Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC-12): 070900040702
Area: 23.4 square miles (14,990 acres); 8% of Lower Sugar River Watershed/2011
Counties: Rock County/Avon, Newark, Plymouth and Spring Valley Townships
Primary Land Uses: Agriculture (cropland 54%, pasture/hay 22%), Forest (12%), Water/wetland (6%), Developed (4%) of landcover/2011)
Points of Interest: There are two state managed wildlife areas, totaling 191 acres, bordering Willow Creek where it crosses Avon Store Road, Blondhaven Hunt Club.
Water Quality: According to 2015 data on the WDNR site, Waters in the Watershed-Lower Sugar River (SP11), the general condition of Willow Creek has not been rated as either impaired nor exceptional.
At a Glance
- There are no municipalities within this subwatershed’s borders.
- Willow Creek originates as an intermittent stream, high in the hills, near West Berg and South Bernstein Roads. It runs southeasterly, then takes a sharp right turn just north of West Skinner Road and eventually flows into Taylor Creek. The upper three quarters of this stream have been ditched.
The wildlife areas along Willow Creek contain 110 acres of good quality shrub carr interspersed with open wetlands. What is a shrub carr? It is a wetland community dominated by tall shrubs and various willows. At this location the shrub carr is dominated by red osier dogwood, pussy willow and black willow, and the open areas are dominated by Canada bluejoint grass, reed canary grass and fowl manna grass. These natural areas provide wildlife cover in a largely agrarian setting.
Of the two wildlife areas, the smaller one, a 20 acre parcel, is landlocked and because of its inaccessibility is being considered for sale by the WDNR.
Sandhill Family Farms, a certified organic, community supported agriculture (CSA) farm is located on Skinner Road. Originally begun in East Troy in 2000, the farm moved to Illinois in 2004 and then added the rural Brodhead location in 2011.
What is a CSA farm? Such farms grow high quality produce to sell to city residents on a subscription basis. In addition to produce they may sell other locally produced products such as cheese, eggs, meat, fruit and flowers. To learn more about CSA click here.
The larger wildlife area off Avon Store Road has off-road parking and offers hunting for deer, turkey and small game. Natural pursuits such as birding and wildlife viewing are also possible.
Blonhaven Hunt Club offers 300 acres of hunting land stocked with pheasants and other game birds. Blonhaven is the oldest continuously operating hunting preserve in Wisconsin. In 1999, the club moved from the Milton area to West Berg Road, outside of Orfordville.
Sport fishing for northern pike and smallmouth bass is productive in the lower 3 miles of Willow Creek.
Did You Know?
What is now Highway 81, which runs along this subwatershed's southern border, was a Native American trail between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Native people used trees along the route as markers by bending and tying branches to force them to grow in ways that would point travelers in a specific direction. Bruce Allison, writing for the Wisconsin Historical Society in 2005, stated that an Indian trail marker tree, (a white oak), once stood near where Skinner Road and Highway 81 are connected by a short stretch of South Avon Store Road. Knowledgeable locals have located this tree, which remains visible from Skinner Road. Several miles west, another tree, the Halfway Tree, still stands between the highway and Halfway Tree Road. Though it was not bent to mark the route, it signified the halfway point on this route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.
For a printable PDF map of Willow Creek Subwatershed click here.
Excerpted from Every Root an Anchor: Wisconsin’s Famous and Historic Trees by R. Bruce Allison(© 2005 Wisconsin Historical Society)