Upper Chippewa River Basin


North Fork Flambeau River
N.Fk. Flambeau River. © WDNR, 2010

About the Basin

The Upper Chippewa Basin is located in west-central and northwestern Wisconsin. The mainstem Chippewa River is formed by the confluence of the West Fork Chippewa River (rising from Chippewa Lake, southeastern Bayfield County) and East Fork Chippewa River (rising from the wetlands of the Town of Knight in Iron County).

Basin Resources

Despite its proximity to Lake Superior, the Chippewa Basin feeds the Mississippi, and was once navigable for 50 miles upstream from the Mississippi by Durand, flowing northeast to Eau Claire.

Hydrologically, the "Upper Chippewa Basin" is divided from the Lower Chippewa Basin for management purposes, includes portions of Iron, Ashland, Sawyer, Rusk, Price, Vilas, Chippewa, and Taylor County. The area actually managed by Upper Chippewa Basin Staff, however, includes additional portions of Taylor, Rusk, Barron, Sawyer and Washburn Counties. Over 3,000 stream and river miles flow through the basin and with 156,200 acres of freshwater lakes, 22,711 acres of flowages and more than 150 acres of freshwater springs.

Today the river provides significant habitat, recreation, navigation, and is a signficant resource for northwest Wisconsin people. Over 40 lakes in the basin (Excel) host confirmed stands of Wild Rice, a critical natural resource protected by state and tribal governments. Sport fisheries including musky, walleye, smallmouth bass, and more are found throughout the water rich region. Many projects and management activities have been or are planned for the region.

See the Surface Water Data Viewer to view Wild Rice Locations

Impaired Waters

Fifty-seven (57) Lakes (Excel File) are currently on the state's list of impaired waters, and Spider-Clear Lake is proposed to be added based on fish tissue monitoring results. Additional deletions for currently listed rivers upstream of Holcomb Flowage are proposed for this year's 2008 list. There are no Fish Consumption Advisories on the Chippewa R. upstream of the Holcombe Dam.

Activities regarding review of Manitowish Waters/Rest Lake Dam operations are located at this webpage.

Search impaired water details

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Watersheds, Waters

Watershed, Water Details

Click the links below to find water resource information for specific watersheds and their waters.


Fisheries Photos

These photos show fish and habitat projects in the Upper Chippewa Basin.

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This Black Crappie provided the state record fish of its kind in 2006. More about... Black Crappie..
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Fykenets set on the Chippewa Flowage help researchers determine the health of various sport fish populations.
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The Smallmouth Bass is an extremely popular sportfish in the Upper Chippewa area. More About... Smallmouth Bass.
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The ancient Lake Sturgeon moves through Flambeau River waters offering interest and variety for anglers and naturalists. More About...Lake Sturgeon.
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This Chippewa River Sturgeon, studied biologists, offers delight to sports enthusiasts and fisheries advocates. Read Sturgeon Regulations.
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A 2006 project to enhance Musky populations in major systems in the basin successfully increased breeding populations. More About... Musky.


One watershed plan has been updated in this basin. This document is an update to the Upper Chippewa River Basin Plan. Contact Tom Aartilla, Watershed Supervisor for information.

Last Revised: