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An old Mill Creek story
Random Thoughts, April 20
Random Thoughts by Wendell Smith

MUSCODA - With the coming of spring some folks may be having thoughts and dreams about enjoyable days spent at favorite fishing holes. Those folks may find a story that appeared in the March 29, 1951 issue of The Muscoda Progressive interesting. It was written by C F. Evans, President of the Society of American Foresters. The story, in part reads as follows.

“My early life was spent on a farm in the south end of Richland County, Wisconsin. Mill Creek runs lengthwise through the farm and empties into the Wisconsin River near Muscoda. The “Crick”, as we called it, was my boyhood joy.

“About 1896 I acquired a boat – a real boat with full-length oars and I used to row up and down the creek, sometimes as far as to Rudolph’s Mill Pond. The stream was ample in length and width and depth. It was good fishing then.

“My father caught a 12-pound northern pike within 300 yards of our house and we caught many fine bass ranging up to five pounds, not to mention the bullheads, sunfish and suckers.

“It was a fine clear stream and I and the neighbor boys learned to swim there. The water was deep enough to prevent cattle and horses from crossing without swimming except in certain spots.

“About 1900 the character and appearance changed radically. The spring floods became much worse and they carried a heavy load of debris and mud. The fish we knew disappeared and were replaced by carp, which someone planted in Rudolph’s Pond. The carp seemed to get along alright in the muddy water.

“By 1906 the fishing in Mill Creek was gone forever. My boat lay half-buried in the mud along the bank, but I could not have used it anyway, except in the time of floods.

“I saw the stream in 1950 and it made me sad. It was a sluggish remnant of the beautiful stream I knew and loved from 1890 to 1900. It was a dead stream. What caused the change?

“When the first settlers came to southwestern Wisconsin this land was covered with dense stands of mixed hardwood forest. Clearing for settlement and cultivation came first along the valley bottoms. Many of the tiny streams that fed Mill Creek yearlong were beginning to disappear. There had been many of the tiny streams that once fed Mill Creek. They had been numerous along the margins and in the branch heads. Indeed, the early settlers built their log cabins near these springs and used them for their water supply.

“Clearing of the slopes and cultivating the land left nothing to check the run-off from the rain and melting snow. That, I am sure is what ruined the beautiful Mill Creek of my boyhood.”

Jumping to 1958 - that’s when Vi and I arrived in Muscoda, driving an aging Chevrolet automobile that carried an old steel boat on its top and a three-h.p. Evinrude outboard motor in the trunk.

One of our first Wisconsin water excursions was in that boat. We “put-putted” up stream on Mill Creek, starting from the Highway 60-bridge.

The thing we remember most about that journey was the large number of wild violets that were blooming on the banks of the creek. I wrote a column about that voyage that took us along “The Valley of Violets”.

That was 65 years ago. The old boat and tiny outboard motor are long gone. But we sometimes recall that day and wonder about the pretty blue flowers we met that day – and does anyone see them now?