kayaking on turtle creek beloit wisconsinAbout Turtle Creek

Turtle Creek winds its way for over 30 miles from Turtle Lake near Delavan, Wisconsin to the Rock River in South Beloit, Illinois. This scenic waterway offers great opportunities for paddling, tubing and fishing. Tiffany Bridge a hand-built, 5-arch limestone railroad bridge built in 1869 is one of the most photographed historic icons in Rock County.  Several metal truss road bridges also cross the creek, including “Turtleville Steel Bridge” (Lather’s Road Bridge), which is also on the National Historic Register along with Tiffany Bridge. The City of Beloit has miles of trails along the creek in Turtle Creek Greenway, offering year round enjoyment, including cross country skiing.

Early Inhabitants

turtle mounds beloit wisconsin (Custom)The Mound Builders – The area around Turtle Creek was home to humans during the Woodland period (about 500 B.C. to A.D. 1100), when distinctive burial mounds were constructed by communities across the southern two-thirds of Wisconsin. Some effigies are recognizable as birds, animals such as bear or deer, spirit animals, or people. Most mounds are now gone, but a few remain, with the best preserved mound being a 157 foot effigy , thought to be a turtle or “water spirit” in Beloit, Wisconsin at Totem Park. For more information about mounds in the Turtle Creek region download Beloit Archaeology Survey Report, 2004.

Turtle Village – Around 1830, a large Ho-Chunk village known as Ke-Chunk (Turtle Village) existed near the mouth of Turtle Creek close to the Illinois-Wisconsin state line in what is now Beloit, Wisconsin or South Beloit, Illinois. In the late 1820s and early 1830s, Ke-chunk was one of the major villages of the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) people. The word Ke-chunk , means “turtle” and was used to denote the Ho-Chunk village on Turtle Creek. In 1829, according to U.S. Indian agent John Kinzie, this village had 35 lodges with nearly 700 inhabitants.

Notable Ho-Chunk leaders associated with the village include White Crow (Kau-ree-kau-say-kaw), Whirling Thunder (Wau-kaun-wee-kaw), Walking Turtle (Karramaunee), and Little Priest or Little Chief (Mor-ay-tshay-kaw). The early French-Canadian trader Joseph Thibault built a cabin near the village site in 1835 or perhaps earlier. (1 ) (see reference at bottom of this page with link to research paper.)

Lincoln slept here – In 1832 Abraham Lincoln camped along Turtle Creek in what is now known as Town of Turtle while scouting for Chief Black Hawk for Captain Jacob Early.  Learn more and read about the Town of Turtle history with this article by Rock County Genealogical Society.

The Turtle Creek Watershed

Turtle Creek is in the Lower Rock River Basin, flowing from Turtle Lake in Walworth County, Wisconsin to Rock River in South Beloit, IL. The Turtle Creek watershed’s 231 square miles are in eastern Walworth County (62%) and Rock County (38%). Below are the 3 sections as described by a Wisconsin DNR Turtle Creek/Rock River Watershed Report.

Turtle Creek | Turtle Lake to Comus Lake

Rock River BasinThis segment of Turtle Creek is almost entirely ditched and has a low gradient, dropping 11 feet over its 5.5 mile length, with a barely perceptible flow in portions. Though primarily a forage fishery segment, panfish are common. More than 300 acres of wetland lie along the stream just north of Lake Comus. This segment is affected by channelization, drainage tiles, sedimentation from cropland runoff and wind erosion, stream bank sloughing, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and excess nutrients from animal waste. Its potential use is a warm water forage fishery.

Turtle Creek | Comus Lake to Rock-Walworth County Line
This 13-mile stretch of stream (plus Comus Lake) is buffered by more than 2,000 acres of adjacent wetlands in the nearby state-owned wildlife area. This segment is, however, affected by urban polluted runoff from the city of Delavan and exhibits low dissolved oxygen and high turbidity, especially during low flow conditions. A marginal smallmouth bass fishery exists and the threatened Ozark minnow has been found in a tributary to this stretch. In the past, WDNR proposals for habitat enhancements have been deferred due to excessive polluted runoff impacts and the stream’s natural limitations. This segment’s potential is considered warm water forage fishery.

Turtle Creek | Rock-Walworth Co. Line to the WI/IL Border

This 20-mile segment runs from the Rock-Walworth county line southwest to where it empties into the Rock River at Beloit. A high quality resource, it is designated an Exceptional Resource Water. This segment has a higher gradient than the first two segments, but it is still affected by urban polluted runoff in the Beloit area and by sediment from adjacent corn fields and severely eroding streambanks upstream of the city. (from Wisconsin DNR Turtle Creek/Rock River Watershed Report)

Turtle Creek is identified as Conservation Opportunity Area [PDF] for medium-size rivers and streams of Upper Midwest/Regional significance within the Southeast Glacial Plains Ecological Landscape according to Wisconsin’s Wildlife Action Plan. (from WI DNR website)

Turtle Creek Wildlife Area

Turtle Creek Wildlife Area is a 1035 acre property located in western Walworth and eastern Rock Counties. The property snakes along 10 miles of Turtle Creek in four wisconsin great birding and nature trailsegments from Delavan to South O’Riley Rd. The habitat consists of sedge meadow, shrub carr, hardwood forest and small prairie remnants. Large fall and winter concentrations of Canada geese can be seen at Turtle Creek. It is also home to a number of rare fish and reptile species.  (from WI DNR websiteDownload Map of Turtle Creek Wildlife Area

Birding on Turtle Creek

Turtle Creek is featured in the Southern Savanna Region of the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail  as a property on which to see yellow, blue-winged and golden warblers, along with eastern meadowlarks, brown thrashers and lark sparrows.

Fishing Turtle Creek Beloit Wisconsin (2) (Custom)Fishing on Turtle Creek

With the removal of the Shopiere Dam in 2000, walleye, catfish, northern pike, and panfish now had access to the upper reaches of the stream. Formerly, Turtle Creek supported an excellent smallmouth bass fishery below the dam and a marginal smallmouth bass fishery above the dam. The removal of the Shopiere Dam has enabled fish migration and the smallmouth bass fishery is expected to improve. (from Wisconsin DNR Turtle Creek/Rock River Watershed Report)

(1) From The Search for Ke-Chunk – 2012 Investigations in South Beloit, Winnebago County, Illinois By William Green, Logan Museum of Anthropology, Beloit College, Beloit, WI  – Dr. Green conducted archaeological research at The Confluence of Turtle Creek and Rock River in the summer of 2012.) Read whole paper at www.natureattheconfluence.com