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A Special WUWM News SeriesThe Milwaukee River allowed commerce and industry to thrive during the city's formative years and provided recreation. However, disregard for the river's health led to decades of decay.WUWM News explores recent developments to rejuvenate the Milwaukee River and their success at drawing people back to the city's historic arterial.

Unusual Tracks on Milwaukee River

Some outdoor enthusiasts seem to have discovered a new use for the Milwaukee River this winter.

In downtown, much of the Milwaukee River is frozen and we’ve noticed tracks on top, from snowmobiles and at least one cross country skier.

We asked DNR Recreational Safety Warden Jason Roberts if such activity is legal.

He says, it is.

Tracks are visible on the Milwaukee River near the Clybourn St. bridge,

“The frozen waters, whether they are open or frozen, people of the state have free use of the lakes under the federal trust doctrine. Basically, if you can ‘keep your feet wet, or keep your feet on solid ice,’ you are legal, you are not trespassing,” Roberts says.

Roberts says wardens have not received complaints about snowmobile use of the river.

Still, he urges caution.

“You know ice is inherently unsafe because it is unpredictable, especially river ice where water levels change and water is continuously moving,” Roberts says.

Roberts says river snowmobilers and skiers should wear floatation coats and carry ice picks, in case anyone falls through the ice.

The Department of Natural Resources shares jurisdiction of the Milwaukee River with the U.S. Coast Guard and the City of Milwaukee.