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Estabrook Dam removal "Option 3a"rock ramp

Option 3A was one of several options offered by Milwaukee County in its Environmental Impact Report. This option would have removed the Estabrook Dam and add a natural looking "Rock Ramp" (similar to a full stream fish ramp) that would provide fish pasage and raise the water level enough to provide for safe and acccessible quiet water recreation in the Park.

The impact of the Dam (or no Dam) on Lincoln Park

137 Areial photo
1937 Aerial Photo (click for larger image)

While the Dam is most often associated with Estabrook Park, its greatest impact is in Lincoln Park just above the Dam.  We’ve had an opportunity to experience Lincoln Park with its full-pond lake of over 100 acres.  And in the past several years, we’ve experienced it with no dam in place.

Lincoln Park is a place much like Milwaukee, where rivers meet.  It has over 4 miles of shoreline, numerous islands, wetlands and diverse wildlife that includes beavers, mink, otters, muskrats, herons, multiple varieties of turtles, hawks, owls and much more.  We urge everyone to get into a canoe or kayak and explore what is very nearly an urban paddler’s paradise. 

Our Mission and Vision

The Friends of Lincoln Park Vision Statement includes this provision:

“We promote appreciation for our rivers and accessibility for safe and quiet water recreation”.

1950 Aerial Photo
1950 Aerial Photo

Water Levels and Water Recreation

After the construction of the Dam in 1937, channels in Lincoln Park were widened from a width of about 150 feet to what is now over 1200 feet at its widest, if you combine the width of the three channels that go through the park.  This area made up the lake that residents knew and used for about 70 years.  Let me just explain what happens to the river in Lincoln Park when the dam is open.  There is a water level gage just below the dam that paddlers commonly use to determine paddling conditions. The river at the Estabrook gage in the summer averages around 2 feet and the river is 130 feet wide at the gage.  In a channel that ranges from 1200 to 600 feet wide, that makes the average water depth in the Lincoln Park channel between 3 and 5 inches.  This makes for a lot of getting out and pulling your boat across sand bars.  Sometimes, when the gage drops to 1.6 feet or less, paddlers know that it’s futile to even try to get through the park.  While “Swimmable” waters may be decades away, you are never going to swim in waters that are 3-5 inches deep.

Lincoln Park Friends, Statement on the removal of the Estabrook Dam

In 2016 the board of directors of the Friends of Lincoln Park has discussed the impacts of various decisions and made this statement:

We urge the community and Milwaukee County to consider our belief that with the dam removed, with no effort to remediate water levels in Lincoln Park, paddling for novice or learning paddlers (youth, in particular), is very difficult.  Wetland habitate is likely to dry up as low areas gradually fill in. It’s for these reasons that we have advocated for the community to consider Option 3a, the lower-level impoundment created by a natural looking rock-ramp.  This option was outlined in the county’s draft EIS but got lost in everyone’s scramble to take sides.  Folks, it does not have to be just “Dam or No Dam”  There are alternatives that would satisfy some of the needs of both sides and particularly have a positive impact on this gleaming gem in the “Emerald necklace” that is Lincoln park.

In the Winter of 2018, the Estabrook Dam was removed. Time will determine the impact on paddle recreation in Lincoln Park.

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(This link goes to PayPal link for The Parks People, our fiscal sponsor. It should specify the donation is for Lincoln Park)

Suggested annual membership donations:
$25 Individual, $50 Family, $100 Sustaining,
$250 Lifetime, $10 Student/volunteer/low income

or print this Membership Form to pay by mail
(Checks must be sent payable to Park People, add Lincoln Park on memo line)
Friends of Lincoln Park
c/o The Park People
1845 N Farwell Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Email us at LincolnParkInfo@gmail.com with questions or comments

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