Dane County Trout Stream Habitat Improvement Project Implemented

Harbison Branch of Token Creek, Dane County, Wisconsin

The newly dug channel of the Harbison Branch that reconnected the stream to Token Creek, Dane County, Wisconsin.

In 1934 the Wisconsin Conservation Department (WCD) annexed land on private property near the Village of Token Creek in northeastern Dane County for the development of a large carp pond as a commercial venture. For the project, the Wisconsin Conservation Department (now the Department of Natural Resources, WIDNR) re-directed a small un-named trout stream into the pond, thus radically altering the flow, temperature and effectiveness of the stream.  The small trout stream–now known as the Harbison Branch– and its fish populations were also affected.

The commercial venture sold carp to markets on the east and west coasts and thrived for a while but was not sustainable in the log run and the project was eventually abandoned.  But the carp pond remained–until this year.

A New Era and Renewal

John and Rose Mary Harbison, co-directors of the Token Creek Festival, have ‐ at their own expense ‐ restored the stream’s connection to Token Creek, eliminated the carp pond, and created a beautiful and ecologically vital terrain that once again enhances the Lake Mendota watershed.

James Addis, formerly Administrator of the Division of Resource Management and Director of the Bureaus of Fisheries Management and Science Services with the WIDNR, over saw the project.   Inter-Fauve, the stream and river restoration firm, implemented the project.

A section of the newly re-connected Harbison Branch of Token Creek.

A view  of newly re-connected Harbison Branch of Token Creek.

Setting and Hydrological Importance

The Harbison property is next to Token Creek County Park and is in the  Token Creek County Park and Natural Resource Area which “encompass approximately 900 acres in northeastern Dane County. Token Creek is the only cold water trout fishery in this region of Dane County, and the 27 square mile watershed provides nearly half of the base flow of water for Lake Mendota.” (Token Creek County Park and Natural Resource Area Master Plan Dane County, Wisconsin May 2011.)

According to Dane County Parks planners, “Token Creek is one of the most significant natural resources in northeastern Dane County.” (Token Creek County Park 2011)   This ecological and hydrological importance is recognized by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources which has classified Token Creek and its tributaries as cold water communities that support cold water species such as trout.  The cold water habitat qualities has led the Dane County Land Conservation division to classify the Token Creek watershed as “thermally sensitive” and as such “have special stormwater management regulations in place to prevent adversely impacting the temperature of the stream.” (Token Creek County Park and Natural Resource Area Master Plan Dane County, Wisconsin May 2011.)

Early Project Outcomes

A couple of project goals have been met within weeks of project completion.  Trout moved into the new Harbison Branch stream channel right away (Token Creek supports a reproducing population of brown trout).  And, according to Addis, thermal readings in the new stream channel proves that the water temperature has fallen back into the low 50 degree F range that is ideal for trout habitat.

The project also supports earlier and ongoing stream improvement efforts by Dane County Parks, WIDNR, and the Token Creek Watershed Association and Conservancy  which include:  removal of the mill-pond dam, bank stabilization, invasive species removal and adding fish habitat structures.

Future posts will report on how the project might benefit native species in general and  the existing sedge meadow remnants, in particular.


Hunt, Robert L.  1993.  Trout Stream Therapy.  University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, WI.

Token Creek County Park and Natural Resource Area Master Plan Dane County, Wisconsin May 2011.  Dane County Parks, Madison, WI.


About Steve Glass

The blogger is a restoration ecologist, Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner (#0093 SER) and writer living in the Midwestern United States.
This entry was posted in Dane County Parks, Token Creek, Token Creek County Park, Token Creek Watershed and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Dane County Trout Stream Habitat Improvement Project Implemented

  1. Sandy Stark says:

    Wonderful project! Thanks for the detailed updates! Good to read such news today.

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