The Rush River watershed comprises 245 square miles in Pierce and St. Croix counties. Agriculture
is the major land use affecting surface waters in this watershed. The comparison of current land use
to original vegetation shows a significant conversion of prairie and forests to cropland and pasture.
This land use conversion has led to a larger volume of runoff and less infiltration of
precipitation. There are no lakes of sufficient size in the watershed.
The Rush River Watershed is located in two Ecological Landscapes: the Western Coolee and Ridges and the Western Prairie.
The Western Coulee and Ridges Ecological Landscape in southwestern and west central Wisconsin is characterized by its highly eroded, driftless topography and relatively extensive forested landscape. Soils are silt loams (loess) and sandy loams over sandstone residuum over dolomite. Several large rivers including the Wisconsin, Mississippi, Chippewa, Kickapoo and Black flow through or border the Ecological Landscape.
Historical vegetation consisted of southern hardwood forests, oak savanna, scattered prairies, and floodplain forests and marshes along the major rivers. With Euro-American settlement, most of the land on ridgetops and valley bottoms was cleared of oak savanna, prairie, and level forest for agriculture. The steep slopes between valley bottom and ridgetop, unsuitable for raising crops, grew into oak-dominated forests after the ubiquitous presettlement wildfires were suppressed. Current vegetation is a mix of forest (40%), agriculture, and grassland with some wetlands in the river valleys. The primary forest cover is oak-hickory (51%) dominated by oak species and shagbark hickory. Maple-basswood forests (28%), dominated by sugar maple, basswood and red maple, are common in areas that were not subjected to repeated presettlement wildfires. Bottomland hardwoods (10%) are common in the valley bottoms of major rivers and are dominated by silver maple, ashes, elms, cottonwood, and red maple. Relict conifer forests including white pine, hemlock and yellow birch are a rarer natural community in the cooler, steep, north slope microclimates.
The Western Prairie Ecological Landscape is located on the far western edge of the state just south of the Tension Zone; it contains the only true representative prairie potholes in the state. It is characterized by its glaciated, rolling topography and a primarily open landscape with rich prairie soils and pothole lakes, ponds, and wet depressions, except for forested areas along the St. Croix River. The climate and growing season are favorable for agricultural crops. Sandstone underlies a mosaic of soils. Silty loams that can be shallow and stony cover most of the area. Alluvial sands and peats are found in stream valleys.
Historic vegetation was comprised of dry to mesic prairie grasses in the rolling areas and wet prairies in the broad depressions. Open oak savannas and barrens were found on the hilly topography, with small inclusions of sugar maple-basswood forest in small steep sites. Prairie pothole type wetlands were mainly found in St. Croix and Polk counties. Barrens were found along the river terraces of the St. Croix River. Almost half of the current vegetation is agricultural crops and almost a third of the area is grasslands, with smaller areas of open water, open wetlands, and urban areas. The major forest types are maple-basswood and oak-hickory, with smaller amounts of lowland hardwoods and lowland conifer.
Monitoring & Projects
Projects including grants, restoration work and studies shown below have occurred in this watershed. Click the links below to read through the text. While these are not an exhaustive list of activities, they provide insight into the management activities happening in this watershed.
Hire Aquatic Invasives (AIS) County Coordinator - Pierce
Bogus Creek TP
Category 2. 2018 TP Results: May Exceed. Station: 473020. AU: 16305.
Watershed History Note
The village of Maiden Rock is located in the Rush River Watershed in Pierce County. The village began as a logging settlement that was first known as Harrisburg. In l854, John D. Trumbull, together with a partner Albert Harris, purchased a mile-long stretch of the Mississippi River shore from Rush River downstream to "Rattlesnake Hollow." In 1855, Trumbull, the Harrises and others began living here permanently, thus marking the birth of the village.
In 1856, Trumbull added grist and shingle mills to his sawmill and renamed the village Maiden Rock after a bluff four miles downstream. The Indian legend of the bluff called Maiden Rock, concerns a young Dakota Indian woman, Winona, who leaped to her death from the top of the most prominent bluff in the region rather than marry the brave her father, Chief Red Wing, had chosen for her.
By 1857, the village had a number of houses and commercial buildings, including a boarding house and two stores. Trumbull also boasted of a good steamboat landing. By this time had had bought out the Harris interest and had surveyed and platted the village. Soon a school was established, a church appeared, and a sailboat and a steamboat were built at Maiden Rock to keep the community in touch with other communities up and down the river.
The period from 1860 to 1900 saw the village blossom into a commercial and social center for the countryside and communities some 20 miles inland. Steamboats brought freight and passengers to the village, augmented by the local steam boat. Horse-drawn wagons and stage coaches ferried freight and people to Plum City, Ellsworth and beyond. By 1886, a train track was completed from La Crosse through the village and on to St. Paul. At least four regular train stops a day, two in each direction, added to the steamboat traffic and finally supplanted it about 1915.
Flooding has been a large issue for the village, not so much from the Mississippi River, as from run-off down the coulee between North and South Bluffs (along present day County Road S.) Heavy rains and sometimes snow melt brought excessive water down into the village. Buildings and streets damaged by the torrents became mammoth tasks to repair and reconstruct. Just after 1900, the village built a storm sewer canal system that allowed water to run under the village on its way to the river, but poor engineering allowed continued problems. Two canals funneled into one was not an adequate solution to let the high water escape. Water overflowed the system and still flooded the village. The last great flood down the coulee occurred in 1975. Damage was excessive and the village finally remedied the problem with the help of state funds. Its future is also brightened by a public water and sewer system that was added in the l980's.