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Caption: Wolf Run Trail, Mazomanie, WI. Photo credit: Angie Banks

Special Place

Black Earth Creek Valley

Have you ever fished Black Earth Creek? As many fly fishers know, Black Earth Creek is a high-quality Class I trout stream with a national reputation for the quality of its fishing. The stream has been rated as one of the 100 best trout streams in the nation by Trout Unlimited and is recognized as one of the most productive wild brown trout streams in Wisconsin. Lands owned by the Department of Natural Resources and public fishing easements along creeks in the valley provide public access and protect important wildlife habitat.

As its name suggests, the Black Earth valley farmland is also very rich. This prime farmland with its family farms and wetland areas characterize the valley floor. Steep slopes frame the valley and feature prairie remnants and oak savannas on the southern slopes, with mixed forest on the north slopes.

The valley encompasses a landscape of approximately 20,000 acres and includes the villages of Cross Plains, Black Earth, and Mazomanie. Two main tributaries, Vermont Creek and Garfoot Creek, feed into Black Earth Creek as it makes its way to the Wisconsin River. Since 2001, Groundswell has protected 1,000 acres of land in the valley through the purchase of land and conservation easements.

More land conservation projects are in the works, as Groundswell continues to collaborate with local landowners and communities to protect the lands and waters of the Black Earth Creek valley. Important partners in our conservation work at the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, the Dane County Conservation Fund, Trout Unlimited, Ice Age Trail Alliance, and Gateway to the Driftless.

To visit Black Earth Creek valley: drive between Cross Plains and Mazomanie on Highway 14 or bike on County Highway KP.  Hike the Ice Age Trail which bisects the valley, or enjoy Black Earth Creek from the Wolf Run Trail which runs between Wisconsin Heights School and Mazomanie. Explore some of the side roads, and visit Festge County Park’s overlook for an inspiring view of the valley that Groundswell is working with landowners and partners to protect.

Our Projects at Black Earth Creek Valley

Open to the Public Hunting is Allowed
15 Projects (Alphabetized by Project Area)
This easement protects ~116 acres of prime farmland in the heart of the Black Earth Creek valley. Both Black Earth and Garfoot Creeks run through the property. This easement was transferred to Groundswell by American Farmland Trust which originally protected the property.
This 80 acre easement helps protect the scenic viewshed from Festge County Park across the Black Earth Creek valley. There is no public access.
This acquisition adds 5.2 acre property to Black Earth Creek Fishery Area.
Thanks to the generosity of three landowners, the Land Trust purchased this 53-acre property at a bargain price and then gave the property to the Village of Cross Plains as an addition to the Village's system of conservancy parks. The Land Trust retained a conservation easement on the property, ensuring that it would always remain open to the public in a natural state. This property is open to the public.
This streambank easement provides permanent public access to roughly 4,128 feet of Vermont Creek - a picturesque trout stream and important tributary of Black Earth Creek. In partnership with Dane County Groundswell acquired the conservation easement and transferred it to Dane County. This permanently protected property is open to the public.
This streambank easement provides permanent public access to roughly 3,000 feet of Vermont Creek - a picturesque trout stream and important tributary of Black Earth Creek. In partnership with Dane County, Groundswell acquired the conservation easement and transferred it to Dane County, ensuring the property is permanently protected. This property is open to the public.
Effort to continue existing bike and pedestrian trail from Wisconsin Heights School to the Village of Black Earth. There is no public access.
The Land Trust purchased and, in partnership with the NRCS Wetland Reserve Program, restored 62 acres of wetlands along Garfoot Creek, a major tributary of Black Earth Creek. The property was transferred to the Department of Natural Resources and is permanently protected. This property is open to the public for hunting and other activities.
This property was a key link in securing a trail corridor connecting the Village of Mazomanie with the Wisconsin Heights School. The public trail allows hiking, biking, and snowmobiling. It runs along a beautifully restored section of Black Earth Creek and provides public access to its world-class trout fishery. This permanently protected parcel was transferred to the Town of Mazomanie. This property is open to the public.
A collaborative project of Dane County, the Town of Middleton, and the Land Trust, this project brought 294 acres of land into Dane County ownership as part of the Black Earth Creek Natural Resource Area. The permanently protected property includes more than a half-mile of Black Earth Creek and extensive uplands with views of Blue Mounds. This property is open to the public.
A collaborative project of Dane County, the Town of Middleton, and the Land Trust, this project brought 294 acres of land into Dane County ownership as part of the Black Earth Creek Natural Resource Area. The permanently protected property includes more than a half-mile of Black Earth Creek and extensive uplands with views of Blue Mounds. This property is open to the public.
This 10-acre easement makes it possible to both restore a stretch of Halfway Prairie Creek and extend the Wolf Run Trail north. The property under the easement is open to the public but the trail has not been built yet. This easement is co-held with Dane County.
The Streambank and Public Recreational Trail Easement protects and provides public access to roughly 6,300 feet of Black Earth Creek, a high-quality water resource in Dane County popular with trout anglers. A proposed public trail connecting the Village of Mazomanie to the Wisconsin Heights School would be constructed within the easement. This property is open to the public.
Two conservation easements protect a total of 215 acres of productive agricultural land in the Black Earth Creek Valley. There is no public access.
Two conservation easements protect a total of 215 acres of productive agricultural land in the Black Earth Creek Valley. There is no public access.