Watershed - Lower Kickapoo River (LW02)
Lower Kickapoo River Watershed

Details

The Lower Kickapoo River watershed lies entirely within Crawford County. It includes the reach of the Kickapoo River from Gays Mills downstream to where the Kickapoo meets the Wisconsin River. As with other watersheds in this system, tributary streams have a fairly steep gradient. A significant percentage of land is in woodland. Some sizable wetland complexes exist in the Kickapoo River floodplain. The Kickapoo River Wildlife Area and a portion of the Lower Wisconsin River State Riverway comprise most of the lands in public owership in this watershed. Two municipal wastewater treatment facilities discharge in the watershed: Gays Mills and Wauzeka. The Crawford County Animal Waste Management Plan ranked this watershed as its priority watershed for animal waste-caused water pollution problems. The Crawford County Soil Erosion Control Plan ranked the Plum and Otter Creek subwatershed second priority for controlling soil erosion.

Date  2011

Population, Land Use

Forest and agriculture dominate land use in this watershed with 50% and 41% of the total area, respectively. Wetlands and open water and open space come in well behind in land use with only four percent and three percent, respectively. Suburban landscapes cover less than one percent of the watershed’s area and grassland only accounts for one-half of a percent. Urban areas are even less evident in the Lower Kickapoo River Watershed with only four-hundredths of one percent of the total area.

Date  2011

Nonpoint and Point Sources

Streambank erosion is a common sight throughout the Kickapoo River and many of its tributaries. Much of this erosion is not from current land management practices, but rather from severe sedimentation of the valley floor from poor land use management over much of the last century. This additional sediment on the valley floor resulted in the rivers and streams cutting down through it to re-establish equilibrium. Rivers by their very nature erode the valley they flow through. Consequently many areas of the Kickapoo River contain vertical or nearly vertical banks of ten feet or more, limiting access by boats to those areas with more gentle banks. Most people think of streambank erosion as a rather ugly sight; however erosion of rock by the Kickapoo River has created beautiful sandstone cliffs adjacent to the river. This type of erosion is found largely in the upper half of the Kickapoo River. Some cliffs are large enough to create a micro-climate capable of supporting rare plants that prefer an isolated humid environment. Other portions of streambanks are eroded due to human management of livestock. Unrestricted access to streams by large livestock denudes the streambanks of vegetation, which then erodes during high water events. This type of erosion is found in the Lower Kickapoo River Watershed and it can be minimized with proper management practices by the livestock owner. Overall, The Lower Kickapoo River Watershed is ranked as a high priority for nonpoint source (NPS) pollution due to high rankings for susceptibility to NPS pollution for both groundwater and streams. Lakes in the watershed have not yet been ranked for NPS pollution.

Date  2011

Ecological Landscapes for Lower Kickapoo River Watershed

Ecological Landscapes

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.

Date  2010

Hydrologic Features

Hydrology of Driftless Area Streams Hydrology is the study of water - its occurrence, circulation, distribution and properties. Water in Driftless Area streams is ultimately derived from rainfall and snowmelt that either percolates into the ground or runs off the land. In the most basic sense, the condition of a stream is a reflection of the watershed it drains. This concept is especially true in Driftless Area streams due to steep gradient, small watershed size and extremely steep hills. To determine the watershed of a Driftless Area stream, one need look no further than the hillsides on either side of a stream. The steep hills found throughout the Driftless Area can shed water very quickly, consequently the vegetative cover and soil condition of hillsides are vital to the health of adjacent streams. The trees or healthy grasses that grow on these hillsides are what effectively retains water with their roots, leaves and ultimately the soil. This water then slowly moves through the underlying rock layers to become groundwater that is either pumped from wells for consumption or resurfaces as springs. Some springs in the basin flow as if from an underground pipe while others gently bubble up out of the ground. This constant source of water that averages around 50 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year is what keeps dissolved oxygen levels high in the summer and trout eggs developing properly throughout the winter. The greater absorption capacity within a watershed in the Driftless Area, the more water can percolate into the ground which slowly, but eventually, reaches a stream via clean cool springs. In a watershed with little or no absorptive capacity, for example one with acres of concrete, rooftops or soil devoid of vegetation, rainfall moves quickly over these surfaces to the nearest stream causing flash flooding. Streamflow trends in southwestern Wisconsin were recently analyzed by comparing stream flow data to precipitation data. The study concluded that baseflow (stream flow during dry periods) has increased and peak flood flows have decreased over the last century in the Driftless Area of southwestern Wisconsin. Land management practices which allow more rainwater to infiltrate the ground rather than runoff to the nearest stream has been suggested as the primary reason for the discovered increase in baseflow and decrease in flood peaks. Since most baseflow of Driftless Area streams is derived from groundwater, an increase in the amount of groundwater would intuitively be reflected in increased baseflow. Alternately, more water soaking into the ground results in less water running off to the nearest stream thus reducing flood levels. That's not to say that floods don't occur in the Kickapoo River Basin, but rather that they are less frequent and less severe than in the past. Currently, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) operates three stream gauges on the Kickapoo River. These instruments record the water level and discharge, or flow, of the Kickapoo River on an hourly basis. One gauge is in Ontario, the second is downstream in La Farge and the third is further downstream in Steuben This type of information is useful for canoeists planning a Kickapoo River float trip.

