Des Plaines River, Des Plaines River Watershed (FX01)
Des Plaines River, Des Plaines River Watershed (FX01)
Des Plaines River (734000)
23.44 Miles
0 - 23.44
Natural Community
Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model results that use predicted flow and temperature based on landscape features and related assumptions. Ranges of flow and temperature associated with specific aquatic life communities (fish, macroinvertebrates) help biologists identify appropriate resource management goals. Wisconsin Natural Communities.
Coldwater, Cool-Cold Headwater, Macroinvertebrate, Warm Mainstem, COOL-Warm Mainstem
Year Last Monitored
This is the most recent date of monitoring data stored in SWIMS. Additional surveys for fish and habitat may be available subsequent to this date.
This river is impaired
Impairment Unknown
Total Phosphorus
Kenosha, Racine
Trout Water 
Trout Waters are represented by Class I, Class II or Class III waters. These classes have specific ecological characteristics and management actions associated with them. For more information regarding Trout Classifications, see the Fisheries Trout Class Webpages.
Outstanding or Exceptional 
Wisconsin has designated many of the state's highest quality waters as Outstanding Resource Waters (ORWs) or Exceptional Resource Waters (ERWs). Waters designated as ORW or ERW are surface waters which provide outstanding recreational opportunities, support valuable fisheries and wildlife habitat, have good water quality, and are not significantly impacted by human activities. ORW and ERW status identifies waters that the State of Wisconsin has determined warrant additional protection from the effects of pollution. These designations are intended to meet federal Clean Water Act obligations requiring Wisconsin to adopt an 'antidegradation' policy that is designed to prevent any lowering of water quality - especially in those waters having significant ecological or cultural value.
Impaired Water 
A water is polluted or 'impaired' if it does not support full use by humans, wildlife, fish and other aquatic life and it is shown that one or more of the pollutant criteria are not met.

Fish and Aquatic Life

Current Use
The use the water currently supports. This is not a designation or classification; it is based on the current condition of the water. Information in this column is not designed for, and should not be used for, regulatory purposes.
Fish and Aquatic Life - waters that do not have a specific use designation subcategory assigned but which are considered fishable, swimmable waters.
Attainable Use
The use that the investigator believes the water could achieve through managing "controllable" sources. Beaver dams, hydroelectric dams, low gradient streams, and naturally occurring low flows are generally not considered controllable. The attainable use may be the same as the current use or it may be higher.
Fish and Aquatic Life - waters that do not have a specific use designation subcategory assigned but which are considered fishable, swimmable waters.
Designated Use
This is the water classification legally recognized by NR102 and NR104, Wis. Adm. Code. The classification determines water quality criteria and effluent limits. Waters obtain designated uses through classification procedures.
Default FAL
Fish and Aquatic Life - Default Waters do not have a specific use designation subcategory but are considered fishable, swimmable waters.


The source of the Des Plaines River is in the southwest one-quarter of U.S. Public Land Survey Section 33, Township 3 North, Range 21 East, in the Town of Yorkville, just north of the Racine-Kenosha county line and about 0.75 mile east of the Village of Union Grove. From its source, the River flows in a generally southerly direction for approximately 12.2 miles, to about the center of Section 16, Township 1 North, Range 21 East, in the Town of Bristol; then easterly for about four miles, to its confluence with the Kilbourn Road Ditch just east of IH 94-USH 41 in the Village of Pleasant Prairie; and finally southerly for approximately 5.6 miles, to the Wisconsin-Illinois state line. The River has a perennial stream length of about 20.5 miles. The river has also been found to be a wadable nursery water for smallmouth bass.

Date  2012

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Des Plaines River, Des Plaines River Watershed (FX01) Fish and Aquatic LifeDes Plaines River, Des Plaines River Watershed (FX01) RecreationDes Plaines River, Des Plaines River Watershed (FX01) Fish Consumption

General Condition

The Des Plaines River runs for 22 miles in Wisconsin through Kenosha and Racine Counties before entering Illinois. Its current use has been assessed to support fish and other aquatic life. The river has also been found to be a wadable nursery water for smallmouth bass.

Date  2011

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Impaired Waters

Des Plaines River (734000) was placed on the impaired waters list for total phosphorus in 2014. The 2016 assessments showed continued impairment by phosphorus; total phosphorus sample data exceed 2016 WisCALM listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use, however, available biological data do not indicate impairment (i.e. no macroinvertebrate or fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scored in the "poor" condition category). Based on the most updated information, no change in existing impaired waters listing is needed.

Date  2015

Author  Aaron Larson


Wisconsin has over 84,000 miles of streams, 15,000 lakes and milllions of acres of wetlands. Assessing the condition of this vast amount of water is challenging. The state's water monitoring program uses a media-based, cross-program approach to analyze water condition. An updated monitoring strategy (2015-2020) is now available. Compliance with Clean Water Act fishable, swimmable standards are located in the Executive Summary of Water Condition in 2018. See also the 'monitoring and projects' tab.



