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Tuesday, October 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 43.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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A glimpse of the Token Creek water trail
Meandering from the Interstate to wild habitat north of Madison
Jim Neefe and other kayak along Token Creek.
Credit:David Medaris

Members of the Mad City Paddlers have been toiling for a couple of years to establish a water trail on Token Creek. With help from Capitol Water Trails, they've been removing parts of the trees that have fallen across the creek to create a navigable canoe and kayak route that is often narrow but wild and rewarding.

From its spring-fed headwaters near the northwest fringes of Sun Prairie, the creek meanders southeast toward the Yahara River above Cherokee Marsh. Along the way, it passes through Token Creek County Park and under U.S. 51 and Interstate 90/94/39, then past a small cluster of houses before proceeding through thousands of acres of wooded wetlands. But for a quaint Soo Line railroad bridge, there is little obvious evidence of human activity along these lower stretches of Token Creek. Instead, its current carries you through roadless wildlife habitat.

As suggested in the accompanying photo gallery, these downstream segments of Token Creek call for a modicum of boat-control skills such as sweep and draw strokes, low braces and familiarity with using your paddle as a bow rudder -- as well as a willingness to duck under the occasional low overhanging branch across the stream.

Paddling upstream a short distance from a put-in at the Daentl Road bridge brings you to a scene that stands in stark contrast to the wild tangled foliage awaiting you along lower Token Creek: As shown in this video clip, the creek affords an unusual perspective on roaring truck and automobile traffic as it traverses one of the transportation infrastructure's main arteries.

Further downstream, Mad City Paddlers co-president Jim Neefe pauses to explain some of the methods and ethics used in establishing the Token Creek water trail. Endeavoring to leave the creek as wild and undisturbed as possible, Neefe explains in this second clip, the volunteers have left a good deal of coarse woody habitat while carving out a paddling route that is sometimes narrow but rewarding in its proximity to wildlife.

Neefe estimates that volunteers have invested more than 500 hours of labor to clear a navigable passage for canoes and kayaks.

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