Big Spring Branch 2009



The Big Spring Branch is settled in northwest Iowa County and northeast Grant County, Wisconsin. The 2009 project area is located on land owned by David & Maria Drews and Jesse Crook. It is the largest project undertaken by the Harry and Laura Nohr Chapter of TU and its’ contributing partners, tallying approximately 5,400’ of stream length. As you can see in the map below upon completion of this 2009 project there is a continuous stretch of approximately three and a half miles of restoration completed.

The 2009 project outlined in black is of significant importance; it is the largest project on Big Spring Branch and includes many habitat structures to benefit reptiles, amphibians, non-game fish species and native plant communities. Many areas which used to be vertical eroding stream banks now are gently shaped back and seeded into a native prairie buffer providing stability to these once eroding areas.

Sponsorship and Partners

The role of the Harry and Laura Nohr Chapter in this project was to serve as a project sponsor and leader. The chapter does not have the physical or financial resources to undertake a project of this magnitude alone; it is necessary to collaborate with other organizations for volunteer labor and financial assistance. The Nohr chapter, as always after any major project, is indebted and grateful for the financial and physical efforts it has received through the year. We also look forward to continuing these joint ventures in an ongoing habitat improvement effort.

The partners for the 2009 Big Spring Restoration Project are as follows:

  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Iowa County Land Conservation Department
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
  • US Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Elliot Donnelley Chapter TU
  • Patagonia Corporation
  • Spring Creek Partners
  • Pheasants Forever
  • Dave Roh Excavating
  • Trout Unlimited DARE
  • Pheasants Forever
  • Trout and Salmon Foundation
  • Madison Fishing Expo
  • Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters
  • Badger Fly Fishers
  • David & Maria Drews Family
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Stream Restoration and Backwater Wetland

Project Activities

This year’s project was a continuation on the holistic approach from the last several years. The first objective is always to stabilize eroding stream corners to prevent further siltation of pool and riffle areas. This was accomplished by hundreds of feet of integrated stream bank stabilization and bank shaping. Second objective is to provide habitat for the game fish species through structures like vortex weirs, cross channel logs and sets of fish cribs, etc. The final objective, which is what sets projects like the Big Springs site above the rest, is installing practices to benefit rough fish species, reptiles, amphibians and native plant communities. In addition the land owner voluntarily installed a stream buffer, to be composed of a native prairie seed mix, along the entire 5,400’ project site.

Vertical, Eroding Stream Corner with Minimal Buffer Present Before Project
Same Area after Project Completion, Observe the Tremendous Amount of Bank Shaping and Wide Vegetated Stream Buffer

Stream and Riparian Improvement Work

Integrated bank stabilization and thousands of feet of bank shaping were installed to rehabilitate eroding stream corners. These practices will decrease the amount of sediment delivery to the stream and prevent future damage. The pre-construction conditions consisted of tall eroding stream corners. These corners acted as a chute, confining and increasing the flood water velocities. You can see in the above photo that great efforts were made to eliminate those tall banks into a gently sloping floodplain area. This will increase the cross section flooding area, creating greater volume capacity and decreased velocities, hence less damage.

Tall Eroding Stream Corner Present Before Construction
Same site a few months after work is completed

Cross channel logs, vortex weirs and sets of boulder retards were installed to create scouring and deep holes for the benefit of all fish species. These areas also created shadows in the current which allows for fine sediment deposition which turtles such as the Wood, Map and Blanding’s turtles can utilize for over wintering habitat. The Wood and Blanding’s turtles are both on the threatened species list in Wisconsin. Rock Deflectors were placed in straightened areas to recreate meanders in the stream and increase depth/velocities to add habitat and scour out sediment and reclaim native gravel beds. Root wads to accentuate fish habitat and escape logs for a protected sunning location for snakes and turtles were installed and associated with a created scour holes.

Many small backwater pockets were created or maintained. These areas serve as tremendous recruitment areas for reptiles and amphibians and act as a refuge area for the young of these species and several types of minnows from the predatory waters of the main stream. Both shallow and deep back water refuge areas were created or maintained. A snake hibernaculum was created as an over wintering den for snake species such as garter, common water, western fox and milk. Escape logs act as protected basking areas for both snake and turtle species.

Shallow Backwater Wetland Area, While Seeding is Establishing
Deep Backwater Wetland Area, With Timber Installation While Seeding is Establishing


The Big Spring Branch Restoration Project once again displays the opportunities to install habitat structures beneficial to the majority of the stream corridors inhabitants as well as depicting the vast partnership potential here in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area. The Nohr Chapter is very appreciative of the generous efforts of time and capital that were donated towards the successful completion of the 2009 Big Spring Restoration Project.

Vortex Weir and Root Wad
Cross Channel Log While Seeding is Establishing
½  Weir and Root Wad While Seeding is Establishing