Date  2010

Recreational Opportunities

Recreational Activities in the Kickapoo River Valley Two popular recreational activities in the Kickapoo River valley that rely on clean streams and rivers are canoeing and trout angling. In fact, during the 1999 summer season, anglers and canoeists spent nearly $2 million dollars in the Kickapoo River Valley. The Kickapoo River drainage basin contains public land that can be used for a variety of recreational purposes including fishing, boating, hiking and birdwatching. The lower end of the Kickapoo River is surrounded by the Kickapoo River Wildlife Area - Wauzeka Unit and the Kickapoo River Wildlife Area - Bell Center Unit which includes over 7,000 acres of DNR owned land and DNR easements offering fishing, hunting, and birdwatching opportunities. The Nature Conservancy owns land just west of Steuben called the Hogback. This hill rises several hundred feet above the valley floor and harbors an excellent example of a native Wisconsin prairie. A wide variety of native prairie plants, birds and butterflies can be seen here. Further upstream, the Kickapoo Valley Reserve and Wildcat Mountain State Park flank the Kickapoo River between La Farge and Ontario. Within this stretch, numerous bridges provide easy access to the river for canoeists. Wildcat Mountain State Park offers beautiful vistas of the Kickapoo River valley with a hilltop view 400 feet above the valley floor. Camping, horseback riding, hiking, fishing and canoeing can all be enjoyed in this state park. The Kickapoo Valley Reserve offers camping, hiking and canoeing also. See the History of the La Farge Dam Project inset. Further upstream, the Elroy-Sparta State Trail runs parallel to and crosses the Kickapoo River near Wilton. This trail traverses the northern portion of the Kickapoo River Valley from east to west through Wilton and Norwalk. Throughout the Kickapoo River valley, the Wisconsin DNR has purchased easements along numerous streams for angler access. Streams with WDNR owned easements are identified in the watershed narratives for the Lower Kickapoo River Watershed, Reads and Tainter Creek Watershed, Middle Kickapoo River Watershed, West Fork of the Kickapoo River Watershed, and the Upper Kickapoo River Watershed. The DNR installs signs where access is allowed onto private lands with DNR easements along streambanks. The easement allows for access to the stream for fishing and nature observation. The land is still privately owned and landowner rights should be respected. The Kickapoo River between Ontario and La Farge is a popular canoe destination for all skill levels. For much of this distance, the Kickapoo River flows through Wildcat Mountain State Park and the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, offering beautiful scenery from the river. Towering rock (sandstone and limestone) walls covered with unique plant life, a complete forest canopy, open meadows as well as the occasional farm field are uniquely appreciated from a water craft on the river. Numerous canoe outfitters found throughout the Kickapoo River Basin provide visitors with equipment and shuttle services. Because of the many trees that line the river, navigational hazards such as log jams and downed trees are not uncommon. The Kickapoo River at one time had as many as seven dams but currently the only dam remaining on the river is in Gays Mills. This low head dam is a navigational hazard to all boaters and should be avoided.

