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Travel Green on Crystal Blue Waters
Last Updated: 3/7/2013
It might be called Travel Green Wisconsin but these businesses are actually more blue than green. Not that they don’t have stellar records of implementing environmentally friendly practices, it’s just that they’re all located on water. So go ahead, get your feet wet, knowing you’re doing your part to support eco-conscious tourism offerings in Wisconsin.
Bayfield Is Brimming with Blue Water Finds
As you enter the Bayfield area and come upon that first glimpse of Lake Superior, it’s as if you’ve been transported to a different place and time. The archipelago of 22 islands here known as the Apostle Islands has been the inspiration for many an eco-friendly business. Take Superior Charters, offering the largest selection of boats for charter in one harbor in the U.S. Other charters to choose from include Animaashi Sailing Company, with its 34-foot sloop “Sarah’s Joy” available for day and evening sailing trips, Catchun-Sun Charter Company, and Dreamcatcher Sailing Charters. If you have your own boat and are looking for a well-protected harbor, there’s the Port Superior Marina Association. For sea kayak rentals and instruction, look up Living Adventure. Finally, if you’d like to make your way from the mainland to Madeline Island, the largest of the islands, the Madeline Island Ferry is the ticket.
Take a Wildlife Eco-Tour on the Mississippi
Here’s your chance to channel early French explorers Marquette and Joliet. Recreate their 1673 expedition on the upper Mississippi River, starting in Prairie du Chien, the oldest settlement on that stretch of the river, aboard one of the riverboats chartered by Mississippi Explorer Cruises. The cruise line even has historians on board to provide the storytelling. Captain Eric Dykman says their two-hour backwater wildlife eco-tour, designed specifically for nature lovers, offers close-up views of bald eagle nests. “These eco-tours are our niche, and we have boats specifically designed to let us explore the shallow backwaters so people can see the diversity of the eco-system up close,” Dykman said. This cruise line also has a second location in La Crosse.
Options for Crossing the Waters of Door County
Sun, wind, rain or snow, you can get to Washington Island off the tip of the Door County peninsula via the Washington Island Ferry Line. This same ferry company gets visitors to Rock Island, where no cars or even bikes are allowed. You’ll be making the same passage as the Native Americans who paddled canoes from island to island, and then French explorers and schooners after that. If you prefer to go under your own steam, hook up with Door County Kayak Tours in Fish Creek. Their most popular tour is of Cave Point where paddlers can discover a cave that has an entrance to another cave. This is best maneuvered when it is calm and you can lie flat on your kayak.
From Milwaukee to Muskegon by Ferry
If you need to get from Milwaukee to Michigan and back, forget the commute through congested Chicago. Instead, hop aboard the Lake Express High Speed Ferry for a hassle-free two-and-a-half hour trip to your destination. The amazing views of Lake Michigan are an added bonus. The ferry can fit 46 cars and 250 passengers and has three departures per day in the summer and two in the fall. Here’s an interesting green fact for this blue-water vessel: Its service takes 25,000 vehicles off the road annually.
Clear Waters of Lake Geneva Are Calling to You
Lake Geneva has long been a popular vacation playground for Chicagoans and Wisconsinites alike. Husband/wife team of Sarah and Dave Shuster run Clear Water Outdoor, a canoe, kayak and stand-up paddleboard rental and guide service on the lake. They’ll also gladly provide private instruction for beginners in need of some guidance. Their organized weekly paddles on the lake led by certified instructors are another way the Shusters get people acquainted with all the varieties of paddling.
Paddle the Wisconsin River in Holy Cow Canoes
The last 92 miles of the lower Wisconsin River are just made for canoeing. The water levels are never too low, there are sandy beaches and free island camping, the land is protected from development on both sides of the river, and there is no portaging. The Wisconsin Canoe Company in Spring Green has a fleet of sustainably built canoes made by Holy Cow Canoes (based in Ontario yet so apropos for the Dairy State) for rental. According to owner Ryan Schmudlach, they’ll outfit you with everything you need – canoes or kayaks, maps, tents, dry bags and life vests. Ask anyone on the staff for recommendations for nearby restaurants that source locally, artisan cheese makers and microbreweries and they’ll enthusiastically offer their favorites.