Friends of Hackmatack

Biology of Hackmatack
Protecting the Nippersink Creek Watershed
Nippersink CreekThe proposed Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge could help continue private and public efforts to protect the Nippersink Creek watershed. This additional protection would positively impact wildlife conservation efforts, ground and surface water quality, and flooding issues across the watershed region. These benefits are straightforward in terms of environmental quality and preservation, but reach out into areas of economic (e.g. flooding costs) and public health (e.g. drinking water quality) as well – all important components of healthy communities.

Nippersink Creek photo courtesy of of Ray Mathis
So what exactly is a watershed?  

Imagine the journey of a single drop of water, falling from a rain cloud over the land. It joins with many other droplets to form small streams, which then flow into larger streams and rivers. An area of land that drains these droplets towards a given river, lake, or wetland is known as a watershed.
Watersheds can be very large, such as the one associated with the Mississippi River. Or they can be quite small, like an area in a farm field that creates a pond every spring when the snow melts. Regardless of its size, however, the health of the watershed directly influences the health of the watershed’s central river, lake, or wetland. The quality and quantity of this body of water depends on what is taking place in its watershed. Human activity upstream or uphill, such as poor agricultural practices, industrial pollution, or lawn chemical applications, can degrade the condition of the water in the entire watershed.
Nippersink Watershed Map

In the proposed Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge study area, the Nippersink Creek watershed is the key watershed draining the area. As the largest tributary to the Fox River in the region, it drains 137 square miles in Illinois and 50 square miles in Wisconsin. It is among the finest quality streams in the state of Illinois, receiving a “B” for the main stream portion and an “A” for the North Branch portion through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Biological Stream Characterization Score protocol (Source:
Nippersink CreekCanoeists, kayakers, fishermen, and photographers flock to the Nippersink to experience the lazy meanders, abundant wildlife, and thriving native plant communities that still exist along many miles of the creek, some of which have been dramatically restored to their original state by private landowners and local conservation organizations like the McHenry County Conservation District. Our watershed is an extraordinary ecological and recreational resource – one to be proud of.

Nippersink Creek photo courtesy of of Ray Mathis
View an informational video about how watersheds work HERE.
Learn more about watersheds in the Chicagoland area HERE.
Read about the Nippersink Creek Watershed, including a detailed report about the watershed resources and conservation recommendations HERE.