Date  2010

Fisheries

Fishery surveys of the Kickapoo River have been conducted numerous times over the years; however, due to the length of river, it has not been surveyed in its entirety within any one year. Survey years include 1959, 1962, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1993, 1999 and 2000. Upstream of Ontario, a 1993 survey documented a diverse forage fishery with some stocked brook and brown trout. Surveys conducted in 1999 and 2000 between Ontario and Gays Mills documented a total of 46 species, including an abundance of brown trout. Consequently, 60.4 miles of the Kickapoo River between Ontario and Gays Mills were recently classified as a Class II trout stream. Trout use this section of river for food and shelter, but likely spawn in tributary streams. The portion of the river below Gays Mills contains a diverse forage fishery as well as a more diverse sport fishery which includes walleye, sauger, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, channel catfish, bluegill and pumpkinseed.

Date  2010

Lower Kickapoo River Watershed At-a-Glance

Impaired Water in Lower Kickapoo River Watershed
River and Stream QualityAll Waters in Watershed

There are 57 miles of trout streams in the Lower Kickapoo watershed, with the majority (33 miles) classified as Class I trout streams, which include Otter Creek, Pine Creek, Sand Creek, Plum Creek, and Crow Hollow. Segments of Class II trout streams are found on Halls Branch and Steuben Springs. Lastly, a total of ten miles of Class III trout streams can be found on both Citron Creek and Halls Branch. Halls Branch also has over three miles of stream listed as impaired since 1998 due to total suspended solids. Much of the sediment in the stream comes from the severely eroded streambanks in this stretch. Additionally, six miles of the Kickapoo River has been on the 303(d) list since 1998 for mercury in fish. According to the WDNR’s Register of Waterbodies (ROW) database, there are 474 miles of streams and rivers in the Marengo River Watershed; 105 miles of these waters have been entered into the WDNR’s assessment database. Of these 105 miles, over three-quarters are meeting Fish and Aquatic Life uses and are specified as in “good” condition; about nine percent of streams are considered to be in “poor” condition and are listed as impaired. The condition of the remaining stream miles is not known or documented.

Date  2011

Watershed Trout Streams
Watershed Outstanding & Exceptional Resources

Lakes and Impoundments

The WDNR’s ROW database shows that there are over 90 acres of lakes and ponds and another 278 acres of unspecified open water in the Lower Kickapoo River Watershed. Of these, 270 acres are entered into the state’s assessment database. No lakes within the watershed have been assessed for fish and aquatic life use support or any other use support. Numerous old oxbow and floodplain lakes that edge the very crooked Kickapoo River are found in the Lower Kickapoo River Watershed; however, only a few of them have been studied. Access to these shallow lakes is difficult to impossible and many have become wetlands over the years. In 2009, a study was conducted of sloughs and backwater lakes of the Wisconsin and Kickapoo Rivers. Five were studied within the Lower Kickapoo River Watershed. These shallow waterbodies contained a range of fish and plant life. The groundwater fed lakes contained better water quality than the lakes that only received runoff from overland flow (Surveys of Crawford County Floodplain Lakes, David W. Marshall, Underwater Habitat Investigations LLC, December 2009).

Date  2011

Wetland Health

Wetland Status: The Lower Kickapoo River Watershed is located entirely within Crawford County. Less than four percent of the current land uses in the watershed are wetlands. Currently, about 87% of the original wetlands in the watershed are estimated to exist. Of these wetlands, the majority include forested wetlands (60%) and emergent wetlands (35%), which include marshes and wet meadows. Wetland Condition: Little is known about the condition of the remaining wetlands but estimates of reed canary grass (RCG) infestations, an opportunistic aquatic invasive wetland plant, into different wetland types has been estimated based on satellite imagery. This information shows that reed canary grass dominates 42% of the existing emergent wetlands and eight percent of the remaining forested wetlands (See Figure 4). Reed canary grass domination inhibits successful establishment of native wetland species. Wetland Restorability: Of the 530 acres of estimated lost wetlands in the watershed, approximately 95% are considered potentially restorable based on modeled data, including soil types, land use, and land cover (Chris Smith, DNR, 2009).

