Right in the heart of Springdale, Arkansas, a small creek trickles over natural stone and underneath manmade bridges, cascading westward toward the setting sun. This is Spring Creek, a major tributary of the Illinois River, and, like many of the cities in our area, it is named for the abundance of underground springs that supply our watershed with cool, flowing streams all year round.
Drifting right through one of the major cities in northwest Arkansas, Spring Creek is a highly vulnerable waterway in terms of stormwater runoff and urban pollutants, so it is essential to understand the ways in which our communities can help improve the quality of this stream within the Illinois River Watershed.
Spring Creek originates just east of downtown Springdale, near the airport and rodeo grounds, where stormwater collects in a small drainage basin. It flows right through downtown, underneath the urban infrastructure of Emma Avenue and Johnson Avenue. With major plans in the works to revitalize this part of town, Spring Creek will soon be “uncapped” and restored as a focal point for downtown Springdale.
The City of Springdale has already done great work to beautify and improve Spring Creek each year during the IRWP’s Riparian Project. Since 2007, city leaders, residents, and other volunteers have come together to plant over 2,000 native tree seedlings along Spring Creek in order to protect it from the effects of urban runoff—flooding, stream bank erosion, and water pollution.
Over 50 volunteers helped to plant over 300 native tree seedlings along Spring Creek at Grove Street Park in Springdale in March 2014
Numerous schools and businesses in Springdale have also constructed rain gardens to capture and treat stormwater before it reaches Spring Creek. Through the EAST program at Helen Tyson Middle School, students were able to install a rain garden on their campus in late May. This bowl-shaped garden was planted with native grasses, shrubs, and flowers to help stormwater from the roof of the school building to soak into the ground and receive natural filtration from the plants’ roots and the soil.
The Illinois River Watershed is full of fine folks who understand that they are environmental stewards for the water quality of local creeks and waterways downstream, and they are taking positive actions to protect and restore these waterways.
From downtown Springdale, Spring Creek flows northwest to Thompson Street/U.S. 71B and then veers around Lake Springdale. Earlier this spring, nearly 50 volunteers from the community gathered at Lake Springdale for a Spring Creek cleanup and removed well over 100 pounds of litter and debris. Their efforts beautified Spring Creek at that particular location, of course, but they also improved the outlook for waterways downstream that are eventually impacted by our actions here in northwestern Arkansas.
Beneath Interstate 49 at the Wagon Wheel Road exit, Puppy Creek joins Spring Creek and follows Wagon Wheel Road westward to Cave Springs, where it flows under Hwy. 112 and joins Osage Creek just west of The Creeks Golf Course. From there, Osage Creek flows 14 miles southwest to the Illinois River near Old Hwy. 68 between Siloam Springs and Tontitown.
This journey along Spring Creek is just one route to the Illinois River. There are over 1,300 miles of waterways in the Illinois River Watershed, and every one of them leads to the same place. Stay tuned for another watershed journey along one of our urban tributaries…