We were very excited to collaborate with the Wolf River Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU) to complete a tree planting project this spring. On May 20th, a group from Kretz Lumber and the Wolf River Chapter TU braved the wilds to plant trees along Nine Mile Creek. The 80-acre parcel where we planted is owned by all of us Wisconsin taxpayers. I must add that this planting day was before the dragonflies hatched and mosquitos were out in hordes. This is certainly a wild patch of country in Langlade County. If Charles Michel de Langlade and his men had paddled up this stretch of water, I think they would have been happy to return to the width, depth and stable shoreline of the Wolf River. Although, they would have been happy to see all the beavers trapped by the Wolf River Chapter TU. Don’t be wearing any silk hats now, people!
My good friend Zach Buchanan is very active in the Wolf River Chapter TU, and we have been talking about doing this project for about a year. Last winter between arguing over specific flies and fly construction materials, we deliberated over where we should complete this project. Zach chose this site on the Nine Mile Creek, and I think it was a great spot. The Wolf River Chapter has been investing a lot of time into this stretch of water. Beaver activity turned this narrow, cold and fast creek into a wide, warm and shallow stretch of water. Planting trees along the banks will help provide future shade and bank stabilization to the critical cold-water influence into the Wolf River. The water temperatures in the Wolf River are significantly colder where small spring fed streams such as Nine Mile enter. I used to work at the Gardner Dam Boy Scout Camp in Langlade, and we would take the boys whitewater kayaking through the stretch where nine mile enters the Wolf. Scouts would immediately notice the difference in water temperature through this stretch. Trout Unlimited’s efforts will certainly help to maintain those cool temps.
Note the brown, dead area along the sides of Nine Mile in the aerial and drone photos of the site below. This is where the water receded from after beavers were trapped and dams removed, and where we planted most of our trees. Within this area, planters found many huge, old pine and hemlock stumps. We know this area was forested at one point and will be again. All the planters split up and picked their own patch to plant full of trees. Zach Buchanan, outfitted with my tree-planting vest, was delivering trees, waters and planting advice to each planting crew. I think I also saw Zach sneak off with a fly rod for a little while…
I planted a few trees but was mostly holding down the fort at our base camp. The best part of the day for me was watching our volunteers stagger out of the rough planting area and onto the flat ground where we had our base camp and lunch. What relief! As dry as it has been, most sites made for tough tree planting this year. This area is very low and wet, so I think our seedlings are doing just fine out there. We focused on riparian species that do well in low, wet, acidic ground. We planted White Cedar, Black Spruce, and Buttonbush. Kretz Lumber Company ordered 2,500 trees for the project, and another 600 were donated. 3,100 trees hand planted in one morning was quite a feat!
Most of our planters had not seen Buttonbush until that day. It is a neat plant; I would say it resembles dogwood. It can grow up to 15 ft tall and about 8 ft wide in perfect conditions. I would say these are perfect conditions for it. It grows a white spherical flower, imagine a hydrangea flower the size of a ping pong ball. Birds, bees and other pollinators love the flowers. You run into it often in the lower stretches of the Wolf River, on islands or where old channels lack water flow as new channels are formed. Don’t be surprised to flush grouse, wood ducks and songbirds out of a buttonbush, they love the small nutlets formed from the flower.
I sincerely thank everyone that came out and helped with our project. I hope everyone had as much fun as I did!
Side note: I ordered the trees used in this project from the Griffith State Nursery and have always had great success with their bare-root seedlings. They will start accepting orders on Monday, October 2, 2023 for next spring. Talk to your Kretz Forester for any planting advice (or help planting)!