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Lowery Creek Watershed Initiative

At 8,600 acres, the Lowery Creek watershed is small by most standards, but is packed with more intriguing beauty, culture, and history than your average watershed. Even the trout in Lowery Creek are special, being one of only two “heritage breed” brook trout populations that exist in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area.
 
Like all Driftless Area cold water streams, Lowery Creek begins in the springs that dot the surrounding hills. It starts near the aptly-named Far Look Road, then winds through a four-mile long valley before filling the pond at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin estate and spilling into the Lower Wisconsin River. A primary tributary follows Hillside School Road before flowing into Lowery Creek just upstream of the Taliesin pond.
 
The valley’s slopes hold the mix of woods, prairies, savannas, crops, and pastures the Driftless Area is known for. Add to that Unity Chapel, Taliesin (a World Heritage Site), the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance), great biking and hiking, fascinating history, and the enduring influence of Frank Lloyd Wright – and you have a very special place.

 

We are working toward a watershed that, fifty or more years from now, will be even more beautiful and bountiful than it is today. It will be known for its aesthetics, progressive agriculture, rich biodiversity, cultural tourism, and engaged community. It will serve as a model for our region and beyond.

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Our Story and Vision

In 2014, watershed residents invited DALC to join conversations about how to protect and enhance their water quality, viewsheds, working lands, natural lands, and quality of life going forward. They were motivated to take action, but needed some guidance and structure. 

 

Those conversations evolved into the Lowery Creek Watershed Initiative. DALC serves a coordinating role for the partnership, alongside a very engaged team of area residents and partner organizations.

 

Seated at the table are Taliesin PreservationFrank Lloyd Wright FoundationIowa County Land Conservation DepartmentTown of WyomingCates Family FarmSavanna Institute, Canopy Farm Management, Stapleton Farm, Friends of the Lower Wisconsin RiverwayOtter Creek Organic Farm, Future Fruit Farm, and other individuals who bring a wealth of experience to this effort.

 

Today, our key activities include Evenings Afield field trips, stream monitoring through Water Action Volunteers, mapping the watershed, controlling invasive species, and special workshops.

 

Support has come from two Wisconsin DNR River Planning Grants, Bradshaw-Knight Foundation, Alliant Energy Foundation, generous individual donors, and in-kind assistance from the Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

 

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Evenings Afield

One evening per month, we set aside time for learning in the field from experts and each other, socializing with like-minded landowners and residents, and seeing results of management methods on different properties. Our Evenings Afield have been very well-received, and every year we strive to broaden our audience. All are welcome. 

 

Our 2023 topics included Driftless groundwater, prairie and woodland restoration, grass-fed beef, organic farming and perennial crops, and how to get started in agro-forestry. Read about our 2023 sessions in our flyer, and stay tuned for our 2024 season, beginning in May!

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Water Monitoring

To assess water quality in Lowery Creek and monitor it long-term, our partnership participates in the statewide Water Action Volunteers (WAV) citizen science program. WAV provides training in water sampling methods plus equipment, data sheets, and an online database for entering results.

 

Stream monitoring parameters include streamflow, dissolved oxygen, temperature, water transparency, aquatic animals, insects, and fish habitat. Stream Phosphorus is also collected at select sites.

 

Teams of volunteers do monthly sampling of several sites on the two main branches of Lowery Creek. Site locations provide information that help us understand connections between land use and water quality. That information and analyses will help guide future land management. 

 

Water sampling occurs the second Tuesday of the month, from May-October. It is easy, fun, and a great way to learn. To join us or learn more, contact Mike Degen at mdegen@franklloydwright.org or 608-588-5346.

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Mapping

To understand what is happening on the land in the Lowery Creek watershed today, we have developed a multi-layered map that incorporates information that is available through state and county Geographic Information Systems (GIS) sources AND information collected from conversing with landowners and walking the land. 

 

Layers include topography, land use, vegetation type, soil type, frog breeding sites, actively managed or restored uplands, actively managed stream, cultural sites, water monitoring sites, concentrations of invasive plants, and more. We will continually update map layers, and will include notes on cropping history, cultural history, and other aspects of land use.

 

You can access this map at the link below, turn layers on and off, adjust the transparency of layers to your liking, study various relationships, and use the information to guide land management and other activities. Our team will use it to observe and think about land and water conservation at the watershed level. 

 

View a working map of the watershed here. A more user-friendly interactive map is in development.

 

For more information on the mapping project, contact Mike Degen at mdegen@franklloydwright.org or 608-588-5346.

 

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Special Workshops, Demonstrations, and Partner Events

Tours, field events, webinars, and other educational resources are regularly offered by several of our partner organizations. Check out the events, resources, and services pages on their websites here:

 

Canopy Farm Management

Cates Family Farm

Driftless Area Land Conservancy

Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

Iowa County Land Conservation Department

Savanna Institute

Taliesin Preservation

 

 

​To learn more about the Lowery Creek Watershed Initiative, contact Barb Barzen at barb@driftlessconservancy.org or 608-930-3252.

Our team:

Katie Abbott - Iowa County Land Conservation Dept.

Barb Barzen - Driftless Area Land Conservancy

Dick Cates - Cates Family Farm

Mike Degen - Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Jen Filipiak - Driftless Area Land Conservancy

John Hess - Town of Wyoming

Ryan Hewson - Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Steph Judge - Driftless Area Land Conservancy

Randy Manning - historian and conservationist

Patrick Michaels - Savanna Institute, Canopy Farm Management

Joe Stapleton - Stapleton Farm

Jean Unmuth - Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway-Science Team

Selena Warsaw-Lane - Future Fruit Farm

Gary Zimmer - Otter Creek Organic Farm

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