Fishing resources

Department of Natural Resources: Drawdown Aims to Improve Waterfowl Habitat in French Creek Wildlife Sanctuary

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today announced that local residents and users of the French Creek Wildlife Preserve near Portage will soon notice a significant change in the main flow of the wildlife preserve due to of an existing project aimed at improving the preferred habitat of waterfowl. .

This summer, MNR wildlife management staff will lower water levels in French Creek, which extends into a 900-acre wide flow through the property, to expose the creek bed and create mudflats to improve the habitat of “puddle” ducks such as mallards and teal.

Lower water levels will also allow for some repairs to be made to the dam that controls the flow of water into French Creek. MNR staff began work on the habitat in May 2022.

“Our goal is to preserve and enhance wetland habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife by making seasonal adjustments to water levels in the flow. These mudflats may look unappealing at first glance, but this is a chance for the flow of French Creek to undergo a revitalization,” said Sara Kehrli, MNR Wildlife Biologist. “Going through a drawdown cycle in late spring will create a good spot for this fall’s hunt. Shorebirds also find these mudflats very attractive, so this should also be a good place for birdwatchers to spot various shorebirds.

Drawdown projects like this allow soils to settle, anchor floating bog mats and provide excellent food sources for waterfowl, shorebirds and other wildlife. Lower water levels resulting from the Project will also allow for some repairs to be made to the dam controlling the flow of water into French Creek.

French Creek Wildlife Area is a 3,506 acre property located in Columbia County offering many recreational opportunities including bird watching, wildlife viewing, fishing, hunting, and hiking.

Prior to becoming a state wildlife preserve in 1947, the swamp was once devoted to the production of ‘grass yarn’, a native plant used in the manufacture of carpets and grass mats and later came under the grazing and the occasional harvest of wild hay by farmers. Early settlers regularly hunted prairie chicken in the French Creek area. Today the property is primarily managed to focus on waterfowl production and hunting opportunities.