Fish and Aquatic Life
Burns Creek is a spring-fed stream located in eastern La Crosse County. It flows in a southwesterly direction for approximately 12 miles before reaching the La Crosse River just upstream of Lake Neshonoc. This stream has a gradient of 29 feet per mile and drains rolling agricultural land and forested hillsides. Burns Creek is a Class I trout stream upstream of the dam located in T17N R5W S21 and Class II below the dam. The dam acts as a barrier for migration of brown trout into the upper five miles of Burns Creek, enabling the successful introduction of native brook trout into the upper half of the creek with minimal competition from brown trout.
The most recent stream survey, completed in 1999, documented a stream bottom consisting mainly of sand with some clay, silt and gravel. Riparian land use was primarily wooded with some meadow, cropland, and pasture. Fish cover consisted of woody debris, overhanging vegetation and undercut banks. Both brook and brown trout were found during this survey, along with a wide variety of aquatic invertebrates and forage fish species. From 1960 to 1975, the stream was stocked with brown trout. In 1976, the introduction of brook trout into the upper half began and has continued with occasional stocking of browns below the dam. Access is possible from several road crossings and DNR owned easements.
In 1998, the La Crosse County Land Conservation Department initiated water chemistry testing of streams throughout La Crosse County. Baseflow conditions were targeted for testing as the most likely to show normal water quality conditions. Land Conservation staff sample streams four times annually when no rainfall or snowmelt has occurred during the previous 72 hours. Burns Creek is sampled in two different locations: near the mouth and approximately five miles upstream from its mouth. Between 1998 and 2001 at the middle sample location, Burns Creek met the county phosphorus goal in only 7% and met the county fecal coliform bacteria goal in 80% of the samples taken. At the lower sample location, Burns Creek never met the county phosphorus goal and met the county fecal coliform bacteria goal in approximatley 50% of the samples taken. These data indicate a nutrient load that is likely also contributing to high bacterial counts. The county ranks Burns Creek as one of the highest priority streams in the county on which to expend effort to reduce phosphorus and bacterial contamination.
To that end, the La Crosse County Land Conservation Department is currently working with landowners adjacent to Burns Creek to reduce nutrients, sediment, and bacteria entering the stream from animal waste, adjacent cropland, and streambank erosion. Barnyard runoff management systems, livestock stream crossings, and streambank restoration are among some of the practices that the county will install for minimal to no cost to landowners. The project period only lasts through December 2002.
La Crosse County should continue baseflow water chemistry monitoring of Burns Creek to determine water quality trends after completion of work with landowners adjacent to Burns Creek. The WDNR should survey Burns Creek after completion of the La Crosse County LCD project to document any fish or habitat changes.
Author Aquatic Biologist
Burns Creek (WBIC 1653600) was assessed during the 2018 listing cycle; new biological (fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores) sample data were clearly below the 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Fish and Aquatic Life use. This water was meeting this designated use and was not considered impaired.
Author Ashley Beranek
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.
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
|WBIC||Official Waterbody Name||Station ID||Station Name||Earliest Fieldwork Date||Latest Fieldwork Date||View Station||View Data|
|1653600||Burns Creek||323082||Burns Creek - Sw1/4 Of Se1/4 Sec. 32||Map||Data|
|1653600||Burns Creek||10008935||Burns Creek Station 1- Off Hwy 16 Bridge||4/30/1980||5/14/1998||Map||Data|
|1653600||Burns Creek||10008973||Burns Creek Station 3 - 600 Ft Down From Bridge County E||Map||Data|
|1653600||Burns Creek||323120||Burns Creek - Burns Creek||7/24/1973||9/16/1999||Map||Data|
|1653600||Burns Creek||10013777||Burns Creek Station 4 - Dam Upstream In Section 21||10/19/1999||1/1/2015||Map||Data|
|1653600||Burns Creek||10044137||Burns Creek - Hwy E||8/4/2015||8/4/2015||Map||Data|
|1653600||Burns Creek||10008970||Burns Creek Station 2 - Bridge Kastenschmidt Road||1/1/2015||1/1/2015||Map||Data|
Burns Creek is located in the Little La Crosse River watershed which is 240.79 mi². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (48%), agricultural (25.70%) and a mix of grassland (15.60%) and other uses (10.80%). This watershed has 445.88 stream miles, 114.59 lake acres and 5,439.88 wetland acres.
Nonpoint Source Characteristics
This watershed is ranked High for runoff impacts on streams, Not Ranked for runoff impacts on lakes and Low for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of Low. 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.