The weather is nice, so you’re looking to go outside, take in some fresh air, and get in some steps. Fortunately, Milwaukee County has you covered with an abundance of amazing hiking trails, paths, beaches, Riverwalk space, and other outdoor amenities that are tailored to your walking and running needs. It’s quite great, really.
If—and this is a hard if—there’s one drawback to the region’s all-around awesome parks department and trail system, it’s the fact that they tend to be full of people using them to their full potential during the summer months. That’s all well and fine, but if you find yourself tired of dodging dogs and children, hearing “on your left,” or even so much as encountering another living being while taking a stroll, we might’ve found just the place for you. Warning: it’s a little weird, but it’s worth it.
I stumbled upon the existence of South Metro Pier in nearby Oak Creek after seeing a friend post about it on Facebook like two years ago. If not for that, I can say with relative certainty that I would have no idea this place existed. There’s very little evidence of it online. Hell, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District—which is apparently responsible for this under-publicized public space—doesn’t appear to even mention it on its website. One doesn’t stumble upon this place, and even if you’re looking for it, it’s not exactly easy to find.
Yesterday, I actually passed it three times before throwing caution to the wind and turning into the one entryway that wasn’t fenced off and gated in an industrialized portion of 5th Ave. Here’s what I saw from the road. Still unsure I was in the right place, I continued down the unassuming the path until…
I found it!
I continued on the meandering road flanked by a hill on one side and tall barbwire fencing on the other.
The road eventually opened up to an empty parking lot.
But there were some signs of life.
And not unlike the sign at the entrance of Seven Bridges Trail in neighboring South Milwaukee that welcomes visitors to “enter this wild wood and view the haunts of nature” within its borders, South Metro Pier also had a sign to welcome visitors…in its own way.
I crossed that threshold and found…stairs.
Lots of stairs (here’s another angle of that first set of stairs).
I also saw a strange mixture of pristine nature (the rolling fields and a sliver of Lake Michigan in the distance) set directly against the sterile, cold, and bland reminder of humanity in the form of the sewage treatment plant. That dichotomy alone was enough to inspire me to continue down the path.
I found more stairs, as well as a path that looked to cut through a wooded area.
Lucky to have found the path in the first place, I felt invited to partake in the appreciation of all Mother Nature was able to offer on a parcel of land nestled directly again a restricted area where human waste is processed.
As I pondered the irony of traveling on a man-made concrete path that bisected a swath of untouched land and the municipal facility that filters turds and toilet paper out of our water supply, I forged ahead.
I had been walking and taking pictures for about 15 minutes by that point and had yet to see or speak to a single soul (I wouldn’t see or speak to anyone the entirety of my visit, actually). Sure, parts of the path were a little sketchy.
But—fully acknowledging my privilege as a 6’2″ male that allows me to say this—I never felt uneasy. That being said, if you’re not a dude who’s paying a last-minute solo to South Metro Pier visit because you’re planning to write an article about it the following day, I’d recommend going with a friend or two to be safe.
I walked about the length of a football field down the pathway, hearing only birds and the subtle hum of the adjacent treatment plant most of the way. Eventually, the soothing sound of waves overtook everything.
I had my own private beach, save for the ducks who gathered along the shoreline. Not wanting to disturb them, I continued down the path, which now touched Lake Michigan.
As if it couldn’t get any better, the path curves along the shore to offer an unimpeded view of the Great Lake.
Here (above) is a look back at the path I had walked after I rounded the bend.
The latter portion of the path/pier is fully parallel with the lake.
It rules. The waves are tall, loud, and churning. They’d occasionally strike the side of the pier with enough force to shower the thin concrete path with water.
Beyond the obvious uses like fishing and hiking (it’s about a mile round trip with 145 total stairs to both descend and ascend), South Metro Pier could serve as a neat spot to have a picnic—on the rocks beside the concrete path—and a perfect place to get away from the rest of the world for a while.
If you want to embark on a solo mission to a tucked away land that feels like another planet, but you can only get away for about an hour, there’s a strange, secluded, and serene place in Oak Creek that’s open to the public…assuming the public is able to find it. Good luck.