Willow Creek was once a broad, marshy, and meandering waterway not at all like the artificially straightened channel we see today.
It drains a large watershed that includes the west campus and much of the west side of Madison, reaching almost to Whitney Way. The sediment in storm water that flows into University Bay from this watershed has created a large delta that is easily visible from the Lakeshore Path bridge—and on the modern orthophoto layer of the interactive map.
Addressing this serious environmental problem will require cooperative efforts by the university, the City of Madison, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, among others.
Willow Creek Bridge was originally built by the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association and is a popular place for anglers to try their luck. (You might also try to spot sun bathing turtles—they’re often seen here.) There is a plaque commemorating the Madison Park and Pleasure Drive Association on the north side of the bridge.
Photos: Willow Creek in autumn by Cathie Bruner; Aerial and bridge photos by William Cronon.