Big Spring

The Arboretum “Big Spring” is the most well-known of the watershed’s springs.  It is also the largest in terms of gallons per minute of continuous flow,  ranging from 320 gals/min. to over 670 gals./min since 2004 when regular monitoring began.  Ballering and Bahr (2004) initiated spring flow monitoring and it continues with the blogger.

Big Spring viewed from lower path in Wingra Woods, UW-Madison Arboretum. Photo Copyrighted by Stephen B. Glass.

Ballering, N. and J. Bahr.  2004. Spring flow and water quality in the Lake Wingra Watershed.  Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Arboretum Big Spring

The “Big Spring” is on the south shore of Lake Wingra in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum.  The “Big Spring” is flanked by West Spring and White Clay Spring (so-called because of the upwelling white sandy-clay soil) to the east.

White Clay Spring

White Clay springs has a flow rate ranging from 11 gals/min. to over 170 gals/min since monitoring began in 2006.  West Spring is a seep area with a diffuse flow that has not been measured because I have not found a way to do it.

West Spring

8 Responses to Big Spring

  1. Joe koberstein says:

    I grew up on the lake in the 50’s and we regularly canoed up “big spring” it looks like it is just a shadow of what it was them.

    • Steve Glass says:

      Joe, that’s an interesting and valuable observation because there is not much historical data on the springs. I’d be eager to learn more or see any photos of the area you might have.

  2. Joe koberstein says:

    Sorry no photos. Camera’s were an expensive device in the fifties. I canoed up the springs in the area many times and could go all the way to the source with three people in the canoe. Joe the proprietor of Stamm’s boat house(where Wingra boats is now) let us use the boats in exchange for night crawlers. The other spring we visited a lot was called the Indian circle across from where Dudgeon school was, We regularly drank the water and collected water cress which we sold. The lake is in a lot better shape today(my take) the fish were stunted and carp were every where. Spearing carp at Wingra park was a regular pass time for neighborhood boys.

    • Steve Glass says:

      Thanks Joe. The Indian Circle spring might be either of the ones we now call Council Spring (just below the Council Ring) or Dancing Sands, along the little boardwalk.

  3. MadtownLems says:

    So I just learned about these springs and found your site via Google. Are you able to better describe where these are? Perhaps with a google map or better picture? I live nearby and can’t wait to check these out! Thanks

    • Steve Glass says:

      Hi Jason,
      There are two handy maps. On the page “Springs” on my blog is a link (Wingra Springs 2005 ) to an aerial photo with general locations of the springs marked. On the Arboretum web page, the interactive map show springs locations and trails. Go to and click on the “Watershed” link in the Menu Tab “Learn more about the Arboretum.” You can also pick up a printed map at the Visitor Center.

  4. Lola says:

    Greetings I will like to know when this area of the Arboretum became Big Spring.
    >>*Big Spring viewed from lower path in Wingra Woods, UW-Madison Arboretum. Photo Copyrighted by Stephen B. Glass*
    The part that is now close to go down to beginning of WINGRA SPRING, was Beautiful the water cool and delicious. I know we got married in that exact space that now is cover “with stones” Have Awesome pictures taken there Saturday, July 31, 1971 There were many more trees that I see on that photo.

    • Steve Glass says:

      HI Lola, thank for reading my blog and for the question. The spring itself has been there since at least the end of the last ice age, 12,000 years ago. I don’t know what the Ho Chunk name for the spring was. The land became part of the Arboretum in the 1930’s and soon became known as Big Spring because it had the largest water flow of any of the 30 or so spring that once encircled Lake Wingra. The stone work and the railing over the spring were probably put in during the early 1930’s when the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) had a camp at the Arboretum. The more recent stone work and the stone bench were put in in the mid-1990’s

      You are right that there are fewer big trees there now. This is probably the result of the tornado that ripped through the area in June of 2008 and toppled many of the large mature oaks.

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