Willow Creek is a waterway that travels 5 miles from the Town of Sheboygan into the Sheboygan River. Willow Creek is considered a remnant coastal resource that supports reproducing anadromous salmonid populations within a rapidly urbanizing region of east-central Wisconsin. The creek originates in rural Sheboygan Falls, flows east through the Town of Sheboygan Falls into the Village of Kohler just south of State Highway 23. Willow Creek then runs under I-43 and into the Town of Sheboygan where it parallels county highway PP before bending south completing its 5-mile course to the Sheboygan River.
Willow Creek Update
Jon Gumtow was invited to give a presentation at the recent Sheboygan County Wetland Summit held July 12, 2011 at Maywood Environmental Park. This day-long event, sponsored by the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, focused on wetland and watershed protection along Lake Michigan coastal counties and local efforts by local, state, and NGOs to protect and restore critical habitats.
Jon’s presentation provided a history of the Willow Creek watershed and opportunities to restore critical habitats to maintain Willow Creek as an urban trout stream. Trout streams in urban settings are unique and require ongoing stakeholder collaboration and planning to implement projects. Maintaining riparian habitats and managing stormwater are essential to sustaining natural reproduction of trout and salmon in Willow Creek. A recent grant funded watershed plan developed for Willow Creek identified the following initiatives that would improve the watershed:
- Promote low-impact development practices and identify a demonstration project.
- Restore floodplain and wetland habitats.
- Implement infiltration projects on municipal and DOT properties.
- Replace culverts to improve fish passage.
- Complete shoreline stabilization and in-stream habitat improvements.
- Conduct annual water quality monitoring with local volunteers.
- Develop educational materials and promote watershed protection and restoration projects.
- Consider watershed scale water quality improvements and pollution trading.
- Control invasive plant species with focus on buckthorn and giant reed grass.
The SRBP will continue to work with local municipalities to educate the public and identify funding opportunities to complete improve the Willow Creek watershed. If you would like to become involved or learn more opportunities to restore Willow Creek please email Jon Gumtow or call him at (920) 980-2800.
Willow Creek – A Special Place
By Bradley Gumtow
Willow Creek is a trout stream in Sheboygan. It is the only known place where salmon and trout spawn and the babies survive because of the cool fresh water. A lot of people have worked very hard for many years to keep the stream clean.
Willow Creek is one of my favorite places in the world because of the trout and salmon run. Every spring my dad and I go fishing for Rainbow Trout, and every fall we go fishing for Brown Trout and Salmon. In the summer we do the Sheboygan River Cleanup. We usually pick up garbage, but this year we cut and sprayed Buckthorn and Honeysuckle with this green looking liquid. The liquid kills the invasive species when sprayed on the stem where cut. (Go to the the Wisconsin DNR website for more information on helping control these invasive species.) From the trees we cut, we made a pile six feet tall and twenty feet long. Now Willow Creek is easily accessed from the trail. I hope that people use the river as intended and do not throw trash in the river, because many people have put many hours into cleaning up the river and the land around it.
I think that whoever can help clean should help clean up Willow Creek and the land around it. That way many more generations of trout and salmon will come to spawn in a clean healthy environment.
Willow Creek’s Story
SRBP and the UW-Extension Basin Education Initiative partnered recently to develop a Willow Creek Brochure (2.4 MB) to share Willow Creek’s story. Contact UWEX Basin Educator Deb Beyer if you’d like copies of the brochure (920) 459-6644.
Purpose of the Willow Creek Project
- Analyze sections of the stream to see if they support a trout population
- Determine if trout in this stream are naturally occurring and reproducing within the stream
- Identify areas of critical habitat within the stream that provide a quality fishery.
- Educate the public and community leaders regarding the uniqueness of Willow Creek.
- Partner with communities to improve storm water runoff.
The watershed consists of a mix of agricultural, urban, and undeveloped land uses within multi-jurisdictional municipal boundaries, originating in rural Sheboygan Falls, flowing east through the Town of Sheboygan Falls into the Village of Kohler just south of state highway 23 and crosses I-43 through the Town of Sheboygan and the City of Sheboygan. These multi-jurisdictional boundaries within an urbanized setting requires education and information sharing to make sound land-use decisions.