Date  2011

Impaired Waters

About ten miles of impaired waters can be found within this watershed. The Halls Branch also has over three miles of stream listed as impaired due to total suspended solids (TSS) since 1998. Over six miles of the Kickapoo River has also been on the 303(d) list since 1998 for mercury in fish. Sand Creek was delisted in 2002 for TSS and is now listed as a Class I trout stream.

Date  2011

List of Impaired Waters

Aquatic Invasive Species

No specific aquatic invasive species are listed for this watershed.

Date  2011

Fish Consumption Advice

Currently, there are no specific fish consumption advisories in effect for this watershed. However, a general fish consumption advisory for potential presence of mercury is in place for all waters of the state and six stream miles in the watershed are indicated as not supporting Fish Consumption uses.

Date  2011

Groundwater

The following groundwater information is for Crawford County (from Protecting Wisconsin’s Groundwater through Comprehensive Planning website, http://wi.water.usgs.gov/gwcomp/), which roughly approximates to the Lower Kickapoo River Watershed. Seneca is the only municipal water system in the Lower Kickapoo River Watershed to have a wellhead protection plan. In addition, Crawford County has adopted an animal waste management ordinance. From 1979 to 2005, total water use in Crawford County has fluctuated from about 2.9 million gallons per day to about 3.8 million gallons per day. The fluctuations in total water use over this period are due to fluctuations in all usage categories except irrigation, which only increased. The proportion of county water use supplied by groundwater was 99% in 1979 and consistently about 98% from 1985 to 2000. In 2005, the proportion of county water use supplied by groundwater decreased to 90%. Private Wells Ninety-four percent of 54 private well samples collected in Crawford County from 1990 to 2006 met the health-based drinking water limit for nitrate-nitrogen. An analysis of over 35,000 Wisconsin drinking water samples found that drinking water from private wells was three times more likely to be unsafe to drink due to high nitrate in agricultural areas than in forested areas. High nitrate levels were also more common in sandy areas where the soil is more permeable. In Wisconsin’s groundwater, 80% of nitrate inputs originate from manure spreading, agricultural fertilizers, and legume cropping systems. A 2002 study estimated that 43% of private drinking water wells in the region of Wisconsin that includes Crawford County contained a detectable level of an herbicide or herbicide metabolite. Pesticides occur in groundwater more commonly in agricultural regions, but can occur anywhere pesticides are stored or applied. A total of 13,198 acres of land in Crawford County are in the Lower Wisconsin River Valley atrazine prohibition area. All eight private well samples collected in Crawford County met the health standard for arsenic. Potential Sources of Contamination There are no Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), licensed landfills, or Superfund sites within the Lower Kickapoo River Watershed.

Date  2011

Watershed Documents
Watershed Grants
Grant Details
Lake Protection Grant
Date
9/1/2010
Waters Involved
Kickapoo River
Status
Complete

Crawford County: Lco-Shoreland Ordinance Rev.: Crawford County proposes to amend or create a shoreland zoning ordinance that complies with the requirements of NR 115, Wisconsin Administrative Code (as revised effective February 1, 2010) and retain existing regulations that exceed the water resource protections of NR 115 or are specific or unique to local needs.

Project deliverables include: 1. Copies of any fact sheets or handouts created for public hearings. 2. A summary of the comments received at public hearings. 3. A certified copy of the County Board-approved updated shoreland ordinance or ordinance language (if integrated into other codes). 4. Any GIS maps of the shoreland zone or shoreland condition surveys related to the project.

Specific conditions for this Project: 1. The WDNR will be provided electronic and hard copies of all data and or reports or surveys generated as a result of this project.


Grant Details
Lake Protection Grant
Date
9/1/2010
Waters Involved
Unnamed
Status
Complete

Crawford County: Lco-Shoreland Ordinance Rev.: Crawford County proposes to amend or create a shoreland zoning ordinance that complies with the requirements of NR 115, Wisconsin Administrative Code (as revised effective February 1, 2010) and retain existing regulations that exceed the water resource protections of NR 115 or are specific or unique to local needs.

