The Upper Rib River Watershed is located in the counties of Marathon, Lincoln and Taylor. The portion of the Upper Rib River Watershed in Lincoln County contains high valued streams not degraded by nonpoint source (NPS) pollution and apparently not seriously threatened by watershed land use. Existing natural areas act as buffer zones, preventing NPS pollution from reaching the streams. However, the streams need protection from major changes in land use through development.
Biotic index sampling showed streams in the watershed had both excellent and fair water qualities. Not all streams were evaluated.
The watershed was ranked using the Nonpoint Source Priority Watershed Selection Criteria. Based on NPS impacts on surface water quality and habitat, the watershed ranked low for NPS pollution control work. This low ranking may be a reflection of a lack of data. More monitoring needs to be conducted in the watershed to determine if a low priority ranking is justified.
Population, Land Use
Numerous sand and gravel washing operations are on or near the Big Rib River in Lincoln, Marathon, and Taylor Counties. Zmuda (1987) indicated that there were 75 excavation sites disturbing nearly 900 acres of the Big Rib River Watershed. The long-term cumulative impacts to this riverine system caused by sand and gravel excavations are unknown.
The Upper Rib River Watershed is primarily located in the Forest Transition Ecological Landscape which lies along the northern border of Wisconsin's Tension Zone, through the central and western part of the state, and supports both northern forests and agricultural areas. The central portion of the Forest Transition lies primarily on a glacial till plain deposited by glaciation between 25,000 and 790,000 years ago. The eastern and western portions are on moraines of the Wisconsin glaciation. The growing season in this part of the state is long enough that agriculture is viable, although climatic conditions are not as favorable as in southern Wisconsin. Soils are diverse, ranging from sandy loam to loam or shallow silt loam, and from poorly drained to well drained.
The historic vegetation of the Forest Transition was primarily northern hardwood forest. These northern hardwoods were dominated by sugar maple and hemlock, and contained some yellow birch, red pine and white pine. Currently, over 60% of this Ecological Landscape is non-forested. Forested areas consist primarily of northern hardwoods and aspen, with smaller amounts of oak and lowland hardwoods. The eastern portion of the Ecological Landscape differs from the rest of the area in that it remains primarily forested, and includes some ecologically significant areas. Throughout the Ecological Landscape, small areas of conifer swamp are found near the headwaters of streams, and associated with lakes in kettle depressions on moraines. Ground flora show characteristics of both northern and southern Wisconsin, as this Ecological Landscape lies along the Tension Zone.
Monitor biology on WBIC: 1469200
Conduct biological (mIBI or fIBI) monitoring on Unnamed, WBIC: 1469200, AU:5746709
Big Rib River TP
Category 3. 2018 TP Results: May Exceed. Station: 613055. AU: 12486.
Watershed History Note
At the northern end of the Upper Rib River watershed, in Taylor County, Rib Lake and the Village of Rib Lake can be found. Just north of the village is a road which was originally laid out in 1895 and in 1975 it was dedicated as Rustic Road Number 1. The road winds for five miles through outstanding forested glacial topography.
The Rustic Road system was established by the Wisconsin State Legislature to help preserve lightly traveled scenic rural roads. Each route is marked by brown and yellow signs, with the route number on a small placard below the sign. The letter "R" prefix is followed by the number designation. Wisconsin is the only state to have a system of rustic roads. There are a few requirements that a road must have in order to be designated as a rustic road, such as having outstanding natural features or areas that set the road apart from other roads, be a lightly traveled road, not be scheduled for a major improvement which would change its rustic characteristics, and preferably be at least two miles (3 km) with a loop, completed closure, or connection to a major highway at both ends of the route. Rustic roads may be dirt, gravel, or paved. They can be one-way or two-way and can have accommodations for bicycles and hiking adjacent to or incorporated into the road or surrounding area. The designation process is initiated by application for designation by a local government.