waterfall at Wehr Nature Center in Franklin Wisconsin

5 Beautiful Waterfalls in Milwaukee County (2023)

waterfall at Wehr Nature Center in Franklin Wisconsin
The waterfall at Wehr Nature Center in Franklin.

1. Wehr Nature Center / Whitnall Park

Nestled in beautiful Whitnall Park is Milwaukee County’s very own Wehr Nature Center. It’s the perfect destination for a family with young kids looking for easy hiking trails and accessible wildlife watching. 

Start at the Visitor Center and drop a donation into the box near the parking lot. 

Yu’ll see a Nature Play Space and Nature Center nearby overlooking Mallard Lake. 

For kid-friendly hikes, walk down the short hill from the Visitor Center. Turn left for the Lake Loop / Waterfall and turn right for Family Friendly Trail. Check out the Trail Map here.

Lake Loop / Waterfall

Follow the path along Mallard Lake and look for frogs and turtles in the clearings. It’s frog mating season right now so you’ll hear them croaking throughout the hike. Less than a half a mile into your walk, you’ll stumble upon the waterfall into the Root River. It’s a great place to stop for a snack. If your kids are up for it, you can do the entire loop around the lake (1.5 miles), or just turn around and head back to the Visitor Center. We recommend carrying your non-walkers since the path is not stroller-friendly. Bring masks because it’s hard to distance when you pass others on the trail.⠀

Family Friendly Trail

If you turn right on the path below the Visitor Center you’ll find a stroller-friendly boardwalk. It’s called Family-Friendly Trail and it’s only .5 miles long. You’ll see beautiful birds and you may spot a wild turkey. Wehr’s website says, “This trail showcases the diversity of Wehr’s natural communities in a family friendly distance. It begins at the Amphitheater and takes you by Mallard Lake, the Wetland, and the Woodland before returning you to the Visitor Center.  Benches and photo opportunities are frequent as you walk over level to moderately sloping terrain on paths of wood chips and boardwalk.”

Don’t forget

✔️Use the bathroom before you leave the house! There are no restrooms.

✔️Pack sunscreen, bug spray, water, and snacks. 

✔️Check for ticks when you get home. 


2. Lake Park Waterfall

Photo from milwaukeeparks.blogspot.com.

The lannon stone waterfall in Lake Park was restored in 2010 and has a vertical fall of more than 30 feet, the highest in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Lake Park was designed in the early 1900s by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who was also the architect for Central Park in New York City and the U.S. Capitol grounds.

You can access the Lake Park Waterfall via a path that begins at an overlook just south of the Lake Park Pavilion parking lot. The wooded path leads down to Lincoln Memorial Drive.


3. Kletzsch Park Dam

Photo from www.fundforlakemichigan.org.

Kletzsch Park in Glendale is home to a beautiful waterfall (officially a dam) located on Milwaukee River Parkway and along the Oak Leaf Trail.

It’s a great stop for a snack or rest, and there are a couple of playgrounds nearby. One is located in Kletzsch Park just north of the waterfall, and another is located at Parkway Elementary School south of the waterfall (not open to the public during school hours).

Maslowski Park and playground is also about a five minute drive away.


4. Boerner Botanical Garden

The rock garden’s trickling waterfalls are located in the back of Boerner Botanical Gardens.

Boerner Botanical Gardens are home to formal gardens situated on Boerner Drive in Whitnall Park in the village of Hales Corners, about 15 minutes from Milwaukee.

Visitors can walk through the rose garden and peony garden, as well as variety of annuals and perennials. Plus, there’s a fragrant herb garden, a daylily path, and a serene rock garden with trickling streams and waterfalls (pictured above).

There’s also a brand new children’s garden called Margie’s Garden, which is included with admission.


5. Grant Park, Mill Pond Dam

The Mill Pond Spillway is located in Grant Park in South Milwaukee along the Oak Creek Parkway.

Built by John Fowle in the early 1840s, this dam helped operate both a gristmill and a sawmill. The millstones, thought to be the oldest man-made items in South Milwaukee survive on the site and can be seen lying on either side of the dam.  It is now owned by Milwaukee County and is part of the Oak Creek parkway.

Find out more on milwaukeehistory.net.


More Wisconsin Waterfalls:

North Country Trail

The North Country Scenic Trail and Lake Superior.The North Country Scenic Trail and Lake Superior.

Up for a road trip? The North Country National Scenic Trail delivers some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the United States. It runs through 8 states from Vermont to North Dakota, including northern Wisconsin.

The Western Wisconsin segment runs from the Minnesota/Wisconsin State Line to Bayfield County A. This segment offers mostly flat trails and gentle slopes with some expansive vistas. You’ll see old growth groves of red and white pine trees and in the late summer the prairies are abundant with flowers. There are many streams along this segment and the eastern part of this segment runs along small, pristine lakes.

Along this segment you’ll find Pattison State Park, which features the tallest waterfalls in Wisconsin and fourth highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. Big Manitou Falls is 165 feet high (It’s Wisconsin’s largest waterfall) and the smaller falls called Twin Little Manitou Falls, is 31 feet high.

Pattison State Park waterfall along the North Country TrailPattison State Park along the North Country Trail

The oldest section of the Trail in Wisconsin is the Chequamegon National Forest, running from Bayfield County A to the Sandstone Ledges Spur Trail in Copper Falls State Park.

The trails pass through gentle terrain and two federally designated Wilderness Areas: Porcupine Lake Wilderness and Rainbow Lake Wilderness, both popular with visitors.

The Juniper Rock Overlook offers a showstopping view in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, located along the North Country Scenic Trail. It’s rated as moderate to difficult because it is rocky and steep at times. However the hike is only a half a mile, which means it will only take you about 20 minutes to complete. At the end of the hike, you’ll be rewarded panoramic vistas of the Marengo River Valley. If you continue on, you can hike over a bridge over the Marengo River Valley.

The Juniper Rock Overlook in the Chequamegon National Forest

The Juniper Rock Overlook in the Chequamegon National Forest

In the Eastern part of the state, the Trail continues through the “land of waterfalls” and rocky outcrops of the ancient, worn down Penokee Mountain Range. This segment of the Trail is more wild and arguably more breathtaking, with expansive vistas. 

In this segment, the North Country Trail runs through Copper Falls State Park, a waterfall heaven. The doughboys Nature Trail is a 1.7-mile trail that that offers spectacular views of Copper Falls, Brownstone Falls and the Tyler Forks cascades. 

No fees are charged for hiking on the trail but fees may be required for parking, camping, or entrance at various sections along the trail.

You’ll find historic sites along the way with information about the landscape, Native Americans, national historic landmarks and important people. Visit the National Park Service website or the North Country Trail Association to plan your trip.

Marinette County, the “Waterfall Capital of Wisconsin”

Marinette County is the self-proclaimed Waterfall Capital of Wisconsin, for good reason. Their Waterfall Brochure and Self-Guided Waterfall Hikes will guide you through impressive waterfalls like Dave’s Falls, Veteran’s Falls, and more.


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