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My favorite way to de-stress is kayaking on the Root River. Kayaking is relaxing for me because you can go at your own pace through the winding river. You can stop to ogle at the beautiful trees and foliage, partake in fishing, or my favorite is to pick up every piece of trash I encounter.

There are many kayaking places nearby, like Bong Recreation Area in Burlington or the South Branch of the Pike River in Kenosha. My favorite is still the Root River winding through the heart of Racine.

Typically, I go to the Root River Environmental Education Community Center (REC), 1301 West Sixth St, as my access point. This video, by Real Racine, highlights all of the wonderful qualities of the REC.

YouTube video

The REC has easy river access for those with their own vessel along with canoe and kayak rentals for those that don’t. It’s the best place to go with a large group of people that own and don’t own their own vessels.

From the REC you can choose to go with or against the current. Beginning against the current makes for an easier trip back to the REC, in this direction the river winds North and West up to the Horlick Dam. Beginning with the current requires more effort on your way back to the REC, but takes you to the mouth of beautiful Lake Michigan.

Riverbend Nature Center, 3600 N Green Bay Rd, has an access point that is best suited for renters. The access point requires a walk from the parking lot with your kayak or canoe in tow. Having worked there one summer, I saw many people struggle to carry and/or drag their canoes or kayaks. Make sure you call ahead to be sure they have kayak rentals available, they go fast!

The Root River originates in the City of New Berlin in eastern Waukesha County and flows approximately 44 miles in a southerly and easterly direction to its confluence with Lake Michigan in the City of Racine. According to the Root River Watershed Plan by the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC), the river faces many issues today, including:

  • Chronically low concentrations of dissolved oxygen that inhibit aquatic habitats
  • High concentrations of bacteria, chloride, phosphorus, and total suspended solids
  • Streambed and streambank erosion
  • Disconnected habitats for wildlife that rely on natural land and water corridors
  • Exotic invasive species that can displace native species and degrade habitat

With many improvements planned for the Root River in the aforementioned plan, you can help by getting involved with Root-Pike Watershed Initiative Network (Root-Pike WIN), the Root River Council, or UW-Extension’s Water Action Volunteers.

While the Root River may not be the healthiest river right now, I still find beauty within what is there. My time spent kayaking on the river motivates my drive to help restore the beautiful waters to what they once were.

About the Author

Knoff after sampling the Root River with UW-Parkside for a WI DNR Permit, September 20, 2018

A Racine native, Katie Knoff has a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Studies from UW-Parkside. There she focused her studies on environmental problems in the past, present, and future, specifically water and geographic mapping. She chose environmental studies because from a young age she loved the outdoors as it always gave her a sense of peace.

If you have any questions or story suggestions, email her at