Rivers Planning Grant
The Village of Pleasant Prairie is applying for a river planning grant in the amount of $10,000 to hire a biologist to inventory the flora and fauna of a 430-acre conservation preserve adjacent to the Des Plaines River and develop a management plan. The total project costs are $31,000 The objective of this project is to assess the condition of the natural resources within the project area and to develop a natural resource management plan that identifies these resources and their locations, describes their quality and natural history, provides photo documentation, recommends and prioritizes ecological management activities, and develops educational material for Prairie Springs Park. The condition of the streams and riparian corridors will be delineated, documented, and digitized. A management plan will be developed and submitted as part of the final report. All inventories, assessments, and mapping will also be included with the final report. This project will produce a comprehensive report that will provide a description of the historic landscape of the area; natural resources of the site; discussion of the impact of exotic and invasive species; maps of stream courses, plant communities, management areas, and possible trail routes; and recommendations for Des Plaines River lowlands management activities.
Water Quality Planning
Watershed Planning was conducted from 2010 to 2011.
Engage Volunteers in Monitoring/Restoration
Water Quality Biologists should work with interest groups in establishing or continuing to support volunteer monitoring on the rivers and lakes of the Des Plaines Watershed.
Runoff Evaluation
Water Quality Biologists should continue working with the communities, Kenosha County Land Conservation Department, the agricultural community, and others to improve the water quality by decreasing sediment runoff, nutrient loads, and stormwater runoff to the Des Plaines and Tributaries.
Monitor or Assess Watershed Condition
Water Quality Biologists should conduct/update stream assessments on all of the tributaries to the Des Plaines.
Fish Management, Access
The Department should continue working with Lake Districts and other interested parties to maintain and enhance fishing opportunities in the Des Plaines Watershed.
Restore Wetlands
Restore and manage key wetlands, woodlands, and shorelands in the Des Plaines Watershed.
Monitor Invasive Species
Determine the extent and distribution of invasive plant species in the Des Plaines Watershed.
Monitor Invasive Species
Facilitate and provide incentives for increased management by private landowners, organizations, businesses, municipalities and agencies to monitor and control the invasion by non-native species in the Des Plaines Watershed.
Fish Management, Access
Identify and improve barriers to fish passage throughout the Des Plaines Watershed.
Information and Education
Increase awareness, understanding and participation in watershed stewardship in the Des Plaines Watershed.
Habitat Restoration - Instream
Fisheries and water quality staff should continue to work with external partners on habitat improvement projects within the Des Plaines Watershed.
Ordinance Development or Implementation
The Department should encourage all communities in the Des Plaines Watershed to adopt/update construction site erosion and stormwater management ordinances in order to minimize polluted runoff from developed areas.
Runoff Evaluation
Work to minimize polluted runoff from agricultural areas in the Des Plaines Watershed. Because funding for farm conservation practices is limited, these resources should be directed to the highest priority runoff areas first. Goals should include reducing soil erosion, controlling animal waste runoff, and meeting nutrient management requirements.

Management Goals

Wisconsin's Water Quality Standards provide qualitative and quantitative goals for waters that are protective of Fishable, Swimmable conditions [Learn more]. Waters that do not meet water quality standards are considered impaired and restoration actions are planned and carried out until the water is once again fishable and swimmable

Management goals can include creation or implementation of a Total Maximum Daily Load analysis, a Nine Key Element Plan, or other restoration work, education and outreach and more. If specific recommendations exist for this water, they will be displayed below online.


Monitoring the condition of a river, stream, or lake includes gathering physical, chemical, biological, and habitat data. Comprehensive studies often gather all these parameters in great detail, while lighter assessment events will involve sampling physical, chemical and biological data such as macroinvertebrates. Aquatic macroinvertebrates and fish communities integrate watershed or catchment condition, providing great insight into overall ecosystem health. Chemical and habitat parameters tell researchers more about human induced problems including contaminated runoff, point source dischargers, or habitat issues that foster or limit the potential of aquatic communities to thrive in a given area. Wisconsin's Water Monitoring Strategy was recenty updated.

Grants and Management Projects

Monitoring Projects

Watershed Characteristics

Des Plaines River is located in the Des Plaines River watershed which is 133.34 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural (57.90%), suburban (11%) and a mix of wetland (8.90%) and other uses (22.30%). This watershed has 216.36 stream miles, 755.01 lake acres and 7,194.07 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked High for runoff impacts on streams, High for runoff impacts on lakes and High for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of High. This value can be used in ranking the watershed or individual waterbodies for grant funding under state and county programs.However, all waters are affected by diffuse pollutant sources regardless of initial water quality. Applications for specific runoff projects under state or county grant programs may be pursued. For more information, go to surface water program grants.

Natural Community

Des Plaines River is considered a Coldwater, Cool-Cold Headwater, Macroinvertebrate, Warm Mainstem, COOL-Warm Mainstem under the state's Natural Community Determinations.

Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model resultsand DNR staff valiation processes that confirm or update predicted conditions based on flow and temperature modeling from historic and current landscape features and related variables. Predicated flow and temperatures for waters are associated predicated fish assemblages (communities). Biologists evaluate the model results against current survey data to determine if the modeled results are corect and whether biological indicators show water quaity degradation. This analysis is a core component of the state's resource management framework. Wisconsin's Riverine Natural Communities.

Warm Mainstem waters are moderate-to-large but still wadeable perennial streams with relatively warm summer temperatures. Coldwater fishes are absent, transitional fishes are common to uncommon, and warm water fishes are abundant to common. Headwater species are common to absent, mainstem species are abundant to common, and river species are common to absent.

Cool (Cold-Transition) Headwaters are small, usually perennial streams with cold to cool summer temperatures. Coldwater fishes are common to uncommon (<10 per 100 m), transitional fishes are abundant to common, and warm water fishes are uncommon to absent. Headwater species are abundant to common, mainstem species are common to absent, and river species are absent.