Nice park at the put-in

One of the springs is dammed to create a fishing pond

850′ hike to the water but not bad

They seemed to be chasing mice

Launching at last

Some long stems of grass

You will not fit under Syene Road

So time to portage

This is a starting option

The creek is channelized in part

At your first intersection, turn left

An oddly friendly duck

Amazing water clarity by one of the springs

Of all the springs, this is the best one

You can see the water bubbling out of the ground

Friendly crayfish

Very serene

Lot of geese

Birds of prey that appeared to be courting

Very busy hwy 14

Some interesting stalactites

Engage warp

Disengage warp

Nice scene by hwy MM

There is a new landing here (partly under construction)

Another spring (not as nice as the other one)

Pedestrian bridge from Indian Springs Park

Surprisingly good clarity

Marsh is replaced by woodlands

Log jams were never an issue

Bridge by Rustic Park

So cool

Surprisingly sandy

Second Rustic Park bridge

Drumlin in the distance (hard to see)

Mooreland Road canoe launch

Many take out here

Nice launching pier

An observation and boardwalk

Painted turtle

Creek really starts to get bigger

At the intersection with the railroad bridge, go right

Many cattails

Geese standing guard

Gateway to Mud Lake

A beaver escorts me to the Beltline

Heading south on Upper Mud Lake

Got to see a pelican eating a fish

Gateway to Lake Waubesa

Huge flock of loons

Taking out at Lake Farm County Park

There is an observation tower in the park

Pause Slideshow

Nine Springs Creek

Date Paddled: March 28th, 2016
Put-in: The Jenni and Kyle Preserve (off Post Road)
Take-out: Lake Farm County Park (Lake Waubesa)
Distance: 6.18 Miles
Time: 3 hours 41 minutes (3 hours would be more typical)
Gradient: 0.5' per mile (slow)
Water Level: Lake Waubesa @ McFarland 4.53'

This is a newer water trail located south of Madison that is a favorite with locals.  It’s a simple creek paddle though an open wetland but is pleasant, with great water clarity and abundant wildlife.

Despite being next door to Madison, much of the creek corridor is undeveloped.  There are a series of parks (city, county and even a new state park) that flank the creek and provide options to explore the Nine Springs area by foot, but the best experience is by water.

What makes “Nine Springs Creek” special are the springs.  I do not know where they are all located, but I found four and marked several on the map.  The first spring is by the “Jenni & Kyle Preserve”, but this has been dammed to create a public fishing pond.  This is unfortunate as it obscures the bubbling springs and creates a lot of pond weeds. 

The second natural spring is located east of Syene Road and was the highlight of the trip.  When the creek forks, go left!  Here you’ll see crystal clear water and a very active underwater volcano chain bubbling new water through the sand and into the watershed.  Sometime gas bubbles would float up to the surface as a neat effect.  If you skip ahead to 45 seconds into the video, you will see this.  There is another spring east of Hwy MM that you can paddle up to, but this is relatively uninteresting, as is the nearby inland spring in Indian Springs Park.

A popular take-out option is at the Moorland Road bridge, but if you disembark here it will be a short trip.  The next mile and a half runs by the Madison sewage plant  where the creek really opens up.  The mouth empties into Upper Mud Lake right by the Beltline.  I think there is a nearby boat ramp by Lottes Lane (next to Rutabaga), but I chose to paddle the extra mile though Mud Lake and to Lake Farm County Park off Lake Waubesa.


There are a number of put-in options, but I chose to launch from the “Jenni & Kyle Preserve”, which is a county park located west of Syene Road.  The advantage of this access spot is that there is good parking, no fees (that I could see) and it is secluded (always handy when locking bikes and boats).  There is an outhouse which is open seasonally (which is not March).  The downside of this option is you have to drag your boat 850′ south along a grass trail to the water. 

If you don’t mind facing some log jams, you might be able to put in further upstream at the Nevin State Fish Hatchery.

A popular put-in is at Syene Road.  This is a very busy road with a small area to pull off on, but it is an option.

The most popular put-in is an established canoe launch by the Hwy MM bridge.  A good option, but to me this cuts the trip a little short and leaves off the best part (more on this later).


