Nine Springs Creek, Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08)
Nine Springs Creek, Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08)
Nine Springs Creek (804200)
6.16 Miles
0 - 6.16
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-Cold Headwater, 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
Degraded Biological Community, Low DO, Impairment Unknown
Total Phosphorus, Sediment/Total Suspended Solids
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.
Streams capable of supporting a warm waterdependent forage fishery. Representative aquatic life communities associated with these waters generally require cool or warm temperatures and concentrations of dissolved oxygen that do not drop below 5 mg/L.
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.
Streams capable of supporting a warm waterdependent sport fishery. Representative aquatic life communities associated with these waters generally require cool or warm temperatures and concentrations of dissolved oxygen that do not drop below 5 mg/L.
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.


Rock River Water Quality Management Plan, Lower Rock River Appendix. WT-668-2002. South Central Region, WDNR.

Nine Springs Creek is six-miles long and is intermittent until just east of Fish Hatchery Road where it picks up flow from the springs that give the stream its name. It empties into the Yahara River just above Upper Mud Lake. Portions of the stream have been ditched and straightened, and the stream runs through an urbanizing area. Sediment is delivered to the stream from farm fields to the south and from construction sites in the cities of Fitchburg and Madison and their sub-watersheds. Channelization has increased summer water temperatures, reduced habitat, and increased sedimentation and excessive growth of aquatic plants (Marshall, 1990).

A Dane County Highway Department project in Fitchburg resulted in heavy sediment loading to the creek during the summer of 1989. The creek's heavy sediment load results in the lower portion occasionally requiring dredging. Urban storm water from the cities of Fitchburg and Madison also deliver pollutants to the creek. As the upper portions of the sub-watershed continue to be developed, this problem is expected to increase. These factors, plus its low gradient, cause “fair” water quality, with channel straightening having a devastating effect on water quality and habitat.

Detectable levels of mercury have been found in low concentrations in Nine Springs sediment taken at Moorland Road. The Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) sludge lagoons are adjacent to the stream. One of these lagoons is Superfund site. Citizens have raised concerns about the possibility of toxic substances leaking from the lagoons into Nine Springs Creek and Lake Waubesa. However, the possibility of mercury and other substances moving from the lagoon was evaluated in the Remedial Investigation (RI) conducted as part of the Superfund evaluations for the lagoon site. The RI report, which was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1995, concluded that no sludge constituents are migrating through the lagoon dike walls; no patterns between sludge and sediment constituents were found to indicate possible migration; the peat acts as a capture zone that restricts migration of sludge constituents to the aquifer beneath the lagoons; and groundwater is not affected by the lagoon sludge constituents (MMSD).

In 1996 the city of Fitchburg commissioned a private consultant to work with staff and the Nine Springs Neighborhood Plan Steering Committee to prepare a long-range land use and circulation plan for the Nine Springs Neighborhood. In addition, the 1996 UW-Madison's Water Resources Management Workshop, using a Lake Planning Grant from the WDNR, conducted a scoping study of the Nine Springs E-Way, including hydrologic monitoring and modeling and the identification of critical areas for protection, restoration and/or enhancement of the area's unique springs system (UW-Madison). In 1996 the Nine Springs Network (NSN), a grassroots watershed organization, was formed to protect the E-Way and the creek springs against developmental pressures.

Date  2002

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Nine Springs Creek -T7N, RI0E, Sec. 29, Surface acres = 5.8, Length = 6 m1les, Stream order = II, Gradient = 3.3 ft/mile,
Base discharge = 0.1 cfs.
An intermittent outlet from Dunn's Marsh and Seminole Pond, Nine Springs Creek picks up flow in the Nine Springs area and from a small tributary in the Nevln Marsh before emptying into the Yahara River. Parts of the stream have been ditched and the overall gradient is low. Consequently, periods of low flow and warm temperatures occur in the summer. Overall water quality is poor. Runoff from agricultural lands contribute sediment to the stream, and several industries discharge wastewater. The Nevin Fish Hatchery releases 2 million gallons per day from its trout ponds and the quality is good. Large sludge ponds constructed by the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District adjoin the stream near its mouth. The dikes have given way in the past, releasing water and sludge of high ammonia content to the stream. Sludge is now trucked away.
Forage fish are plentiful in Nine Springs Creek, and some escaped trout survive below the hatchery. Game fish are found near the mouth. Any attempt to improve the fishery would require a great deal of cooperation. Access is available at four road crossings and through several tracts of publicly owned land. State-owned lands east of the marsh provide habitat and hunting for deer, rabbits, and pheasants. Ducks use the Nevin Marsh extensively.
Fish species: bowfin, rainbow, brown, and brook trout, central mudminnow, common carp, brassy minnow, golden, emerald, common, spotfin and sand shiner, bluntnose and fathead minnow, creek chub, white sucker, black, yellow, and brown bullhead, brook sllverslde, brook stickleback, white and yellow bass, green sunfish, pumpkinseed, blueglll, smallmouth and largemouth bass, black crappie, yellow perch. walleye, and freshwater drum.

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

Date  1985

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Nine Springs Creek, Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08) Fish and Aquatic LifeNine Springs Creek, Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08) RecreationNine Springs Creek, Yahara River and Lake Monona Watershed (LR08) Fish Consumption

Impaired Waters

Nine Springs Creek (804200) was placed on the impaired waters list for total phosphorus and sediment/total suspended solids in 2004. The TMDL for both pollutants was approved by the U.S. EPA in 2011. The 2016 assessments showed continued impairment by phosphorus; total phosphorus sample data exceed 2016 WisCALM listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use, however, available biological data do not indicate impairment (i.e. no macroinvertebrate or fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scored in the "poor" condition category). This water was also assessed for temperature and sample data did not exceed 2016 WisCALM listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use. Based on the most updated information, no change in existing impaired waters listing is needed.

Date  2015

Author  Aaron Larson


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.



Citizen-Based Stream Monitoring
Collect chemical, physical, and/or biological water quality data to assess the current overall stream health. The data can inform management decisions and may be used to identify impaired waters for biennial lists.
Land Acquisition
Englehart Property. Dane County Parks Commission will acquire 7.85 acres of land located in the City of Madison and is known as Outlot 1 of Hickory Edge Plat for lake property purposes. Part of the property will be developed as a neighborhood park. It will also be used as open space for passive recreation and trails will be developed for hiking.
Land Acquisition
Moeller Property. The City of Madison will acquire 11.7 acres of land located in the City of Fitchburg and the Town of Madison, WI and will be used for lake protection purposes. The land will be used for trail corridors for hiking and cross country skiing. Part of the property will be developed as a neighborhood park. The four acres of wetland will be managed by the County and will provide habitat for waterfowl and serve as a vegetative buffer strip for the Nine Spring Creek.
Land Acquisition
McKee Property. Dane County Parks Commission will acquire 13.7 acres of land located along the Nine Springs Coordidor. The land will be used to control and slow surface water runoff from the residential development through the use of native vegetation enhancement. These parcels will also be used to continue the Capitol City bike trail and connect hiking trails with existing trails in the E-way corridor. Eligible costs include acquisition of the parcels, appraisal fee and preparation of an environmental assessment.

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

Nine Springs Creek 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

Nine Springs Creek is considered a Macroinvertebrate, Cool-Cold Headwater, 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.

Cool (Cold-Transition) Headwaters are small, usually perennial streams with cold to cool summer temperatures. Coldwater fishes are common to uncommon (<10 per 100 m), transitional fishes are abundant to common, and warm water fishes are uncommon to absent. Headwater species are abundant to common, mainstem species are common to absent, and river species are absent.

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