The Upper Root River and Root River Parkway
The Root River above Horlick Dam is navigable by canoe or small boat. The stretch of River from Horlick Dam to State Highway 31 is very scenic with an abundance of wildlife and natural areas. It is difficult to realize that you are in an urban area of Southeast Wisconsin.
Racine County owns land adjacent to the dam on the east side of the River and has constructed a canoe / small boat launch facility 500 feet north of the dam. This facility has a paved ramp, floating pier with cradle attachment for the physically handicapped to access a vessel and a near by parking lot.
In 1993, Johnson Outdoors and Racine County entered into a unique and innovative plan for the use of the Root River. Based on this plan the Racine County Board of Supervisors enacted an ordinance regulating the use of gasoline engines on this portion of the Root River. For those individuals unable to paddle or row canoes or small boats, electric-trolling motors can be used. Johnson Outdoors donated six Minnkota electrically powered motors and batteries for this purpose. These motors and batteries can be rented at the concession area at Quarry Lake Park for a slight fee for four or eight hours. Quarry Lake Park is located on the Root River at 3501 Northwestern Avenue, just a few blocks from the canoe launch site.
Racine County also owns approximately 650 acres of land along the Root River. The greater share along the Milwaukee County border and between Six and Seven Mile Roads with scattered smaller parcels south of Six Mile Road to Horlick Dam. this is all a part of the Rot River Parkway, primary environmental corridor preservation system.
The intention of the Root River Parkway is for the county to own a total of approximately 1,650 acres of land for environmental protection, recreational opportunities and flood control.
The corridor of the Root River provides the biggest piece of "green-space" in the eastern half of Racine County. It's also the biggest and best opportunity for environmental protection in this part of the County. The Root River Parkway devotes most of this corridor to conservancy purposes. The visual appeal and serenity of forests, un-manicured parklands and uncrowded open space have great value in a landscape that is becoming more urbanized. The Parkway will protect wildlife and other natural resources, some of them rare and unusual. At the same time the Root River Parkway will also conserve habitat for many familiar plants and animals. Some of the County's biggest and oldest beech trees, finest maple forests and best displays of spring wildflowers are found along the Root. The Root River Parkway provides a chance to save an entire landscape with a variety of natural resources and the chance for Racine County residents to enjoy them.
Recreationally the Root River Parkway Plan emphasizes the opportunities for hiking, walking and jogging trails; cross-country ski trails and bicycle trails. Environmental quality variety in the Parkway make nature trails another priority. With better access, the winding, slow moving Root River, being a scenic route could become a canoe trail. Trail-based "silent sports" are popular and the demand for trails is rising. Shoreline and boat fishing, picnic areas, playing fields, game courts and winter sledding are other possibilities considered by the plan.
At least once a year, some years more often, the Root River is hit by severe flooding after snow melt or heavy rains. These floods bring property damage, erosion of nearby croplands and new pollution loads as far downstream as Lake Michigan. The purchase by the County of the Root River Parkway lands will provide natural vegetation, marshes wet woods and shrubby wetlands that will be maintained, restored or established.
The Root River Parkway will not eliminate floods but it will do a better job of controlling their damage. Most of the Parkways lands lie in the Root River Flood Plain but small portions of land are on higher and drier ground which involves sensitive habitats for plants and animals.