Site History

300,000 years ago:

Glaciers formed and covered the area

12,000 years ago:

First evidence of nomadic native tribes in Milwaukee area.

10,000 years ago:

Glaciers retreated, leaving behind basins filled with water (the Great Lakes)

1,000 years ago:

Hunter and Gatherer’ Natives began to make settlements along the Milwaukee River where it connects to Lake Michigan.

1600 – Early 1800s:

Both Native and European settlements coexisted until Natives were forced out with the expansion of the European fur trade.


European Settlement. Wetland areas around the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers were gradually and laboriously filled in to increase access to the rivers and support a growing city population. In this particular area, the original shoreline would have been up to 1,000 feet inland!


Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District begins construction of the Deep Tunnel Project. Rock powder and shards generated from the tunneling machine was deposited along Milwaukee’s lakefront to protect the festival grounds and provide a safe area for ships in inclement weather.


Harbor Island was opened when soil and Kentucky bluegrass were laid over large mounds of the limestone and dolomite tunnel debris. A crushed stone path was laid around the perimeter, allowing it to become a very popular fishing site.


Governor Tommy Thompson developed a vision for a State Park in Milwaukee’s urban setting.


Approval for the transition from Harbor Island to Lakeshore State Park by the DNR Board.


Lakeshore State Park officially opened in June, making it Wisconsin’s only urban state park. The Park is continuously undergoing prairie restoration, which includes planting and maintaining native forbs (flowering plants) and short prairie grasses.

Park History Brochure