Project deliverables include: 1. Copies of any fact sheets or handouts created for public hearings. 2. A summary of the comments received at public hearings. 3. A certified copy of the County Board-approved updated shoreland ordinance or ordinance language (if integrated into other codes). 4. Any GIS maps of the shoreland zone or shoreland condition surveys related to the project.

Specific conditions for this Project: 1. The WDNR will be provided electronic and hard copies of all data and or reports or surveys generated as a result of this project.


Grant Details
River Planning Grant
Date
4/1/2000
Waters Involved
Kickapoo River
Status
Complete

Community Conservation, Inc: Maintaining Momentum On The Kickapoo River: Supporting Emerging Cons. Org.: The Community Conservation Inc. will conduct an organization development and information & educational project in the Kickapoo River watershed. Activities involved with this project will include: organizational development of the Valley Stewardship Network as a nonprofit corporation registered under Chapter 181 Wisconsin Statute and approved with 501(c)(3) status, distributrion of newsletters and informative brochures, coordination with local media to build organizational visibility, recruitment and training of the VSN board of directors, sponsor and organize education and stewardship activities, development of a strategy to assist in coordinated land use planning.

Specific deliverables for this grant project will include:
documentation of the formation of the Valley Stewardship Network
a final report that summarizes the grant project activities and includes examples of outreach
materials.

The Department of Natural Resources will be provided with both a paper copy and an electronic copy of the final report.


Grant Details
River Planning Grant
Date
10/1/2001
Waters Involved
Kickapoo River
Status
Complete

The Valley Stewardship Network: Striving For A Sustainable Future: The Valley Stewardship Network is seeking a second year of funding to continue the conservation/stewardship /education work in progress and expand the base of members to create a self-sufficient river organization. Two major goals and objectives for the VSN are to become a stable watershed conservation organization and increase the visibility and credibility of VSN through education and publicity. Products and deliverables include: acheiving 501(c)3 status, increase the number of board members, to recruit 200 new members, distribute a newsletter twice a year, collect, tabulate and refine the water quality monitoring data, coordinate and annual Celebrate the Kickapoo day and 2 Stewardship education events, develop 1-3 slide shows and finally VSN will initiate a pilot project to help landowners be stewards of their land, assist the board in strategic planning and create an avenue for recruiting members


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.

Lower Kickapoo River Watershed

Goals

12/9/2011
Project Goals 1) Wild trout reintroduction 2) In-stream habitat restoration 3) Continuous water temperature monitoring 4) USGS Gauging Station at Steuben

Priorities

12/9/2011
Priority concerns and Issues: 1) nonpoint source pollution from agricultural and urban areas 2) Atrazine contamination in shallow aquifers and wells.
Watershed Recommendations
Citizen-Based Stream Monitoring
Citizen Stream Monitoring
Date
Status
Collect chemical, physical, and/or biological water quality data to assess the current overall stream health. The data can inform management decisions and may be used to identify impaired waters for biennial lists.
1/1/2012
In Progress
Projects
 
Citizen-Based Stream Monitoring
Citizen Stream Monitoring
Date
Status
Collect chemical, physical, and/or biological water quality data to assess the current overall stream health. The data can inform management decisions and may be used to identify impaired waters for biennial lists.
1/1/2012
In Progress
Projects
 
Monitor Fish Tissue
Confirm FCA: IW listed from pre-year 2000 FCA data
Date
Status
1182400 name Kickapoo River TMDL ID 220 Start Mile 19.05 End Mile 25.45
11/21/2011
Proposed
 
Monitor Water Quality or Sediment
Kickapoo River TP
Date
Status
Category 2. 2018 TP Results: May Exceed. Station: 10017969. AU: 13207.
1/1/2018
Proposed
 
Lower Kickapoo River WatershedWater Plans and PartnershipsRead the Watershed Plan

Lower Kickapoo River Watershed (LW02) Draft Water Quality Managment Plan

Date  2011

Watershed History Note

The Kickapoo River Wildlife Area - Bell Unit, in Crawford County, is located in the Lower Kickapoo River Watershed and is of great significance for its Driftless Area features. The property is also an important bird area because the forests in the southern portion of this site are among the largest and most intact in the whole Driftless Area and contain significant populations of forest interior birds such as red-shouldered hawk, Acadian flycatcher, wood thrush, cerulean warbler, and Kentucky warbler. Prairie and savanna habitats host Bell's vireo, brown thrasher, blue-winged warbler, field sparrow, bobolink, and Eastern meadowlark. Thousands of migrants use the area, particularly in spring. The northern units of the Hogback Prairie State Natural Area are found within the Bell Center Unit.

