Fish and Aquatic Life
South Bear Creek, located in central Vernon County and northwest Richland County, flows in a northerly direction for 4.1 miles before joining with North Bear Creek to form Bear Creek. This stream has a gradient of 52 feet per mile and drains forested hillsides with agricultural activity in both valleys and ridgetops. South Bear Creek is a Class II trout stream for its entire length in both Vernon (2.5 miles) and Richland (1.6) Counties. This stream is designated as an Exceptional Resource Water (ERW) in Richland County.
The most recent biological survey, conducted in 1990, documented brown trout and numerous forage fish species. The stream bottom was dominated by sand and in-stream cover consisted of undercut banks and overhanging vegetation. South Bear Creek should be resurveyed after conclusion of the Middle Kickapoo River Priority Watershed Project in 2004. WDNR records indicate that South Bear Creek was last stocked with brown trout in 1998. Access to South Bear Creek is from two road crossings.
Author Cynthia Koperski
South Bear Creek, T13N, R2W, Section 27. Surface Acres = 2.3, Miles = 2.5, Gradient = 45.0 feet per mile.
This clear, hard water stream flows in a general northwesterly direction from Richland County and joins North Bear Creek to form the main stem (Bear Creek). It is managed as Class III brown trout water. Forage species are present, including creek chubs and central stonerollers. During the winter aerial groundwater survey, open water was observed in the lower mile of stream. The bottom is predominately rubble, but there is considerable sand, some gravel, and a little clay. There is access from one road crossing. Muskrat are significant.
From: Klick, Thomas A. and Threinen, C.W., 1973. Lake and Stream Classification Project. Surface Water Resources of Vernon County, Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.
Author Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin
The South Bear Creek (from Bear Creek to Vernon/Richland Co. line) was assessed during the 2018 listing cycle; temperature and available biological data did not indicate impairment (i.e. no macroinvertebrate or fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scored in the "poor" condition category) based on the 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Fish and Aquatic Life use. This water was meeting this designated use and was not considered impaired.
Author Amanda Smith
South Bear Creek (miles 2.49-4.43) was assessed during the 2018 listing cycle; new biological (fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores) sample data were clearly below the 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Fish and Aquatic Life use. This water was meeting this designated use and was not considered impaired.
Author Ashley Beranek
Wisconsin has over 84,000 miles of streams, 15,000 lakes and milllions of acres of wetlands. Assessing the condition of this vast amount of water is challenging. The state's water monitoring program uses a media-based, cross-program approach to analyze water condition. An updated monitoring strategy (2015-2020) is now available.
Compliance with Clean Water Act fishable, swimmable standards are located in the Executive Summary of Water Condition in 2016 . See also 'monitoring' and 'projects'.
Wisconsin's Water Quality Standards provide qualitative and quantitative goals for waters that are protective of Fishable, Swimmable conditions [Learn more]. Waters that do not meet water quality standards are considered impaired and restoration actions are planned and carried out until the water is once again fishable and swimmable
Management goals can include creation or implementation of a Total Maximum Daily Load analysis, a Nine Key Element Plan, or other restoration work, education and outreach and more. If specific recommendations exist for this water, they will be displayed below online.
Monitoring the condition of a river, stream, or lake includes gathering physical, chemical, biological, and habitat data. Comprehensive studies often gather all these parameters in great detail, while lighter assessment events will involve sampling physical, chemical and biological data such as macroinvertebrates. Aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish communities integrate watershed or catchment condition, providing great insight into overall ecosystem health. Chemical and habitat parameters tell researchers more about human induced problems including contaminated runoff, point source dischargers, or habitat issues that foster or limit the potential of aquatic communities to thrive in a given area. Wisconsin's Water Monitoring Strategy was recenty updated.
Grants and Management Projects
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South Bear Creek is located in the Middle Kickapoo River watershed which is 246.53 mi². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (49%), agricultural (43%) and a mix of suburban (5%) and other uses (3%). This watershed has 585.18 stream miles, 145.14 lake acres and 3,360.69 wetland acres.
Nonpoint Source Characteristics
This watershed is ranked Not Available for runoff impacts on streams, Not Available for runoff impacts on lakes and High for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of High. This value can be used in ranking the watershed or individual waterbodies for grant funding under state and county programs.However, all waters are affected by diffuse pollutant sources regardless of initial water quality. Applications for specific runoff projects under state or county grant programs may be pursued. For more information, go to surface water program grants.