Creek Walking – A whole new way to experience the outdoors

I experienced Turtle Creek a whole new way the other day.

It was an unusually hot September day, around 90 degrees, the water had warmed up and my son asked me to accompany him while he walked the creek and fished. When you’re college-aged son wants to hang out with you, you don’t turn him down! So we headed out and picked a 1.25  mile section that we knew was about knee-high to thigh-high depth and started our slow adventure on the creek.

Creek Walking Turtle Creek (5)What an amazing experience! It’s a whole new way to explore this hidden gem in the Beloit area. I am an avid kayaker and have paddled on Turtle Creek many times, but this was a totally different experience…it was slow and deliberate. You have to look down all the time to watch where to place your feet, so you notice more of the creek bed. Many times I’ve been kayaking and drifting by something I’d like to look at, but it was too much effort to stop and get out.  It’s also a great way to pick up garbage along the way.  If you like fishing, bring along your fishing pole. My son caught and released over 30 fish on our  walk.

When we walked the creek, we had not had significant rain for almost 4 weeks, so the creek was fairly low (3.8 ft at the Carver’s Rock gauge) and very clear.  I wouldn’t go on creek walking if I couldn’t see the bottom (or if the water was higher), as Turtle Creek’s bottom changes dramatically while you walk. There were completely sandy sections with no rocks. There were frequent sections that had stones the size of a large fist littering the whole creek bottom, there were areas that had clay deposits, and other areas that are gravelly.

Walking along a creek is a uniquely rewarding experience for anyone with a sense of adventure. Whether you want to exercise, learn about nature, be inspired, or simply get together with friends, creek walking is a unique way to experience the great outdoors in the Beloit area.

Why Do Creek Walking?

  • It’s an inexpensive way to experience Turtle Creek, only requiring old tennis shoes and a walking stick or two.
  • You can immerse yourself totally in experience a natural and wild part of the Beloit area that you can only access via Turtle Creek.
  • The simple pleasure of creek walking presents us with an opportunity to embrace our creeks as the precious resource that they are.
  • It can be a fun family outing. Check tips below before you go.

Things to know before you go Creek Walking

  • Be prepared to encounter very uneven terrain. This is not something to do for someone who is not steady on their feet.
  • Start with a small section to ensure you’re comfortable Creek Walking.
  • To keep your balance, I recommend bringing along one or two trekking poles (available at local stores such as Walmart for under $20.) You can use a sturdy stick or two, but the trekking poles have straps that go over your wrists and I found this handy when I was getting items out of my backpack or bending down to look at something. They are also very lightweight.
  • Wear old tennis shoes or water shoes. I wore my kayak water booties that have a nice “grippy” sole. I had previously worn my Keene sandals that strap on, but stones kept getting stuck in them that I had to remove. Don’t wear flip flops!
  • Wear quick dry shorts or swim trunks (no cotton). Waders are an option, but not needed if the water is warm enough.
  • You might encounter some muck – for the most part the creek bottom is gravel, sand, stone. But the edges are sometimes mucky (like up to your shins mucky!)
  • Go early in the morning or on a weekday to have a better chance at having the creek to yourself!
  • Secure phones and keys in a Ziploc bag or dry bag and place it in a backpack. There was one spot that I had to take the backpack off my back and carry it over my head to keep it dry.
  • It’s a bit more difficult (and noisier) to walk upstream. But it’s a good work out!
  • This is a great family activity if you pick the right location that is level and not deep. I would choose a spot that you can do a short round trip to see how everyone in your group reacts to this experience. (It’s not for everyone!) It might be fun to bring the smaller kids in a raft (lifejackets required) and pull them while you walk. You might bring a magnifying glass and small plastic container to view any creatures or treasures you might find.
  • Wear sunglasses – Depending on the time of day, there is quite a glare coming off the water. My son wore polarized sunglasses and could see so much more of the creek bottom and the fish swimming around that I could with regular sunglasses.  You might want to wear “croakies” to prevent losing your sunglasses in the water.
  • Wear a backpack to carry water, first aid supplies, and a bag to place garbage you find along the way. Pack a snack or picnic.
  • Creek Walking is not recommended for the person that is worried about something touchy their legs (often weeds and leaves will drift by, caressing your legs).
  • You are not trespassing as long as you stay in the water. Respect landowner’s property. WI DNR rules: Members of the public may use any exposed shore area of a stream without the permission of the landowner only if it is necessary to exit the body of water to bypass an obstruction. (or high water ~ my note)
  • Click here for put in locations for Turtle Creek. Ensure you scout the area you plan to walk, as there are deep sections of the creek.
  • Pick the right section – we walked from Smith Road Bridge (near Tiffany Bridge) to Sweet Allyn Park (there is one part just before Sweet Allyn Park that it gets deeper – chest high) Be prepared to encounter deeper water (there was a short section that reached chest high, and we got out and walked for a bit around it)
  • You can either do a round trip (walk a bit then walk back) or one way like we did, leaving a car at your takeout to get a ride back to your put in spot.
  • Check your shoes after your hike for any hitchhikers. Some creeks have invasive mussels (not Turtle Creek!) that we don’t want to transport around, and they can be very tiny! Remove all plants, animals, and mud from your footwear. It is recommended to soak waders, boots and other equipment in a salt water solution (2 gallons water to 1/3 cup salt) for 24 hours or you can make a bleach solution (¼ cup bleach per gallon of water) and soak for 15 minutes.
  • Leave no trace. Do your best to not disturb the creek bottom and the rocks. There are many macroinvertebrates that live in the creek bottom that are vital to the health of our streams, please don’t disturb their habitat.
  • Know your limits and consider your safety.
  • To learn more about Turtle Creek visit friendsofturtlecreek.com or join the Facebook group.

By Therese Oldenburg, Wisconsin Master Naturalist, President of Be Active Outdoors, Inc.

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