Willow Creek Delta

Aerial view of Willow Creek Delta by William Cronon.

Although you might not realize it, the stream that enters University Bay at this point actually drains much of the near west side of Madison. Every time a heavy storm hits, or the winter snows melt, a great rush of water and sediments enters the bay here.
If you look offshore, you’ll see that the sandbar that naturally occurs here through the action of wind, waves, and currents, is being accelerated by the increased sedimentation rates associated with storm water from this creek.

Because so much of the land in its watershed has now been built up and covered with hard surfaces, outflows have accelerated dramatically in recent decades, with corresponding impacts on the bay that we are only beginning to understand. Managing this watershed for the long-term health of the Preserve – to say nothing of the community of Madison – remains one of the enduring environmental challenges of being good stewards of this place.

Great blue heron. Photo by Bryn Scriver.

As you’ll see, the very shallow waters that cover the delta of Willow Creek are a favorite gathering place for a number of species of waterfowl. You can almost always see birds offshore here, any time of year.