Monday, November 29, 2010

The Kinnickinnic

The Kinnickinnic River is one of the three major rivers that flow into Milwaukee harbor (the others are the Menominee and the Milwaukee) and the only one with a south to north watershed. Near here, it runs east along the southern edge of Lincoln Village, then turns north near Baran Park, and continues its course, flanked by warehouses, marinas, and the Barnacle Buds fish restaurant towards Lake Michigan.

There's a lot history associated with the Kinnickinnic River and there are some big projects in the works for its preservation today, but let's start with the basics. Kinnickinnic is a hard word to spell, so that is probably why so many Milwaukeeans refer to Kinnickinnic Avenue (which anchors the Bayview neighborhood) as "KK Avenue." But what is Kinnickinnic and what does it mean?

Kinnickinnic, also known as bearberry, is a plant that grows in northern climates like Wisconsin's.

It is edible, but the fruit is tasteless. The leaves of the Kinnickinnic were prized by Natives for their healing properties. These leaves were made into teas and contain a powerful, antiseptic astringent used to treat kidney and bladder ailments. Many Natives also mixed the leaves with other ingredients and smoked them. "Kinnickinnic" is the Algonquian term for "mixture."

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