W. Br. Starkweather Creek (Airport Road Creek), Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08)
W. Br. Starkweather Creek (Airport Road Creek), Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08)
W. Br. Starkweather Creek (Airport Road Creek) (805200)
2.60 Miles
0 - 2.60
Natural Community
Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model results that use predicted flow and temperature based on landscape features and related assumptions. Ranges of flow and temperature associated with specific aquatic life communities (fish, macroinvertebrates) help biologists identify appropriate resource management goals. Wisconsin Natural Communities.
Macroinvertebrate, Cool-Warm Mainstem, Cool-Warm Headwater
Year Last Monitored
This is the most recent date of monitoring data stored in SWIMS. Additional surveys for fish and habitat may be available subsequent to this date.
This river is impaired
Impairment Unknown, Chronic Aquatic Toxicity, PFOS Contaminated Fish Tissue
Chloride, PFOS, Total Phosphorus
Trout Water 
Trout Waters are represented by Class I, Class II or Class III waters. These classes have specific ecological characteristics and management actions associated with them. For more information regarding Trout Classifications, see the Fisheries Trout Class Webpages.
Outstanding or Exceptional 
Wisconsin has designated many of the state's highest quality waters as Outstanding Resource Waters (ORWs) or Exceptional Resource Waters (ERWs). Waters designated as ORW or ERW are surface waters which provide outstanding recreational opportunities, support valuable fisheries and wildlife habitat, have good water quality, and are not significantly impacted by human activities. ORW and ERW status identifies waters that the State of Wisconsin has determined warrant additional protection from the effects of pollution. These designations are intended to meet federal Clean Water Act obligations requiring Wisconsin to adopt an 'antidegradation' policy that is designed to prevent any lowering of water quality - especially in those waters having significant ecological or cultural value.
Impaired Water 
A water is polluted or 'impaired' if it does not support full use by humans, wildlife, fish and other aquatic life and it is shown that one or more of the pollutant criteria are not met.

Fish and Aquatic Life

Current Use
The use the water currently supports. This is not a designation or classification; it is based on the current condition of the water. Information in this column is not designed for, and should not be used for, regulatory purposes.
Aquatic Life
Waters that support fish and aquatic life communities (healthy biological communities).
Attainable Use
The use that the investigator believes the water could achieve through managing "controllable" sources. Beaver dams, hydroelectric dams, low gradient streams, and naturally occurring low flows are generally not considered controllable. The attainable use may be the same as the current use or it may be higher.
Aquatic Life
Waters that support fish and aquatic life communities (healthy biological communities).
Designated Use
This is the water classification legally recognized by NR102 and NR104, Wis. Adm. Code. The classification determines water quality criteria and effluent limits. Waters obtain designated uses through classification procedures.
Default FAL
Fish and Aquatic Life - Default Waters do not have a specific use designation subcategory but are considered fishable, swimmable waters.


West Branch Starkweather Creek (aka Airport Road Creek) in the Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed, is a 2.60 mile river that falls in Dane County. This river is managed for fishing and swimming and is currently considered impaired.

Date  2016

Author  Ashley Beranek

Historical Description

West Branch (Airport Creek): Sec. 5,
Surface acres = 4.i, Length = 2 miles, Stream order = I, Gradient = 3.7 ft/mile,
Base discharge = 8.8 cfs
Starkweather Creek is a slow-moving creek which drains 21.5 square miles of highly developed land on the east side of the City of Madison and discharges to the northeast side of Lake Monona at Olbrich Park. Most of its wetlands have been drained, filled, and developed for industrial, commercial, and residential purposes. The creek has been extensively altered through channelization, and the water quality in both branches is poor (Dane Cty. Reg. PIann. Comm. 1979).
The West Branch, sometimes called Airport Creek, originates In Cherokee Marsh near the Dane County Airport and is a tributary to the East Branch. In the past, the East Branch has received industrial effluent high in ammonia. Although this discharge has been eliminated, ill effects of this pollution remain (Dane Cty. Reg. Plann. Comm. 1979a). Both branches have very low gradients and consequently have elevated summer temperatures with resulting low oxygen levels.
Starkweather Creek's substrate consists of 90% silt and 10% gravel and sand. Recreational value is quite limited owing to the polluted conditions. The fish population is limited to a few forage species, except near the mouth where fish enter from Lake Monona. Public access is available from severa1 city street crossings, a boat ramp at Olbrich Park, and from Lake Monona.
Fish species: golden shiner, fathead minnow, and brook stickleback.

