3rd Annual Rob’s Sugar River Ramble Registration Now Open

Registration is now open for the 3rd annual Rob’s Sugar River Ramble on Sunday June 4! Travel by land and water through the watershed as you cycle the beautiful countryside beginning in Mt. Horeb, WI, then paddle the sparkling Sugar River until you reach your destination near Paoli, WI.  After the event, get transported back to Mount Horeb with your fellow participants for a locally-sourced feast, beer tasting and live music from 11 am-2 pm.

All proceeds from the Ramble benefit the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association. This event is our biggest fundraiser of the year, and has so far attracted 327 participants in its first two years.

Go to usrwa.org/ramble for details and to register for the event today.


USRWA Receives Wisconsin Citizen-Based Monitoring Grant

Upper Sugar River Watershed Association was recently the recipient of a Wisconsin Citizen-Based Monitoring grant to monitor dragonflies in the watershed and create internet-based content to help future citizen-scientists interpret the data they collect.

USRWA Executive Director Wade Moder and Board Member Robert Bohanan will be managing the grant activities. Bohanan, a scientist and educator at UW-Madison, has spent the entirety of his professional career doing research and outreach on dragonflies, lakes, ponds, streams and rivers. Over the past ten years, Bohanan has been active in citizen-science opportunities and providing an outlet for the high-quality data collected by volunteers.

Beginning in 2017, USRWA will be looking for volunteers to help collect dragonfly data around the watershed on a monthly basis. It only requires about an hour per month, and is a great activity to do with children. If you’re interested in learning more, please email usrwa@usrwa.org or call 608-437-7707.

Project Timeline:
Oct-Dec 2016: Materials development and training session organization
Jan-March 2017: Participant recruitment/volunteer training
April-Sept 2017: Monitoring and data collection


Sugar River Wetlands Restoration dates announced

Winter & spring events around the watershed are shaping up, and we hope to see new and familiar faces at all of them.

SNALogoUSRWA is partnering with the Wisconsin DNR to restore the Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area during our series of “4th Saturdays” winter volunteer work days. We need your help! Volunteers will be cutting invasive species like buckthorn, honeysuckle and more to promote the growth of native plant species. It promises to be rewarding, fun, and a great way to experience the outdoors during the winter. Workdays are scheduled for the 4th Saturdays of the month on April 22 and July 22 with workdays going from 9 am to noon. Go to usrwa.org/events/ for details and how to RSVP.


Over 90 People Attended the 2017 USRWA Annual Meeting



Our most well attended Annual Meeting yet! We enjoyed a great presentation from Paul Reckner on the history of the Sugar River, in addition to updates on the Association, and our Candle on the Water award recipient Angie Lucas.

Big thank yous go out to Epic for donating our beautiful meeting space, and Tuvalu Coffeehouse & Gallery for donating the delicious cookies and drinks.


USRWA Secures Grant to Begin a Farmer-Led Coalition in the Watershed

In partnership with seven local producers in the watershed, USRWA has received funding from the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection to kick start a farmer-led coalition in the Upper Sugar River Watershed. USRWA and it’s founding producers who helped write the grant application are one of 14 groups around the state that will benefit from Wisconsin’s first Producer Led Watershed Protection Grants issued.

Receiving this grant is a culmination of nearly two years worth of effort. “Two years ago we made it a priority to understand the issues facing both the watershed and the farmers when it came to ag runoff,” said Wade Moder, Executive Director of USRWA.

“As a conservation group, things really started coming together and making sense when we brought farmers into the conversation. We learned from each other quickly, and it became clear a farmer-led coalition would be a great asset for everyone.”

The Upper Sugar River Producer Coalition is targeting the Headwaters Sugar River and West Branch Sugar River watersheds, which are both impaired due to excess phosphorus loading. USRWA, who is partnering with the farmers on the coalition, has already established baseline water quality data to help prioritize the coalition’s efforts. The overarching goal of the group is to bring together like minded farmers, strengthen water quality improvement efforts, and leverage educational and financial resources in the future.

As a newly formed producer led group, the grant funding will be used to develop a mission statement, goals, and work plan for the watershed, in addition to recruiting more producers into the coalition.  Farmer education will also be a primary focus. In its first year, the group will host a field day and a “Lunch and Learn” educational workshop in partnership with Dane County UW-Extension’s Crop and Soils Educator, Heidi Johnson for all of the producers in the Sugar River Watershed. To further engage producers in the watershed, the group will also develop an incentive program to fund the installation of various conservation practices.

Learn more about the Coalition at http://usrwa.org/farmers/.


 Partnership with UW-Whitewater bringing Erosion Modeling to the Watershed is Completed


A two year partnership between Upper Sugar River Watershed Association and UW-Whitewater has officially been completed in 2017. Geography students from Professor Dale Splinter’s worked over two semesters to create an Erosion Vulnerability Assessment for Agricultural Lands (EVAAL) model for the watershed. The EVAAL model allows USRWA to better assist farmers who are looking to limit runoff from their fields, including phosphorus.

Developed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the EVAAL model evaluates locations of relative vulnerability to sheet, rill and gully erosion using information about topography, soils, rainfall and land cover. This tool enables watershed managers to prioritize and focus field-scale data collection efforts, thus saving time and money while increasing the probability of locating fields with high sediment and nutrient export for implementation of best management practices.

UW-Whitewater students worked on this project during the Fall 2015 and Fall 2016 semesters, and presented their findings at the end of each semester. USRWA thanks Professor Splinter for this beneficial collaboration.

To find out more on EVAAL, check out the EVAAL Fact Sheet provided by the Wisconsin DNR.



The Upper Sugar River Watershed Association’s mission is to provide leadership for continuous resource improvement through strategic partnerships that benefit the watershed’s land, water and people.  We are a grassroots, self-sustaining, 501c3 non-profit conservation organization that serves all of those who live, work or play in the watershed. We have a board of directors, a paid membership and are able to complete many beneficial conservation projects with our own funds. We are considered to be a hands-on, project group that continues to rely on the outstanding dedication of our volunteers.

The Upper Sugar River Watershed, with a drainage area of approximately 170 square miles (109,404 acres) and 115 stream miles, is located in Dane County in southern Wisconsin. It is rich in resources, including fisheries, wildlife habitat (including rare and endangered species), native plant communities (many in decline), and recreational opportunities

We are always looking for volunteers to help us with our exciting projects. We frequently have canoe outings, clear waterways, help restore habitat and perform field studies. We have lots of hands-on projects which are always fun and always benefit the communities. Give us a call to see how you can help!