The Lower Pecatonica River Watershed lies in the southeast portion of Lafayette County. The landscape is dominated by agriculture with scattered woodlots and grasslands making up most of the remaining portion.
The municipalities of Gratiot and South Wayne discharge to Wolf Creek and the Pecatonica River, respectively. Population growth in the watershed over the next several decades is expected to be negligible.
The major water quality problems in the watershed are from nonpoint source pollution. Erosion from cropland, runoff from barnyards, and streambank pasturing result in degradation of habitat, increased sedimentation, turbidity, and nutrient load. The Lower Pecatonica River Watershed is not ranked for nonpoint source protection.
The Southwest Savanna Ecological Landscape is located in the far southwestern part of the state. It is characterized by deeply dissected topography, unglaciated for the last 2.4 million years, with broad open hilltops and river valleys, and steep wooded slopes. The climate is favorable for agriculture but the steep slopes limit it to the hilltops and valley bottoms. Soils are underlain with calcareous bedrock. Soils on hilltops are silty loams, sometimes of shallow depth over exposed bedrock and stony red clay subsoil. Some valley soils are alluvial sands, loams, and peats. Some hilltops are almost treeless due to the thin soil while others have a deep silt loam cap.
Historic vegetation consisted of tall prairie grasses and forbs with oak savannas and some wooded slopes of oak. Almost three-quarters of the current vegetation is agricultural crops with lesser amounts of grasslands, barrens, and urban areas. The major forest types are oak-hickory and maple-basswood. High-quality prairie remnants occur on rocky hilltops and slopes that are not farmed. Some prairie pastures and oak savannas still exist. The grassland areas harbor many rare grassland birds, invertebrates, and other grassland species. Relict stands of pine occur on bedrock outcroppings along some stream systems.
Some high quality wetlands exist along the Pecatonica River including oxbow lakes, shallow water marsh, lowland forest, and sedge meadow wetland complexes. The oxbow lakes are small, but unique. They were formed when the river channel was cut off the forces of streambank cutting and sediment deposition. The lakes occasionally contain fish which are carried into them by floodwaters. However, due to their shallow depth, the fishery usually "freezes out" every winter. Nevertheless, these lakes provide good habitat for waterfowl and aquatic furbearers.
Horseshoe Lake is an oxbow lake on the Pecatonica River that lies just northeast of South Wayne. Bloody Lake is formed from an oxbow of the East Branch of the Pecatonica River just north of Woodford. It receives its name from the fact that a battle was fought at this site during the Black Hawk War in 1832. The lake is surrounded by a county park where a monument now commemorates this event.
The Lower Pecatonica River Watershed lies in the southeast portion of Lafayette County. Wetlands compromise 0% of the current land uses in the watershed. Roughly, 11% of the original wetlands in the watershed are estimated to exist. Of these wetlands, emergent wetlands (62%), which include marshes and wet meadows, and shrub wetlands (27%) dominate the landscape.
Little is known about the condition of the remaining wetlands but estimates of reed canary grass 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 83% of the existing emergent wetlands, which includes wet meadows and marshes, and 11% of the remaining shrub wetlands. Reed Canary Grass domination inhibits successful establishment of native wetland species.
Of the 1,388 acres of estimated lost wetlands in the watershed, approximately 97% are considered potentially restorable based on modeled data, including soil types, land use and land cover (Chris Smith, DNR, 2009).
Rivers and StreamsAll Waters in WatershedWatershed Trout StreamsWatershed Outstanding & Exceptional Resources
Lakes and Impoundments
Impaired WatersList of Impaired Waters
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: 919600
Conduct biological (mIBI or fIBI) monitoring on Unnamed, WBIC: 919600, AU:905854
Conduct a comprehensive review of waters in watershed to update the watershed plan, stream narratives (if possible) and to gather background information on Silver Spring as a "pre-Phosphorus index" project look-see.
Watershed History Note
The villages of Gratiot, South Wayne and the hamlet of Wiota are located in the Lower Pecatonica River Watershed in Lafayette County. Gratiot was named after Colonel Henry Gratiot, a French-American pioneer, trader and businessman. During the Winnebago and Black Hawk Wars, he acted as both an intermediary and early U.S. Indian agent to the Winnebagos throughout the early 19th century. He and his brother Jean Pierre, were one of the first pioneers to settle in Wisconsin operating a successful mining and smelting business during the 1820s and 1830s.
The Village of South Wayne, located in the southeast corner of the county, was originally named Collins, in the 1880s, after the local railroad superintendent. Since there was another Collins in the state, the Village's name was changed to South Wayne, in honor of the Revolutionary War hero and minister "Mad" Anthony Wayne, with the "South" added to distinguish it from the community of Wayne in northeast Wisconsin. The Township around the Village was called "Lost Township" because the official government survey was lost on its way from the U.S. Land Office. The railroad that was vital to the creation of South Wayne has now been replaced with a recreational trail that brings thousands of visitors to the Village year round. A mile or so west of the Village is the memorial marker that commemorates the Spafford Creek Massacre, where Sauk Indians killed four men in the 1832 Black Hawk War.
When lead miner, William S. Hamilton, the son of Alexander Hamilton, emigrated from Illinois to Wisconsin in the late 1820s, he established a lead ore mine that became known as Hamilton's Diggings. He later renamed the settlement Wiota. Hamilton, along with Elias Shook and William Haws, settled the area in 1828 and quickly struck quality deposits of lead ore. During the 1832 Black Hawk War, a fort was erected at Hamilton's Diggings, which was known as Fort Hamilton. Wiota was first platted in 1836 by Hamilton, and though a few buildings were built, the settlement was eventually moved from the Hamilton's Diggings site to its present site, which was platted on July 1, 1858.