From: Day Elizabeth A.; Grzebieniak, Gayle P.; Osterby, Kurt M.; and Brynildson, Clifford L., Lake and Stream Classification Project. Surface Water Resources of Dane County, Department of Natural Resources, 1985.

Date  1985

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

W. Br. Starkweather Creek (Airport Road Creek), Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08) Fish and Aquatic LifeW. Br. Starkweather Creek (Airport Road Creek), Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08) RecreationW. Br. Starkweather Creek (Airport Road Creek), Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08) Fish Consumption

Impaired Waters

West Branch Starkweather Creek (aka Airport Road Creek, WBIC 805200) was first placed on the Impaired Waters List in the 2016 cycle for chloride. In the 2022 cycle evaluation of phosphorus data showed impairment. This stream was placed under a special fish consumption advisory for PFOS in 2020. This stream was added to the 2022 Impaired Waters List for PFOS in fish tissue and phosphorus.

Date  2022

Author  Ashley Beranek


Wisconsin has over 84,000 miles of streams, 15,000 lakes and milllions of acres of wetlands. Assessing the condition of this vast amount of water is challenging. The state's water monitoring program uses a media-based, cross-program approach to analyze water condition. An updated monitoring strategy (2015-2020) is now available. Compliance with Clean Water Act fishable, swimmable standards are located in the Executive Summary of Water Condition in 2018. See also the 'monitoring and projects' tab.


Management Goals

Wisconsin's Water Quality Standards provide qualitative and quantitative goals for waters that are protective of Fishable, Swimmable conditions [Learn more]. Waters that do not meet water quality standards are considered impaired and restoration actions are planned and carried out until the water is once again fishable and swimmable

Management goals can include creation or implementation of a Total Maximum Daily Load analysis, a Nine Key Element Plan, or other restoration work, education and outreach and more. If specific recommendations exist for this water, they will be displayed below online.


Monitoring the condition of a river, stream, or lake includes gathering physical, chemical, biological, and habitat data. Comprehensive studies often gather all these parameters in great detail, while lighter assessment events will involve sampling physical, chemical and biological data such as macroinvertebrates. Aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish communities integrate watershed or catchment condition, providing great insight into overall ecosystem health. Chemical and habitat parameters tell researchers more about human induced problems including contaminated runoff, point source dischargers, or habitat issues that foster or limit the potential of aquatic communities to thrive in a given area. Wisconsin's Water Monitoring Strategy was recenty updated.

Grants and Management Projects

Monitoring Projects

Watershed Characteristics

Unnamed is located in the Yahara River and Lake Monona watershed which is 93.73 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily suburban (24.80%), urban (23.90%) and a mix of agricultural (14.50%) and other uses (36.90%). This watershed has 101.97 stream miles, 6,275.33 lake acres and 5,158.72 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Not Available for runoff impacts on streams, Not Available for runoff impacts on lakes and High for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of High. This value can be used in ranking the watershed or individual waterbodies for grant funding under state and county programs.However, all waters are affected by diffuse pollutant sources regardless of initial water quality. Applications for specific runoff projects under state or county grant programs may be pursued. For more information, go to surface water program grants.

Natural Community

W. Br. Starkweather Creek (Airport Road Creek) is considered a Macroinvertebrate, Cool-Warm Mainstem, Cool-Warm Headwater under the state's Natural Community Determinations.

Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model resultsand DNR staff valiation processes that confirm or update predicted conditions based on flow and temperature modeling from historic and current landscape features and related variables. Predicated flow and temperatures for waters are associated predicated fish assemblages (communities). Biologists evaluate the model results against current survey data to determine if the modeled results are corect and whether biological indicators show water quaity degradation. This analysis is a core component of the state's resource management framework. Wisconsin's Riverine Natural Communities.

Cool (Warm-Transition) Headwaters are small, sometimes intermittent streams with cool to warm summer temperatures. Coldwater fishes are uncommon to absent, transitional fishes are abundant to common, and warm water fishes are common to uncommon. Headwater species are abundant to common, mainstem species are common to absent, and river species are absent.

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