This description is being included in the AW listings primarily in case some boater in the area figures they've made a discovery of an 'unknown' bit of whitewater.
Above the Mill Pond, Oak Creek could provide some very mild swiftwater/whitewater entertainment since there are a few areas of (minor) gradient containing riffles, rips, and minor rapids and logjam/rootball 'pourovers'. However, we cannot recommend attempting to boat upstream of the Mill Pond. Why? The creek is heavily modified, having been long ago straightened (not necessarily 'straight', just smoothed, altered course) channelized (a few areas of cement or otherwise armored streambanks), and confined for the convenience of building roads, houses and businesses along its banks. When the creek leaves the most heavily altered area and enters more natural, wooded banks, it is highly prone to deadfall and snags. In such a small, tight creek, any deadfall will be difficult to avoid, and it is likely it will be difficult (at any elevated flows, at least) to find slackwater or eddies to safely get out and portage.
The Mill Pond has (over the years) silted in, and is generally quite shallow. Water spills over the dam and lands on very shallow uniform bedrock. DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT GOING OVER THE DAM!
Immediately after the dam, water rushes under Mill Street bridge, sheeting across sloping bedrock, and encounters a bit of a pool. A fine looking wave sometimes builds up here (with moderate flows). Play would be possible, but putting in above the wave (to run the brief approach, eddy out, and play) is quite awkward. (Slightly more conveniently, one can skip the run-in by putting in the pool.) Also, any time the creek runs that high, water quality is fairly disgusting, and there tends to be much trash and debris in the eddies. In addition, this pool is an extremely popular spot for area fishermen who are likely to be quite displeased to yeild any amount to your presence. (In my experience (every time I passed by to look at this spot), it is rare to find the river with boatable flows without at least a handful of fishermen throughout this area.)
Coming out of the pool below the dam, the creek spills across a mess of rock rubble as it takes a sharp left bend to pass under the parkway road. Shortly downstream, it spills across a (very short, 6"-1') artificial ledge (which creates a small wave/hole at many flows) which could allow some very minor surfs. Downstream to the lake the river winds back and forth through the wooded parkway. No additional rapids are encountered, though there will be strong current and some splishy-splash waves. The riverbanks are almost all vertical stone walls, so getting out and around deadfall is virtually impossible, and deadfall and snags are very common through here!
Since there is really only the one significant feature (the wave in the pool below the dam, the listed put in), and since the whole stretch is so prone to deadfall, and since it is so heavily fished, (oh, and, did I mention? It is also technically not legal. Milwaukee County Ordinance disallows boating anyplace off County Parkway property unless an OFFICIALLY designated launch/landing site has been authorized. There is none here.), . . . so we do not recommend trying to boat this creek. If/when there is adequate water for this to be boatable, there will be other things in the Greater Milwaukee area which are more worthwhile (and generally less dangerous) to boat.
25 sq.mi., 631.13' above sea level, 2.8 mi. US of mouth.
(Lake Michigan mean elevation is 580', thus ~51' total drop to lake from gauge, for 18 FPM gradient. Unfortunately, 12-15' of that is backed up by the unrunnable Mill Dam, leaving maybe 13 FPM as the effective gradient.)
This is a small watershed (only 25 square miles at gauge, 2.8 miles upstream of the mouth, at Lake Michigan), and most generally an urban watershed. This means that it will 'flash' up quite quickly with a good rain, and down (nearly as quickly) when the rain has ceased. Since USGS may update gauges online only 2-4 times a day, the gauge may be rather unreliable as a means of determining (or 'anticipating') boatable flow in this creek. (Probably just as well, since boating the creek is NOT ADVISED.)
Permits are not required for this reach.
If bothered with at all, this is most likely to be done as a 'park-and-play' just below the Mill Dam (at the listed put-in), thus you are likely to ignore the shuttle directions below.Even in the event that you opt to run the listed reach, you will likely use a different route than what is shown, to end up at the parking lot just north of the mouth of the river on Lake Michigan, using the parkway road for your shuttle.Either way, the more likely use of this mapping page will be for you to enter your home or other starting address in the text-entry box to then get drive time, distance, and directions to this location.
Mouth of Oak Creek
One more snag.
Had enough snags yet?
Small ledge and downstream view.
Downstream of first bridge.
Runout from pool.
Eroded shore, and view of eddy/pool.
Garbage in the pool.
Looking across the wave.
The wave and pool on Oak Creek.
Mill Street Dam
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