The Bell Center Unit began as a perpetual hunting and fishing easement unit of the Lower WI River Wildlife area in 1968. In 1975, the Kickapoo River Wildlife Area was separated from the Lower WI River project and conversion of easements to fee ownership was begun. Gradually about 1100 acres have been converted to DNR fee ownership. About 300 acres remain under easement. Many croplands have been converted to upland cover.

Date  2010

Watershed History Note

Historical Perspective of the Kickapoo River Basin

Pre-European Settlement: Before European settlement of the Kickapoo River Basin, the area was inhabited by many different Indian tribes for more than 2,000 years. The Ho-Chunk people (also known as Winnebago) were the most recent and numerous. The vegetation of the Kickapoo River Basin was curiously split between a sugar maple/basswood dominated forest and an oak-dominated forest. A small concentration of pines was found along the upper river and prairie was scattered and largely found in the western half of the basin. Prairies were kept treeless by periodic fires, some set by the indigenous people. The Kickapoo River itself seemed to serve as an effective firebreak in the southern half of the basin as evidenced by the stark difference in forest types on either side of the river.

The only wetlands found were adjacent to the Kickapoo River between Viola and La Farge and near the Wisconsin River. The tributary streams were cold, clear, narrow and deep and contained abundant numbers of brook trout, the only inland trout native to Wisconsin. Deer, black bear, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, squirrels, wolves, elk, bison, and songbirds were present throughout the area. Post-European Settlement: European settlers began arriving in the basin by the early 1800's. People of various ethnic backgrounds settled in the basin, but Germans and Norwegians are the major ethnic groups residing

in the basin today. By the 1850's, at least 50% of the basin was in agricultural production. The unique hill and valley characteristics of the Driftless Area influenced many cultural features of the region. Roads do not follow section lines, instead they wind through valleys or along ridgetops. Some township boundaries and other governing boundaries sometimes follow a river rather than the man-made section lines.

Conversely, property boundaries conformed to survey sections, which forced a square or rectangular farm onto very irregular topography. Much of the future soil erosion problems stemmed from this unfortunate choice of land parceling that did not follow land contours. Farmers cropped in square and rectangular shaped fields, as they had done in their homelands, with little regard for the steep slopes of the region. Some row crops were plowed up and down hills, creating an easy route for water to scour soil from hillsides.

The first major crop in the basin was wheat, but by the 1870's, the majority of agricultural income was derived from dairy. When the first farmers arrived in the basin, the land could support small numbers of livestock and the soil still retained the rich, water absorbing humus that had accumulated from centuries of forest and prairie vegetation. However, by the 1940's approximately 98% of the Kickapoo River Basin was in agriculture and only 2% of that was ungrazed woods. As the agricultural economy changed to dairy, trees were removed from steep hillsides and more cows were allowed to graze them. The rich humus valley soils were drained of their nutrients and soil absorbing capacity by constant plowing and cropping. As the hillside soils compacted under the constant weight of grazing livestock and vegetation became sparse, rans began to quickly run off the hills rather than soak into the once spongy soil. Water carved massive gullies into hillsides, which moved tons of soil to the valley floor.