Lake Farm County Park is located on Lake Waubesa and is a good take-out option.  There is plenty of parking, an outhouse and established boat ramp.  Do note this is a fee area that is regularly patrolled, so you must purchase a Dane County park sticker or pay seven dollars at the self-pay station for a daily pass.

A more popular take-out is off Moorland Road which is an established canoe landing.  This park has good parking, outhouses and also requires a Dane County Park Sticker.

Shuttle Information:

I don’t believe there are any nearby liveries.  However, this makes for a fantastic bike shuttle.  Much of its 4.8 mile length can be done along the paved(!) “Capital City Trail“.  Do note, this trail requires a state trail pass which can be purchased at most state parks.

Hazards and Log Jams:

No hazards nor log jams.  This is a great paddling option for beginner paddlers.  “Friends of Capital Springs Recreation Area” deserves a lot of credit for clearing the creek of obstructions and establishing canoe landings.  Do be mindful of wind direction and speed, as the end of this trip will be on exposed water.

River Depth, Navigability and Current:

Creek levels stay relatively stable because it is located in a wetland.  I doubt it ever gets too low nor too high to paddle.   There is a shallow section by the first natural springs and during extremely low levels, you might not be able to paddle up to this.

There is little current, but it is noticeable and appreciated.

Noteworthy Wildlife:

This was a great trip for wildlife.  Many geese, ducks and cranes (several of which seemed to be eating mice).  Also a painted turtle, several raptors, numerous songbirds, a crayfish, a large flock of loons, four muskrats and the highlight was seeing a pelican on Upper Mud Lake. 

Other Paddling Options:

  • Nevin State Fish Hatchery to Jenni & Kyle Preserve: 1.2 miles. A theoretical option.  Put-in might be questionable and logjams might be an issue.
  • Jenni & Kyle Preserve to Syene Road: 0.25 miles. A short simple section.
  • Syene Road to Hwy MM Landing: 1.0 miles. A neat stretch with some amazing natural springs, but Hwy 14 might be tricky to get under for bigger boats in higher water (reviewed here).
  • Hwy MM to Moorland Road Landing: 2.0 miles. A good stretch (reviewed here).
  • Mooreland Road to Mouth: 1.4 miles. More open but still a nice stretch (reviewed here).
  • Yahara River Take-out Options:
    • Mouth to Lake Farm County Park: 1.5 miles.  An open water paddle on Mud Lake and Lake Waubesa (reviewed here).
    • Mouth to Lottes Park: 0.3 miles. If you paddle north under the Beltline, you can take out at Lottes Park (close to Rutabega).
    • Additional Yahara adventures:  See my previous review which has an overview of almost all access options.




4 Comments to “Nine Springs Creek”

  1. A word to the wise: fitting through the very low clearance bridge/tunnel at Highway 12 is pretty tricky and definitely not appropriate for the claustrophobic. You will need either to limbo all the way back or bend forward as far as possible. It’s 200 feet long and too narrow to paddle. So you just have to drift in a squatting position and try to relax. If the creek is high, then this could well be impassable…and crossing Highway 14 with a kayak and gear would be ridiculously unsafe — there’s a whole lot of traffic blazing by at 70+ mph.

  2. Thanks Tim for the heads up. I didn’t have any problems but the creek wasn’t flooding and I was in a low riding kayak. What paddlers perhaps could do is prior to the trip is park at the Anderberg Drive canoe ramp, hop over MM and eyball the culvert and determine for themselves if it looks dicey.

  3. I just did a spring to spring paddle today (8/9/17), put in at the J and K preserve, and headed up stream about 3/4 of a mile to another big spring area just off the Capitol City bike trail, I then turned around and floated back past the preserve and on to the other spring area, and then up stream back to the preserve. Other than a few small “scootable”snags and one small log jam in the area upstream from the preserve, it was a great trip. I only had to get out of the boat once to pull it over the log jam. With a little work it would be a very nice trip. Lots of birds and wildlife.

    1. Appreciate the comment Eric. It it interesting to hear that there is another nice spring upstream of J&K. Would be curious to know if a route from the Fish Hatchery is viable.

How did your trip turn out? Questions? Comments? Or just say hi.

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