Watershed - Onion River (SH04)
Onion River Watershed

Details

The Onion River Watershed covers about 100 square miles. The Onion River flows southerly for about half its length before turning northward, entering the Sheboygan River in Rochester Park in the City of Sheboygan Falls. Belgium Creek is the only major tributary to the Onion River. There are two dams on the Onion River, which form the Waldo and Hingham impoundments. The headwaters of the Onion River are a trout stream downstream to the top of the pool formed by the Waldo dam. The headwaters, including Ben Nutt Creek and Mill Creek, have been adversely impacted by private fish ponds on major spring sources. WDNR recently purchased property in the headwaters of Ben Nutt Creek upstream of County Highway ZZ in the Town of Plymouth. This was the site of an old fish farm and the stream had been diverted into a pond and then impounded. This cold water reach is being restored and is expected to provide important spawning and rearing habitat for brook trout.

Date  2001

Population, Land Use

Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural. The entire Village of Waldo, most of the Village of Belgium, and small portions of the Village of Cedar Grove and the City of Sheboygan Falls comprise the urban areas of the watershed.

Date  2001

Ecological Landscapes for Onion River Watershed

Ecological Landscapes

The Onion River Wateshed is located primarily within the Central Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape which stretches from southern Door County west across Green Bay to the Wolf River drainage, then southward in a narrowing strip along the Lake Michigan shore to central Milwaukee County. Owing to the influence of Lake Michigan in the eastern part of this landscape, summers there are cooler, winters warmer, and precipitation levels greater than at locations farther inland. Dolomites and shales underlie the glacial deposits that blanket virtually all of the Central Lake Michigan Coastal Ecological Landscape. The dolomite Niagara Escarpment is the major bedrock feature, running across the entire landscape from northeast to southwest. Series of dolomite cliffs provide critical habitat for rare terrestrial snails, bats, and specialized plants. The primary glacial landforms are ground moraine, outwash, and lakeplain. The topography is generally rolling where the surface is underlain by ground moraine, variable over areas of outwash, and nearly level where lacustrine deposits are present. Important soils include clays, loams, sands, and gravels. Certain landforms, such as sand spits, clay bluffs, beach and dune complexes, and ridge and swale systems, are associated only with the shorelines of Lake Michigan and Green Bay. Historically, most of this landscape was vegetated with mesic hardwood forest composed primarily of sugar maple, basswood, and beech. Hemlock and white pine were locally important, but hemlock was generally restricted to cool moist sites near Lake Michigan. Areas of poorly drained glacial lakeplain supported wet forests of tamarack, white cedar, black ash, red maple, and elm, while the Wolf and Embarrass Rivers flowed through extensive floodplain forests of silver maple, green ash, and swamp white oak. Emergent marshes and wet meadows were common in and adjacent to lower Green Bay, while Lake Michigan shoreline areas featured beaches, dunes, interdunal wetlands, marshes, and highly diverse ridge and swale vegetation. Small patches of prairie and oak savanna were present in the southwestern portion of this landscape.

Date  2010

Onion River Watershed At-a-Glance

Impaired Water in Onion River Watershed
River and Stream QualityAll Waters in Watershed

Water quality in the Onion River Watershed ranges from excellent to good in the headwater areas to fair to poor in the lower sections. Sources of pollution degrading stream water quality are agricultural and urban runoff, and point source discharges. Excessive sedimentation and channelization limit stream habitat quality. Heavy metal and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs) contamination is found in the sediments in the East Branch of Belgium Creek. Impoundment of headwater areas for fish hatcheries negatively impacts water quality, trout and other aquatic life. The Onion River Watershed was one of the very first watersheds targeted under the Nonpoint Source Water Pollution Abatement (Priority Watershed) Program. A follow up report found that the watershed continues to be affected by nonpoint pollution sources. The upstream reaches (above the Village of Waldo) continue to exhibit excellent to good water quality, while the downstream reaches continue to be heavily affected by agricultural runoff.

Date  2001

Watershed Trout Streams
Watershed Outstanding & Exceptional Resources

Lakes and Impoundments

Impaired Waters

List of Impaired Waters
Watershed Grants
Grant Details
Targeted Runoff - Rural Construction
Date
9/18/2003
Waters Involved
Onion River
Status
Complete

Sheboygan County Lcd: Onion River Restoration Proj: to cost-share @70% landowner BMP installations


Grant Details
River Planning Grant
Date
10/18/2000
Waters Involved
Onion River
Status
Complete

Lakeshore Chapter Of Trout Unlimited: Onion River Project: The Lakeshore Chapter of Trout Unlimited overall goal of the Onion river Project is to return the Onion River to the high quality trout stream it once was, establishing a self-sustaining wild trout population through the improvement of water quality, flow, and trout habitat. The 3 was of improvement is: 1) Recreate and improve spawning grounds for trout, 2) Remove barriers to the upstream passage of spawning grounds, 3) Reroute stream away from an existing cowyard to reduce runoff. Intent of this project is to use data collected from this research to guide future project planning.

The DNR will be provided with both a paper copy and an electronic copy of the final report. Information will be disseminated to the public as described in the grant application.



Grant Details
River Protection Grant
Date
7/1/2003
Waters Involved
Onion River
Status
Complete

Trout Unlimited-Lakeshore Chapter: Onion River Restoration Project: This grant is to conduct a river restoration project on the Onion River in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. The goal of the Onion River restoration project is to return the stream to its previous condition as a blue ribbon trout stream with a substantial and self-sustaining population of wild trout. This grant will be used for the improvement and restoration of the Onion River from County Highway "U" and continue upstream to County Highway "E".
A final report shall be made to the WDNR on all activities performed and completed for this grant agreement. Work will be documented in written and photographic form.
Amended scope Jan. 11, 2005 - Expand restoration footage from 2000 to 4000 feet. The work includes improving stream flow through narrowing and deepening, placement of lunkers for bank stabilization & trout habitat and placement of rock instream for habitat & food growth.


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.

Onion River Watershed
Watershed Recommendations
Hire County Aquatic Invasives Coordinator
 
Date
Status
Hire Aquatic Invasives (AIS) County Coordinator - Ozaukee
1/1/2011
Not Proposed
Projects
 
Hire County Aquatic Invasives Coordinator
 
Date
Status
Hire Aquatic Invasives (AIS) County Coordinator - Sheboygan
1/1/2011
Not Proposed
Projects
 
Onion River WatershedWatershed History Note

Belgium and Waldo are two villages within the Onion River watershed. The Village of Belgium was originally populated by immigrants from Luxembourg, who were employed at a limestone quarry on the Lake Michigan shore, east of the village. A whole company town existed along the shore of Lake Michigan and the remains of the pier at which ships loaded can still be seen. Where the quarry once operated in the early 1900s, today there is a serene lake and hikers visiting Harrington Beach State Park can follow a nature trail around it. Waldo, like about a half dozen other communities in the county, is the story of two separate towns that merged; one was Waldo and the other the Village of Onion River. Onion River was originally just a post office located along the river by the same name. Government surveyors had discovered quantities of wild onions growing along the stream and so named the area accordingly. The development of Onion River was based on the water power supplied by the river. However, with the spread of the railroad transportation network, waterpower declined in importance and Waldo with its railroad eventually took in Onion River. The Village of Waldo was born when the Milwaukee and Northern Railroad was built and a depot situated in the east central part of the Town of Lyndon. The settlement which developed around the depot was known as Lyndon Station for a few years, but because there was another town by the same name in Juneau County, a new name had to be chosen. The town, an offspring of the railroad, named itself after the president of the Railroad, O.H. Waldo.

Date  2011