MMSD Wildlife Observation Unit

A 600-acre wetland at the mouth of Nine Springs Creek includes the 140-acre Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) Wildlife Observation Unit.  The area represents a commitment by the MMSD to enhance a unique and valuable resource.


In the western part of the observation part of the area, water levels are managed to provide excellent conditions for migratory shorebirds.  During the spring and fall migratory seasons, water is pumped out of the ponds.  This exposes the mudflats and their abundant food supply.  The eastern zone contains a combination of open water and wetlands that attracts marsh birds and water fowl.   Over 200 different species of birds have been documented at the site including a wide variety of shorebirds, hawks, and songbirds, some of which are rare in this part of the country.  Over three miles of trails explore the area and provide excellent bird and wildlife viewing.

See the MMSD Wildlife Brochure for further details regarding bird species seen within the Observation Area.

To Get There

The Observation Area and lagoons are located at 1610 Moorland Rd, Madison, 53713.

MMSD Hiking MapMMSD Park Map


The area was formerly a storage lagoon for biosolids produced at the Nine Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant.  The lagoons were decommissioned in 1994 and were reconstructed between 1999 and 2001 to provide for wildlife habitat and recreation.  MMSD currently manages water levels to attract different species of shoreline, marsh, and water birds.  The Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District is committed to public health and environmental protection, and these lagoons demonstrate the depth of that commitment.

Forty-two million gallons of wastewater are processed at every day.  The complex assemblage of tanks, pipes, and equipment at the plant merely copies the way nature would decompose and biodegrade wastewater.  Wastewater coming into the plant is first filtered and settled, then aerated as microorganisms consume the organic matter.  Finally, it is treated with ultraviolet light to kill any remaining bacteria.  Three main resources are produced through wastewater treatment: energy, fertilizer, and clean water.  Methane gas is released through the treatment process, which is then used to power equipment at the plant.  Treated biosolids are made into Metrogro, a rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner, which is recycled to area farmland.  Finally, the treated water is recycled to Badfish Creek, where it supports a diverse aquatic community.

For more information about MMSD Wildlife Unit and other areas of Capital Springs Recreation Area, please see the Visitor’s Guide.