Large amounts of runoff originating from ridge top fields also carved gullies into hillsides. Aldo Leopold once referred to rain on the hillsides of the Driftless Area as water running off a tin roof. By the 1930's, after nearly eighty years of cultivation and grazing, virtually every rainstorm resulted in flash floods. By this time, farming in the Kickapoo River Basin developed into a frustrating venture with every new rainstorm washing away valuable crops, pasture and soil. An average of 12 to 15 feet of soil was added to many valleys. The once crystal clear streams which held brook trout were now shallow, wide, warm and full of silt. The tons of sediment that reached the valley floor buried many springs and groundwater seeps, causing many perennially flowing streams to become intermittent, flowing only after rainstorms. Streams became braided meanders with their channel lost to the massive amounts of sediment now in the valley. In-stream fish habitat was lost and the cold water brook trout were replaced by warmwater species such as suckers, carp, chubs and other minnows. In 1934, the Soil Conservation Service, now named the Natural Resource Conservation Service, launched the Coon Valley Erosion Project in the Coon Creek Watershed, just ten miles west of the Kickapoo River. They asked farmers to allow men from the newly founded Civilian Conservation Corp (C.C.C.) to enter their land and plant trees, fence livestock out of steep slopes, reconfigure fields to follow the hills' contours, plant grassed waterways, and stabilize gullies. Efforts to restore streams were also attempted by the addition of brushmats to eroding banks, wood and rock deflectors to force floodwaters away from streambanks toward the stream's center, and revegetation of raw streambanks. These land management practices were successfully adopted and are still in use today not only by farmers in the Coon Creek watershed, but also farmers in the Kickapoo River Basin as well as the entire Driftless Area, including parts of Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois.

Changes throughout the 20th Century: Even after soil conservation measures were added to the land, immediate improvements were not visible. Flash floods continued to damage land and property in the basin. Major floods occurred in 1951, 1961 and again in 1965. It was about this time that a state biologist remarked that "because of watershed management problems� trout stream fishing in the coulee region may practically disappear in the future".

To stem flooding problems in the basin, a large dam at La Farge was proposed. It was during the 1940's to the 1960's that an improvement in land health could be seen as farms on marginal land in the basin did not survive and began to revert back to more natural conditions. During the 1970s, many farming operations were encouraged to expand and many landowners went deep into debt. When overvalued land values fell and interest rates remained high in the early to mid 1980's, many producers were forced to financially dissolve their farms. Large amounts of agriculturally worked land was purchased by hobby farmers, who were not interested in raising livestock or growing crops as their sole source of income.

Inconspicuously, the Food Security Act of 1985 enabled further improvement of the land and water resources of the Kickapoo River Basin. This act contained a component which required compliance with farm specific Conservation Plans in order to receive any kind of government subsidy. From 1983 to 1988, land under conservation tillage in the area increased over 700%. Wisconsin also began promoting Farmland Preservation Program conservation plans as a tool to keep valuable soil on farm fields. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) also was a financial incentive to remove highly erodible land from crop rotation and replace with perennial vegetative cover.

Infiltration of rain and snowmelt into the ground increased approximately fifty years later after trees were planted, marginal cropland was converted to perennial vegetative cover and fewer livestock numbers grazed the hillsides. By the 1980's, springs reappeared, effectively cooling streams and causing intermittent streams to once again flow perennially. Watercress, an aquatic plant indicative of groundwater inflow to a stream, was documented not only at springheads, but also further downstream on many small and medium sized streams. In 1978, money became available from the Wisconsin state trout stamp fund to allow installation of in-stream habitat structures designed to improve trout streams around the state. Restoration efforts occurred on stream sections owned by the state or where streambank easements had been acquired. Brown trout have been stocked in many streams for many years, but carryover from year to year and natural reproduction was lacking.

As streambanks became more stable, flood events less frequent, and infiltration of rain to groundwater increased, the streams of the Kickapoo River Basin held more water during dry periods and began to produce self-sustaining brown trout populations. Beginning in the mid-1990's, fishery surveys of streams in the basin revealed not only self sustaining brown trout streams but also streams capable of supporting native brook trout, absent from the basin for nearly 100 years. Stocking of wild brook trout fingerlings in some streams has since resulted in selfsustaining populations of brook trout.

After the land and water resources of the Kickapoo River Basin had reached their worst conditions in the 1930's, nearly 60 years of changes and improvements in land management were necessary for the resources to recover to near pre-European settlement conditions. Since millions of tons of soil moved from the hilltops and hillsides to the valley floor, the Kickapoo River Basin will never look or act like it did before Europeans settled the area. However, equilibrium has been reached where streams that drain agricultural lands are once again narrow, deep, clear, cold and contain healthy trout populations.

Date  2010