Ozaukee Treasures Network

Ulao Creek

  • Big Changes for Ulao Creek

    Big changes are happening to a little creek that runs through the heart of the Town of Grafton and what was once the Ulao Settlement.

    At one time Ulao Creek's headwaters bubbled up in the Ulao Swamp beginning in an area that is now covered by the WeEnergies fly ash dump. Watercress grew in abundance along the banks. Children swam and people fished in this clear and meandering stream. Wildlife was diverse and abundant.

    In the early 1900's, things began to change. Much of this lovely creek was channeled for progress - mostly for the railroad. Later, in the 1950's, Dutch Elm Disease spread through the swamp and many stately trees along the bank fell into and over the creek, bringing tons of debris down with them. In the years following, flooding increased and the need to protect farm fields brought local residents together. The Kaul, Hoppe and Helms families and other creek-side landowners joined forces to create The Ulao Creek Partnership with a mission to improve the creek and adjacent impacted land.

    Over the years, The Ulao Creek Partnership, with much support from Ozaukee County, has made vast improvements to the creek, clearing the channel, planting trees for flood control and removing invasive vegetation. The creek, however, has remained confined in its dug channel along the side of the railroad tracks, and that is how most everyone thought it would always be.

    Recently something very surprising happened!

    Ozaukee County Planning & Parks Department, through its Milwaukee River Watershed Fish Passage Program added Ulao Creek to its rivers restoration plan for Ozaukee. They obtained grant funding and hired Solutions 101 LLC, a project management company that goes to great lengths in limiting its footprint on a site, disturbing only areas necessary for the completion of a project. Solutions 101 owner, Jim Sykes, says "We work closely with our clients to create a plan that best fits the owner's vision for the property and to provide a legacy for future generations of land stewards."

    Inspired by the conservation focus of the project, Wacker Neuson, a multi-national German based manufacturer of compact construction equipment, selected this project to field-test its newest equipment. Solutions 101 and the Wacker Neuson development team chose the equipment being used for its compact size, versatility, agility, and efficiency. Working with equipment that offers a smaller turning radius and the option to add attachments means less impact is made to the surrounding landscape.

    There are 2 areas of reconstruction underway on Ulao Creek, one east of Arrowhead Road and the Gateway site, south of Hwy 60 behind the BP station. This project will work to revitalize the watershed by re-creating conditions similar to pre-settlement times in the project-area parts of Ulao Creek.

    The new stream channel, designed to be similar to the original, is being cleared of all brush, small trees, tall grasses and debris using hand tools and mowing equipment. Any man-made garbage that is encountered is properly disposed of and removed from the site. Great care is taken with erosion control during the project to prevent sediment from the area of restoration to move into an unapproved area.

    Wetland scrapes are being added to improve spawning and breeding habitat in the Arrowhead Road project area. Ponds will go in where appropriate. Fish, waterfowl, herptiles and other wildlife have been considered in the planning. The entire project is being done with the existing soils – no new soil is being brought in and no existing soil is being taken out. Things are just moved around. Once the new waterway has been constructed and water diverted into the new stream, the existing ditch will be filled and covered with vegetation as a form of natural long-term erosion control. Native trees and understory vegetation will be planted once the groundwork is complete. Ulao Creek Partnership will work with Ozaukee County and many local volunteers in this effort.

    Sometimes things happen that no one expects and outcomes exceed hopes. This is one of those stories. Ulao Creek will have a new and improved stream bed in two places, much like it had many years ago. Watershed vegetation will be greatly improved with the planting of native species. Fish and wildlife will have richer and more diverse habitat. The Ulao Creek Partnership and many Town of Grafton residents are already celebrating a restoration of great importance, and one they never expected.


    Ulao Creek runs south of the Ulao Swamp through private lands east of I-43. It flows through the Colder's property, under Hwy. 60 and behind the BP station, the Waterstreet Brewery and the Hampton Inn & Suites. From there it flows south, east of I-43 and the railroad. Near Lakefield Road it vanishes, buried underground so I-43 could come through. It re-emerges alongside of the Family Farm on the west border of I-43 and from there meanders south until it joins the Milwaukee River near Highland Road.

  • Legacies Left and Begun

    Legacies Left

    Noel Cutright

    Ozaukee County and the entire state of Wisconsin birding community were saddened at Noel Cutright's departure from our midst.

    Perhaps the best of so many tributes to Noel is this one that begins " He knew why migratory warblers traveling north from the Caribbean and South America found Wisconsin such a perfect place to land.  They travel by night, Noel Cutright said. "When it gets light they say, 'Uh-oh, I'm over water. I need to find land.' That's why the western shore of Lake Michigan is so important for migrant birds,..."  by Jan Uerbelherr that ran in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal. We would print it here but for copyright concerns, so please check out this link it is a beautiful tribute.

    Noel's service was held at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, home of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, the most recent addition to his long history of accomplishments.  Hundreds of people came to share stories about Noel and the wonderful legacy that he left.

    Noel will be both greatly missed and always remembered by all of us in Ozaukee, as a mentor, an innovator, a visionary and a crack ornithologist. Noel's presence stood solidly behind so many of our organizations. Even he understood the magic of his endorsement; he worked to be sure that the Riveredge Bird Club, which he founded, made the initial donation to a start-up to ensure it would succeed. He never missed.

    Bruce Krier

    Our most recent OTN gathering focused on two projects, one of which was the Krier Wetland Restoration in Belgium. Clay Frazer and Steve Hjort not only talked about the restoration itself, but how they worked through all kinds of weather as time was of the essence. Bruce was fighting cancer and this wetland restoration, the largest private wetland restoration in Wisconsin, was his dream. He wanted to see it to completion.  Besides the wetland restoration, his legacy includes the Bruce Krier Foundation, which provides grants and scholarships to education and community projects.

    Bruce passed away on December 5, 2013.  

    and Legacies Begun

    Town of Grafton Legacy Trail

    The Town of Grafton recently gave a name to its trail in progress - the Grafton Legacy Trail, so named because it will take years to complete and because it is a gift to future residents to enjoy the open spaces that have drawn current residents to live the town, something they almost take for granted. The trail is currently about a mile in length, with another mile or so under easement and waiting for construction. The entire trail is mapped and will run a little over 15 miles from the north end to the south end of the Town when.  It is a multi-use trail and includes horseback riding to meet the Town's long-standing and growing equestrian presence.

    The Ulao and Mole Creeks Re-meanders

    The Milwaukee River Watershed Fish Passage Program is, among other things, funding work on both Ulao Creek and Mole Creek.

    Parts of Ulao Creek were trenched for farming convenience and a section was buried for interstate construction. The area just north of Hwy. 60/Ulao Road and extending north of Arrowhead Road is being rerouted into a lovely meander, similar to what it was in pre-settlement times. Along with the meander, wetland scrapes will extend the spawning areas for the fish that are returning as a result of the Fish Passage Program's work in Ozaukee County.

    This work is being done on private lands with owner contracts. Ulao Creek land owners are very excited about the project. Most are members of the Ulao Creek Partnership, which has worked for years to improve the health of this beautiful little creek and watershed. UCP is very much involved in partnering with this effort. Andrew Struck and Matt Aho are our OTN connections on this project, along with August Hoppe and Paul Helms from Ulao Creek Partnership.

    Mole Creek is experiencing a similar reconstruction just south of Hillcrest Road in the Town of Saukville. The goal of this project is to create habitat that will support cold to cool-water fish and other aquatic life, including trout and to provide riparian habitat for wildlife. Willl Wawrzyn and Andy Holschbach are our OTN connections for Mole Creek.