With temperatures in the upper 70’s and a big rain a few days ago, conditions seemed ideal for a paddle on Starkweather Creek. Our kayaking friend Gene joined us on this beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. We were a little concerned about the high water and the low bridges, but it was reassuring that a couple of friends were able to paddle a canoe under the low bridges 2 days before. A lot of big boats were launching at Olbrich, and we were very glad to have them turn left and take their speed and noise to Lake Monona, while we turned right and headed upstream on peaceful Starkweather Creek.
The Olbrich launch was swarming with SUV’s and trucks with their trailers trying to get their gigantic boats into or out of the water. Not pleasant. The launch area is described in other posts. There is a new sign warning of the presence of PFA’s in the water and the possibility that water quality may be affected “negatively.” Think twice about eating fish from this waterway.
Once we got away from the launch area, the surroundings were serene. The rippling vegetation under the water was hypnotic. The reflections were outstanding. Nature and the Friends of Starkweather Creek ensured that the water and creek banks were quite clean. No duckweed or algae scum this time and just one beer can sighted. Of course neither Nature nor the Friends can do much about the invisible PFA’s. There were no deadfall obstructions, and we paddled all the way to Anderson St. by MATC and the airport. A plane flew over us on its landing path just as we turned around to head back downstream.
The high water level required some serious ducking to get under the railroad bridge by Olbrich and the low bridge over Milwaukee St. Clearance was adequate for the other bridges and tunnels. We knew the water was higher than we’ve ever paddled it by how much we had to fold ourselves over to get under the two lowest bridges. We thought the creek would be lousy with paddlers, but except for a few other kayakers and a couple of stand-up paddleboarders, we had the creek to ourselves.
In our opinion, this 2-hour paddle is an urban gem – lovely, safe, shady and surprisingly quiet – another great way to appreciate the east side of Madison.
Wildlife: This is where we usually see dozens of turtles, but perhaps the high water was covering up their rock and log hangouts because we only saw two. We heard, but didn’t see, lots of frogs. Also, there were hundreds of dragonflies and the usual red-winged blackbirds and mallards and a muskrat. We saw one bird we could not identify – small tufted brownish bird with a yellow breast.
Water Level: there is no gauge, but visually we could see that the water level was much higher than usual. We saw some new gauges on the river. Friends of Starkweather Creek said
This is probably one of the water level monitors the City put in to study the creek watershed concerning flooding.