The Seymour Creek and Upper Baraboo River Watershed, located in Juneau, Monroe, Sauk and Vernon Counties, contains all of the streams that drain to the uppermost 30 miles of the Baraboo River which eventually reaches the Wisconsin River 120 miles downstream near Portage. The land in this watershed is characteristic of the driftless area with steep hills, however many stream valleys are fairly wide. Agricultural activities are found both on the wider ridgetops and in most valleys.
Approximately 65% of the primary land use throughout the watershed is agriculture. The remainder of the watershed is largely forested. Wetlands occupy just over 4% of the watershed and are located adjacent to the Baraboo River, Seymour Creek and the West Branch of the Baraboo River.
Population, Land Use
Population in the watershed for the year 2000 was estimated at 6,790. Municipalities in the watershed include Elroy, Hillsboro, Kendall and Union Center. Overall population growth in the communities is below the state average.
Nonpoint and Point Sources
Nonpoint sources of pollution primarily from agricultural activities have created water quality problems in the watershed. Siltation of streams and the nutrient enrichment of Hillsboro Lake, an impoundment of the West Branch of the Baraboo River, were severe enough that the area became a Priority Watershed Nonpoint Source Pollution Abatement Project in 1993. The portion of the Seymour Creek and Upper Baraboo River Watershed addressed by this project includes all lands draining to Hillsboro Lake. Goals of the project are to significantly reduce sedimentation rates in Hillsboro Lake, significantly reduce peak streamflow, increase baseflow in watershed streams, and improve fish habitat. The Vernon County Land and Water Conservation Department has been working with landowners in the watershed for the past six years to achieve these goals by improving land management practices.
The communities of Elroy, Hillsboro, Kendall and Union Center each contain wastewater treatment facilities with permitted discharges to either the Baraboo River or the West Branch of the Baraboo River. Kendall is the only community in the watershed to discharge to a trout stream. Foremost Farms USA in Hillsboro discharges to groundwater and the West Branch of the Baraboo River below Hillsboro Lake.
The Western Coulee and Ridges Ecological Landscape in southwestern and west central Wisconsin is characterized by its highly eroded, driftless topography and relatively extensive forested landscape. Soils are silt loams (loess) and sandy loams over sandstone residuum over dolomite. Several large rivers including the Wisconsin, Mississippi, Chippewa, Kickapoo and Black flow through or border the Ecological Landscape.
Historical vegetation consisted of southern hardwood forests, oak savanna, scattered prairies, and floodplain forests and marshes along the major rivers. With Euro-American settlement, most of the land on ridgetops and valley bottoms was cleared of oak savanna, prairie, and level forest for agriculture. The steep slopes between valley bottom and ridgetop, unsuitable for raising crops, grew into oak-dominated forests after the ubiquitous presettlement wildfires were suppressed. Current vegetation is a mix of forest (40%), agriculture, and grassland with some wetlands in the river valleys. The primary forest cover is oak-hickory (51%) dominated by oak species and shagbark hickory. Maple-basswood forests (28%), dominated by sugar maple, basswood and red maple, are common in areas that were not subjected to repeated presettlement wildfires. Bottomland hardwoods (10%) are common in the valley bottoms of major rivers and are dominated by silver maple, ashes, elms, cottonwood, and red maple. Relict conifer forests including white pine, hemlock and yellow birch are a rarer natural community in the cooler, steep, north slope microclimates.
The Seymour Creek and Upper Baraboo River Watershed has a variety of quality habitats and rare plant communities that are listed on the state's Natural Heritage Inventory, (NHI), kept by the Bureau of Endangered Resources. These communities include: dry-mesic prairie, hemlock relict, moist cliff, pine relict, southern dry-mesic forest, and southern mesic forest.
Two Wisconsin State Trails bisect this watershed: The Elroy-Sparta and the "400." Both trails are former railroad beds that parallel the Baraboo River and were converted to limestone screened bike trails. Snowmobilers also use these trails in winter. The Elroy-Sparta State Trail is 32 miles in length and travels through three tunnels. The "400" State Trail is a 22 mile trail between Elroy and Reedsburg. Even though both trails travel through the hilly driftless area of Wisconsin, the trail grade doesn't change more than 3%. Rest areas and campgrounds are found along the trails.
Wildlife and Habitat
The watershed is also home for a variety of rare plant and animal species including; 2 species of fish and 1 species of bird. These plants and animals are also listed on the state's Natural Heritage Inventory (NHI).
Hire Aquatic Invasives (AIS) County Coordinator - Juneau
Hire Aquatic Invasives (AIS) County Coordinator - Monroe
Monitor biology on WBIC: 1292600
Conduct biological (mIBI or fIBI) monitoring on Unnamed, WBIC: 1292600, AU:5475903
Hillsboro Lake TWA 2015
Western District proposes to conduct 319 Project Evaluation monitoring in the Hillsboro Lake Watershed located in eastern Vernon County, Wisconsin.
Seymour Creek and Upper Baraboo River (LW24) Watershed Plann
In 2017, the Hillsboro Lake Targeted Watershed Assessment was written up as the Hillsboro Water Quality Plan.
Watershed History Note
The City of Hillsboro is located in the Seymour Creek and Upper Baraboo River Watershed. Immigrating Czechs began arriving in Hillsboro from the Bohemian region of what is now the Czech Republic in the mid-1800s, drawn in part to the area's similarity to the land they left behind. With them, they brought their traditions, foods, and culture. Each summer, Hillsboro celebrates its Czech heritage with its Cesky Den festival.
Czechs were not the only people to find a new home in the Hillsboro area. The land between Hillsboro and nearby Ontario was once known as Cheyenne Valley, which became a haven for African-American settlers after the Civil War. The Cheyenne Valley area near Hillsboro was Wisconsin's largest rural African American settlement in the 19th century. The state's early defiance of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act and the later demise of the slavery system after the Civil War encouraged freed slaves to settle in Wisconsin. Nearly 150 African American settlers, with the assistance of the Quaker religious order, came to Hillsboro, where they successfully farmed. Many settlers became landowners, and a few, like Thomas Shivers, who was born on a Tennessee plantation, owned large acreages.
A drive through the countryside surrounding Hillsboro still shows the influence of Algie Shivers, son of African-American settlers and builder of some of the finest round barns in the region. Most round barns built in the upper Midwest were constructed between 1890 and 1930. They were built primarily as dairy barns and were not seen on the Wisconsin landscape until dairy farming became firmly established in the state in the 1890's.
Round barns were built to utilize space more efficiently and accommodate new dairying technologies, including the silo. They were said to use less lumber and take less time to build than conventional barns. Proponents also argued that round barns withstood high winds better than rectangular barns and the circular shape was more "natural".
The colleges of agriculture promoted round barns and the farmers that owned one were considered "progressive and prosperous". It is unclear why Algie Shivers began to build round barns, but he did attend technical college in Sedalia, Missouri where he likely was exposed to modern farm construction techniques. Algie supervised the construction of at least 15 round barns in eastern Vernon and southeastern Monroe counties. It has been documented that this small area of western Wisconsin has the highest concentration of round barns in the nation. Nearly 1/2 of the round barns that still stand in this area were built by Algie Shivers and his crew. The round barn, a distinctive part of the agricultural heritage of the Midwest, has a direct connection to the equally distinctive story of the multi-racial community of Cheyenne Valley.