!  That same email also will give you information on claiming a discount at Milwaukee Kayak Company this summer.
  • Bring water or soft drinks to enjoy while you paddle. Each rental is for an hour, so you’ll appreciate having refreshments.
  • It’s a good idea to bring a hat and sunglasses. The paddle boats have canopies for shade, but on a sunny day there’s plenty of glare off the water.
  • A life vest is included with your rental.
  • Bring your (small) pet!

 About that last piece of advice: Ritter said he has seen all kinds of pets join their humans on the water. “We’ve had dogs, cats, snakes, turtles,” Ritter said. “It’s such a fun thing to do.”

But to Ritter, the people are what make his job rewarding. “We have nothing but nice people and families as customers, it’s a joy.” Many are out-of-towners who ask his advice about things to do. “And they just gush, people just gush about Milwaukee and the downtown. It gets me right in the heart.”

*If you are a 2022 Prairie Pal or Prairie Patron and did not get the discount email, send a message to admin@friendslsp.org with your full name and approximate date of contribution and we’ll get the discount email out to you right away.

President’s Message – July 2022

The heat is on and summer is in full swing with many wonderful events going on around Milwaukee. Looking for a place to chill? It’s cooler by the lake, and our beautiful state park is surrounded by water!

There are many ways to cool off at the park. You can check out one of them in our feature article this month by volunteer Diane Bacha.

We have 14 events scheduled at the park this month, several available as bilingual, listed here on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LakeshoreStateParkMKE/events/. One is our first ever food truck event to be held inside the park on July 10th, the day after Summerfest winds down. Along with great food there will be live music and family-activities to help keep the party going.

These many park events are made possible thanks to the hard work of the Wisconsin DNR staff. Park supervisor Angela Vickio oversees our park as well as Havenwoods State Forest and Hank Aaron State Trail. She’s introducing our new park manager Elaine Zautke. Stop and say hi to Elaine and the DNR staff when you see them at the park.

So come out to the park, enjoy the summer sun and one or more of our free events – happy Fourth of July everyone!

David Wenstrup

President, Friends of Lakeshore State Park


Spring migration, when many bird species visit town en route to their final destination, is a special time for birders. And Lakeshore State Park, with its mix of lakefront and prairie habitats, is a special place to take advantage of this opportunity.

Since June is the last month of spring migration season, we asked blogger and birder Nathaniel Wegner for some tips about taking advantage of it. Nathaniel, a home-schooled high school student who lives in Greendale, has been birding since 2017. He travels the state to explore parks and other natural environments and appreciates the unique experience each place offers.

“The number of species moving through our area is extremely fun to witness,” said Nathaniel. “The majority of Milwaukee’s shorebirds, warblers, and thrushes (and many sparrows and flycatchers) are migratory, so spring and fall are our only shot at seeing most of these species.”

At LSP, Nathaniel’s personal favorite during spring migration is the American Avocet. “Through the years, Lakeshore has been the best area in Milwaukee county to see this species,” he said. “It’s such a distinctive looking species in a class of birds that’s notorious for looking very similar, with its cinnamon colored head, black and white wings, and blue-grey legs.” You can usually find American Avocets on the beach along with other migrating shorebirds.

Nathaniel has been to many other parks with beaches, large grassy areas, rocks by the lake or rain gardens, but he considers LSP unique. “I think it’s the combination of all of these habitats (and in a relatively small area, in the middle of downtown) that gives it such bird diversity.”

You can learn more about birding at Nathaniel’s blog, Sunday Birders. And watch the Friends’ website for more tips from him about bird-watching at LSP.


Nathaniel Wegner Credit: Photo by Steve Wegner
Nathaniel Wegner Credit: Photo by Steve Wegner

President’s Message – June 2022

Making Lakeshore State Park a beautiful and thriving place takes a lot of work and your Friends organization plays a key role in making that happen.

We partner with the Wisconsin DNR and our community to support the park as Milwaukee’s premier lakefront destination for environmental and freshwater education, conservation, recreation, and outdoor enjoyment – for everyone!

Thanks to generous donations, memberships, and the support of the Friends over the past year, the park prairies have been further improved, the ADA-accessible fishing pier re-decked, the goose population remediated with a non-toxic solution, and multiple events held such as Cracking Arts Rebirth “swallows”, beach bonfires, and MKE Doors Open.

