burnham canal aerial view in Milwaukee

Burnham Canal Wetland Restoration Project

Project Overview

For thousands of years, the 1200-acre Menomonee River Valley was a wild rice marsh, home to Native Americans. By the mid-1800s, the settlement of Milwaukee pushed toward the Valley, and Milwaukeeans filled the marsh with soil, gravel, and waste to create dry land for additional development.

As the city grew, a series of canals including the Burnham Canal was created to allow ships sailing the Great Lakes access to Milwaukee industry. Industries dumped their waste into many of these canals. Although this no longer occurs, they left behind soil and sediment contamination requiring clean-up. Now the southernmost of those canals, Burnham Canal, located between N. 16th St. and S. 8th St. on the Menomonee River, will be revitalized and restored to a natural wetland.

The Burnham Canal is undergoing a multi-step process that includes creating a wetland base with clean gravel and sand, and later adding soil and wetland plants on top. Ultimately, MMSD will turn Burnham Canal into 6.7 acres of wetland.

This project is part of a larger initiative to restore 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.

Sign Up for Milwaukee Estuary AOC Email Updates

Project Map

Project Benefits

  • Improve water quality
  • Improve fish and wildlife habitat
  • Improve access for recreation and education

Project Timeline

  • 2012 – 2021 Design
  • 2021-2026 Construction
    • Sediment cover and wetland base construction west of 11th St - 2021
    • Sediment cover and wetland base construction east of 11th St - 2022
    • Wetland Construction 2025 – 2026 (approx.)
  • 2026 – 2031 Post-Construction Monitoring
  • slide

    Burnham AR Phase I – Renderings don’t reflect a final design. We will be looking for more input on the design in the future.

  • slide

    Burnham AR Phase II – Renderings don’t reflect a final design. We will be looking for more input on the design in the future.

  • slide

    1872 Burnham Canal Circled

Additional Resources


Get Involved:

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


Comments / Questions

Please wait...

Lake Michigan and the Hoan Bridge

Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern

Learn about the Milwaukee Estuary AOC and MMSD projects.

lincoln park oxbow

Lincoln Park Oxbow and Estabrook Falls 

Learn about MMSD's Lincoln Park Oxbow & Estabrook Falls Milwaukee River Habitat Enhancement project.

downtown milwaukee lake michigan and hoan bridge

Dredged Material Management Facility

Learn about MMSD's Dredged Materials Management Facility project.