Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Van Buren County (T1S, R13W, Sections 1, 11, 12)
Surveyed July 25, 1990
James L. Dexter, Jr.
Campbell Creek (also known locally as Whiskey Run) is a very small designated
trout stream in eastern Van Buren County. It is a third-order stream with
a top-quality coldwater designation. Located just 3 miles north of Wolf
Lake State Fish Hatchery, this creek can best be described as a true spring
creek. The City of Kalamazoo is a short 15 minute drive to the east.
The headwaters of Campbell Creek occur in what is known as the Mentha
Plantation. This area is famous for its rich muck soils. The creek flows
entirely through nearly-level, poorly-drained soils, a combination of
muck and loamy sands. Surface runoff is very slow and many times is "ponded"
in this area. The watershed is almost entirely undeveloped, being composed
of wooded wetlands and marshes. Only a few small unnamed tributaries that
start as springs feed the creek.
Campbell Creek is estimated to be 2.4 miles long. Width averages 18 feet
and depth averages 1 foot. Habitat is consistent throughout much of the
watercourse. Deep pools, clay bank undercuts, overhanging brush, and aquatic
plants are common throughout the channel. Woody material is lacking in
much of the stream because most of the corridor is marshy and does not
support large trees. Bottom substrates are also consistent throughout
the stream. Sand accounts for roughly 57% of the substrate, followed by
silt (37%), gravel (4%), clay (1%), and rock (1%). Campbell Creek falls
about 40 feet between its spring source and its confluence with the north
branch of the Paw Paw River.
The stream is very productive even with a deficiency of good bottom substrate
for aquatic organisms. Each piece of aquatic vegetation is highly colonized
by mayflies and caddisflies. The silt areas also contain many mayflies.
The water quality of Campbell Creek is excellent. It is always crystal
clear (hence its local name), and has a stable temperature regime between
45°-60°F. year round. No other water quality characteristics
have been studied.
The only road crossing this waterway (28th Street) divides a large tract
owned by Almena Township to the south and all private ownerships to the
north. Angler access is granted by permission of the landowner.
Campbell Creek has been managed for trout since at least 1933. Brook
trout have been stocked in the system every year since then except 1956
and 1965-1980. Brook, brown, and rainbow trout were stocked in combination
during 1945-1957, and 1961. Brown trout only were stocked in 1973-1979,
and in conjunction with brook trout in 1982-1984.
Historically, Campbell Creek has been associated with good brook trout
fishing. Although not much is documented from 20-50 years ago, recent
history has been rather dynamic. For 3 consecutive years, the largest
brook trout reported to the local newspaper fishing contest came from
Campbell Creek. These fish ranged from 1 lb., 4 oz. to 2 lb., 4 oz.
Anadromous salmonids have negotiated their way up to Campbell Creek via
the Paw Paw River system since 1985, when boards were removed from the
Watervliet Dam. Since that time the creek has been producing wild steelhead,
in addition to brown trout. Most likely, chinook salmon are also reproducing,
but their smolts have never been collected.
In 1990, 1100 feet of stream were sampled with a 240-D.C. stream shocker
with two probes. The fish community then (Table 1) was no different from
that in May 1926, our earliest survey. Wild brook trout of all sizes existed
there in 1926, progeny from introductory stocking in the drainage.
Brook, brown, and rainbow trout are all available to anglers during the
trout season. Salmon usually do not get up into the creek in significant
numbers until the regular trout season closes. During this survey, wild
brown trout up to 21 inches long were found. Recruitment of browns looks
good. Of 25 brown trout sampled, 80% were legal size (>8"). Some rainbow
trout are present, but not in significant numbers. (With Skamania strain
steelhead being stocked in the St. Joseph River now, many of these fish
find their way into Campbell Creek starting in July of each year). Sixteen
stocked brook trout were found, all yearlings. Only one was of legal size.
Species other than trout are not overabundant.
The growth rates of brown trout and rainbow trout were evaluated through
scale analysis. Brown trout were growing very well with no year class
showing poor growth. Only two rainbows were aged, and these also were
growing above the state average rate.
Campbell Creek provides a very unique angling experience. No other stream
in District 12 can be compared to this system. Fly fishing, spin fishing,
and bait fishing opportunities are all excellent and should remain so
in the future.
Campbell Creek should continue to be managed as a top-quality coldwater
designated trout stream. The current stocking level of 1,200 brook trout
yearlings per year should remain. This represents a stocking rate of about
275 trout per acre. Survival of stocked brook trout is estimated to be
good based on the popularity of the stream with brook trout anglers.
Wild brown trout are doing very well in Campbell Creek. The brown trout
fishery is also very popular with anglers. This species, along with steelhead
and salmon, may be negatively impacting brook trout populations. A blocking
weir to keep anadromous species out is not practical because the creek
flows through such low wet areas.
A large habitat improvement program was completed during 1991 on a one-quarter
mile section of Campbell Creek immediately above 28th Street. This work
was done by the Kalamazoo Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited, under supervision
of the Fisheries Division. A total of 520 square feet of overhead cover
in the form of half-logs and two Lunker structures were installed to improve
in-stream cover. A program to evaluate the effectiveness of these techniques
has been implemented. Pre-installation fish population samples were collected
in April 1991. Post-installation population samples were collected in
the fall of 1991. Further sampling is scheduled for spring and fall, 1992
and 1993. A technical report on this project should be available by 1995.
With the habitat improvement project completed, I expect that the trout
fishery will respond positively by showing increased recruitment and survival
of trout in that section. If it does, additional in-stream cover can be
added in other areas of the stream that lack overhead cover. Goals for
the future will include increased recruitment of wild brown trout and
increased survival of stocked brook trout. Obstacles to attainment of
these two goals include non-use of installed habitat structures by the
various trout species and interspecific competition between these species.
Ziegler (1988) found that steelhead outcompete brown trout in stream situations.
Also, it is well known that brown trout displace brook trout in many stream
situations. There is no way that we can reclaim the stream and manage
on a single species approach.
Report completed: October 1991.
Ziegler, R. L. 1988. Stream resource utilization of sympatric and allopatric
juvenile brown (Salmo gairdneri). Michigan State University, East Lansing.
Table 1.-Species, relative abundance, and length of fish collected
by electrofishing at Campbell Creek, July 25, 1990.
Last Update: 08/06/02