 And as the season turns towards summer, Lakeshore State Park is again abuzz with activity! We’re excited about programs and events being planned. We’ve just add over 4,500 native prairie plants. Our grant-funded bilingual park educator has over a dozen educational events planned at the park in June alone – with much more to come!

The need for these kinds of programs grows, so won’t you please help the Friends of Lakeshore State Park continue the work to make our park a thriving lakefront destination for everyone?

Become a Park Pal or Prairie Patron today!  This year joining or renewing at any level qualifies you for discounted rentals at Lakeshore Paddle Sport Rentals and Milwaukee Kayak Company.  See the park from a new angle!

David Wenstrup
President, Board of Directors

Park Property Supervisor Update – May 2022

Thank you to all the volunteers that came out for the Milwaukee Riverkeeper Spring Cleanup at Lakeshore State Park! Your work helped prevent dozens of bags worth of litter and debris from making its way into our precious resource of Lake Michigan, and it was one of the nicest weather days we’ve had for the event in years!

As we move to warmer weather, park staff and volunteers are working to make sure our prairies are ready for spring. You may see some of the prairies mowed back, in an effort to encourage mulch formation after they’ve served their purpose of food and habitat for winter wildlife. This practice also allows us to identify and remove invasive plants that seek to establish and take over prior to our native warm weather grasses and forbs emerging.

Thanks to contributions to the Friends of Lakeshore State Park, we are continuing efforts to restore our second largest prairie to native grasses and forbs. Our order of 4,548 prairie plants are set to be delivered the week of May 23rd. We are in need of all the help we can get (many hands make light work) for volunteer shifts 9-11:30am and 1-3:30pm daily on May 25th, 26th and 27th. To sign up for a shift (or a few), visit https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/volunteer and follow the instructions for becoming a volunteer in our State Park System!

Migratory waterfowl are making their way back for summer, with recent sightings of a couple northern shovelers, American black ducks, and blue winged teal. American avocets are also on their way through, so keep your eyes open along the shoreline and quiet water basin at the park!


Avocets at the Park

We’ve got a number of events coming up in May, including our first beach ‘bonfire’ of the season, hope to see you there! All events meet at the north entrance unless otherwise noted.

Saturday May 7th, 9-10:30am Lakeshore History Hike
Sunday May 8th, 1-2pm Walk with Mom
Saturday May 14th, 9:30-10:30am Bird Hike
Wednesday May 18th, 6-7pm Bubble Walk
Wednesday May 18th, 7-9pm Beach ‘Bonfire’ (meet at pebble beach)
Saturday May 21st, 10-11:30am Kids Fishing Clinic (meet at south entrance near BMO Harris stage)
Saturday May 28th, 10-11 am Prairie Phenology Hike

Angela Vickio

Looking for a group activity? Think about scheduling a Lakeshore State Park tour!

It’s a place to walk, run, picnic, fish, fly kites and more. But did you know Lakeshore State Park is also a classroom?

Each year, the park hosts dozens of group tours, walks and workshops on topics ranging from prairie ecology and native wildlife to Great Lakes history and the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly. Many are scheduled by teachers who bring science lessons to life as their students learn about animal tracking, fish identification and migratory bird patterns.

But anyone who’s curious can find a group activity just right for them. Think out-of-town wedding guests, book clubs, family reunions, church groups, drawing clubs — Lakeshore State Park offers enough variety to engage everyone.

“We welcome groups of all kinds. For those with limited mobility, for instance, we can keep walking to a minimum and stick to the paved trails. For kids, we can set up fishing clinics, fun hands-on activities and laboratory exercises. Other folks simply love to stroll the park and learn about prairie plant life.”

Park Superintendent Angela Vickio

Whenever possible, park staff will do their best to customize the experience.  Educators will be interested to know that programs can be tailored to fit curriculum needs, and many follow Next Generation Science Standards.

Angela advises planning in advance to ensure you can schedule a time that’s available. Most visits take about two hours.

The cost for a field trip is $30 for groups of under 15 participants and $2 per person for groups larger than 15. Chaperones accompanying children’s groups are free. To schedule, simply call or email Angela at (414) 750-1237, Angela.Vickio@wisconsin.gov.

Learn more on our Education page or download our brochure.