Milwaukee river in lincoln park and estabrook falls

Lincoln Park Oxbow & Estabrook Falls

Milwaukee River Habitat Enhancement

Project Update:


The project team has been refining a design to modify the Estabrook Falls to allow native fish to migrate past the falls, allowing them to access spawning and nursery habitat upstream. The modifications to the falls will include breaking apart the bedrock to cut a channel through the falls in the western portion of the river and lowering the falls on the eastern side of the river. This will achieve water depths and speeds at a wide range of flows that many native fish will be able to swim through. We expect to complete most of the design work this year and construct the project in late 2024 or 2025, depending on the funding availability and the river's water flow.


To learn more about the project, watch a recording of the 2021 community meeting. To submit any questions or comments about the project, please visit the bottom of the page.

Project Overview

The Milwaukee Estuary, where Milwaukee’s three rivers meet, was once covered in thousands of acres of marsh and wet meadows. These areas were critical for various fish and wildlife to thrive. As Milwaukee grew, many of these wetlands disappeared, but today there are opportunities to re-create habitat in and near the estuary. This project is done in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Milwaukee County Parks.

As part of a Great Lakes Legacy Act cleanup project, the Lincoln Park Oxbow and Estabrook Impoundment projects were completed in 2012 and 2015. These projects focused on removing contaminated sediment and stabilizing the river channel, but little attention was placed on how to enhance the fish and wildlife populations in the area.  

Just a little further downstream, Estabrook Falls is an artificial waterfall that was formed about 100 years ago as a result of mining the limestone bedrock in the river. During certain water levels on the Milwaukee River, native fish have a hard time swimming past the falls, limiting their access to spawning and nursery habitat upstream.

The goal for this project is to plan, design, and eventually, when additional funding is identified, implement improvements to fish habitat and migration at the Lincoln Park Oxbow and Estabrook Falls. This project will build on numerous other initiatives in Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties enabling native fish species to move upstream.

Project Map

This project is part of a larger initiative to clean up the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern (AOC). Learn more about the AOC by watching this John Gurda video or visiting the Waterway Restoration Partnership website.

Project Benefits:

  • Improve Fish & Wildlife Habitat
  • Improve Migration For Fish & Wildlife
  • Enhance Recreation Opportunities & Public Access


  • Spring/Summer 2021 - Community Engagement & Preliminary Design
  • Fall 2021 – Complete Preliminary Design for Selected Alternative
  • 2023 to 2024 - Community Engagement & Project Design Completion
  • Late 2024 to 2025 - Project Construction Begins Depending on Funding and Water Flow

*Timeline subject to change

  • Great Blue Heron flying through Lincoln Park Oxbow.

    Great Blue Heron flying through Lincoln Park Oxbow.

    Photo Credit: David Thomas

  • Estabrook Falls.

    Estabrook Falls.

  • Sturgeon are native fish to the Milwaukee River.

    Sturgeon are native fish to the Milwaukee River.

    Photo Credit: Jeff Houghton

  • Lincoln Park Oxbow in Fall.

    Lincoln Park Oxbow in Fall.

    Photo Credit: David Thomas

  • Lincoln Park Oxbow in Summer.

    Lincoln Park Oxbow in Summer.

Get Involved:

  • Sign up to receive Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern (AOC) updates in your inbox.
  • Participate in upcoming events. MMSD will conduct a number of stakeholder and public outreach activities throughout the entirety of the project to obtain project input and feedback.
  • Follow MMSD on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) for updates on MMSD projects.

Project Resources

Partner List


Comment / Questions

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