This watershed includes all streams flowing to the Potato River, which crosses Iron and Ashland counties. The Gogebic Range, a steep ridge of high hills, has given the region a history of mining for iron ore, and also popularity as a recreation destination. One of the largest employers in Iron County is Whitecap Mountain, which operates a ski area in the Alder Creek sub-watershed. The Potato River watershed is largely forested, most of it managed for commercial production. This watershed also contains a number of gravel pits and skirts a region that for many years was one of the largest copper and iron mining areas in the world. The Ashland County portion of the basin falls entirely within the Bad River Indian Reservation.
The Potato River Watershed is located primarily in the North Central Forest Ecological Landscape which occupies much of the northern third of Wisconsin. Its landforms are characterized by end and ground moraines with some pitted outwash and bedrock controlled areas. Kettle depressions and steep ridges are found in the northern portion. Two prominent areas in this Ecological Landscape are the Penokee-Gogebic Iron Range in the north extending into Michigan, and Timm's Hill, the highest point in Wisconsin (1,951 feet) in the south. Soils consist of sandy loam, sand, and silts. The vegetation is mainly forest, with many wetlands and some agriculture, though the growing season is not as favorable as it is in southern Wisconsin. Lake Superior greatly influences the northern portion of the Ecological Landscape especially during the winter season, producing greater snowfall than in most areas in Wisconsin.
The historic vegetation was primarily hemlock-hardwood forest dominated by hemlock, sugar maple, and yellow birch. There were some smaller areas of white and red pine forest scattered throughout the Ecological Landscape, and individual white pines trees were a component of the hemlock-hardwood forest. Harvesting hemlock to support the tanneries was common at the turn of the century, and the species soon became a minor component of forests due to over-harvesting and lack of regeneration. Currently, forests cover approximately 80% of this Ecological Landscape. The northern hardwood forest is dominant, made up of sugar maple, basswood, and red maple, and also including some scattered hemlock and white pine pockets within stands. The aspen-birch forest type group is also relatively abundant, followed by spruce-fir. A variety of wetland community types also are present, both forested and non-forested.
Wildlife and Habitat
WDNR's Natural Heritage Inventory Database indicates that the following water-dependent endangered, threatened or special concern species and/or communities have been sighted in this watershed within the last 20 years. In addition, a coastal wetlands evaluation conducted in 1995 and 1996 identified a number of species and habitats described in a comprehensive report, A Wisconsin's Lake Superior Coastal Wetlands Evaluation / Including Other Selected Natural Features of the Lake Superior Basin (Epstein 1997).
Note: The lack of rare elements listed here does not signify a lack of rare elements in the watershed. They have merely gone unreported.
Ephemeroptera; Family Ephemerellidae - Drunella cornutella
Potato River (Iron Co.)
Ephemeroptera; Family Heptageniida - Epeorus vitreus
Potato River (Iron Co.)
Odonata; Family Gomphidae - Ophiogomphus carolus
Potato River (Ashland/Iron Counties)
Odonata; Family Gomphidae - Stylogomphus albistylus
Trichoptera; Family Limnephilidae - Onocosmoecus unicolor
Trichoptera; Family Limnephilida - Psychoglypha subborealis
Trichoptera; Family Philopotamida - Dolophilodes distinctus
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.
Monitor biology on WBIC: 2906300
Conduct biological (mIBI or fIBI) monitoring on Vaughn Creek, WBIC: 2906300, AU:17691
Watershed History Note
It was in August of 1969 that Dr. Thomas Rosandich, who ran an intensive athletic training camp in the Northwoods of Iron County, Wisconsin, gathered about 70 of his athletes and charted a course that took them 26 miles, 385 yards north to Hurley and the fabled Silver Street. Thus began Wisconsin's longest running marathon.
The marathon's namesake, Paavo Nurmi, was the winner of nine Olympic Gold Medals, the greatest Finnish runner in that nation's history. The name reflects the predominantly Finnish heritage of the region. The cream of the midwest distance runners traditionally join forces with hundreds of novice and veteran marathoners for the running of "The Paavo". The Marathon begins at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday in August, on the main street in the small community of Upson and concluded several hours later on Silver Street in Hurley, having run its course through forests and fields, and along rivers and lakes.