Stillwell Creek, Upper La Crosse River Watershed (BL06)
Stillwell Creek, Upper La Crosse River Watershed (BL06)
Stillwell Creek (1662600)
2.45 Miles
0.01 - 2.46
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's Riverine Natural Communities.
Cool-Cold Headwater
Year Last Monitored
This is the most recent date of water monitoring stored in the SWIMS system. Additional surveys for fish and habitat may be available subsequent to this date.
This river is impaired
Elevated Water Temperature
Sediment/Total Suspended Solids
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.
Class III Trout
Streams capable of supporting a seasonal coldwater sport fishery and which may be managed as coldwater streams.
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.
Cold (Class II Trout)
Streams supporting a cold water sport fishery, or serving as a spawning area for salmonids and other cold water fish species. Representative aquatic life communities, associated with these waters, generally require cold temperatures and concentrations of dissolved oxygen that remain above 6 mg/L through natural reproduction and selective propagation. Since these waters are capable of supporting natural reproduction, a minimum dissolved oxygen concentration of 7 mg/L is required during times of active spawning and support of early life stages of newly-hatched fish.
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.
Streams capable of supporting a cold water sport fishery, or serving as a spawning area for salmonids and other cold water fish species. Representative aquatic life communities, associated with these waters, generally require cold temperatures and concentrations of dissolved oxygen that remain above 6 mg/L. Since these waters are capable of supporting natural reproduction, a minimum dissolved oxygen concentration of 7 mg/L is required during times of active spawning and support of early life stages of newly-hatched fish.


Stillwell Creek, located in central Monroe County, originates in Fort McCoy and flows for 4.7 miles in a northwesterly direction before reaching Tarr Creek. It has a gradient of 28 feet per mile. A privately owned cranberry operation impounds Stillwell Creek at its midpoint. Stillwell Creek is a Class III trout stream dowstream of the cranberry operation for 2.8 miles and Class II for 1.9 miles upstream of the cranberry operation.

Brook trout inhabit Stillwell Creek; however, in-stream cover for adult fish is scarce. The addition of in-stream cover would likely benefit the Stillwell Creek fishery. Access to Stillwell Creek is via Fort McCoy.

Date  2002

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

"All" of the stream (class 2).

Date  1980

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Land Use

Grassland cover dominates the watershed, although the very upper portion of the watershed along the drainage divide contains significant areas of mixed forest. Additionally, forested land cover is found in the lower most portion of the basin. Vegetative cover in the riparian corridor along Stillwell Creek is varied; grassland comprises the greatest percentage (28%) of vegetative cover in the riparian corridor, while forested wetland and aspen comprise nearly 15% and 13% of the riparian cover, respectively. A detailed characterization of the riparian vegetation along Stillwell Creek is presented in
Section 4.2. Furthermore, Stillwell Lake, an artificially created lake, is located in the middle portion of the watershed with a surface area of six acres, a maximum depth of 10 feet, and mean depth of 5.9 feet.

A privately owned cranberry operation is located along Stillwell Creek in the lower portion of the watershed. The operation includes 49 acres of cultivated cranberry bogs and six small storage ponds used for irrigation during various periods of the year, and provide a mechanism through which the intake of water for storage and its release, can be controlled. The impoundments have a total surface area of 15 acres; the largest impoundment has a surface area of four acres and a maximum depth of 15 feet. The other five impoundments have an average surface area of approximately two acres and a maximum depth of seven feet.

Date  2014

Author  Cynthia Koperski

Stillwell Creek, Upper La Crosse River Watershed (BL06) Fish and Aquatic LifeStillwell Creek, Upper La Crosse River Watershed (BL06) RecreationStillwell Creek, Upper La Crosse River Watershed (BL06) Fish Consumption

General Condition

Four temperature-monitoring sites are located in Stillwell Creek. One station is
located in the uppermost portion of the basin above Stillwell Lake. A second station is located below Stillwell Lake. A third station is located below the Habelman cranberry farm. The fourth station is located at the most downstream segment of Stillwell Creek, just above the confluence with the La Crosse River. Although the period of record and the beginning and ending of dates of these sites vary, a significant amount of hourly stream temperatures have been collected during the warm season months of
March through October.

Stream flow in Stillwell Creek above Stillwell Lake is dominated by groundwater baseflow, which has a relatively low and fairly constant temperature. Furthermore, a bottom draw device installed near the base
of Stillwell Lake provides for the release of cool water into Stillwell Creek. Consequently, stream temperatures observed in this reach are cooler and exhibit a much smaller variance than do temperatures at the other sites. The maximum temperature observed in Stillwell Creek is 24.7 degrees Celsius (76.4�F) that was recorded below the Habelman�s cranberry operation. The data suggest that increased stream temperatures below the cranberry operation are related to warm flows released from the cranberry operation.

Date  2014

Author  Cynthia Koperski

Impaired Waters

Stillwell Creek is a 4.7-mile trout stream with a gradient of 28 feet per mile that drains an area of approximately five square miles. A 2.2-mile segment downstream from the cranberry operation supports a class III trout fishery whereas the segment upstream of the cranberry operation is classified as a class II trout fishery. The segment of the creek downstream of the cranberry operation is considered impaired because the fish community is rated poor as measured using the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI). The low IBI scores are believed to be due to high temperatures, and degraded habitat which is reflected in an elevated fine sediment count.

Water temperature increases cause cold water communities to suffer a variety of ill effects, which can range from decreased spawning to death. Dissolved oxygen sags can also be influenced by an increase in the water temperature because less oxygen is soluble as temperature increases. Water temperature increases can be caused as a result of stream bank erosion, widening the river channels, which exposes more of the river water to direct sunlight.

Sedimentation reduces the suitable habitat for fish and macroinvertebrate communities. Filling-in of pools with sediment reduces the amount of available cover for juvenile and adult fish. Sedimentation of riffle areas reduces the reproductive success of fish by reducing the exposed gravel substrate necessary for appropriate spawning conditions. Sedimentation also affects macroinvertebrate biomass (fish food source) which tends to be lower in areas with predominantly sand substrate than in a stream substrate with
a mix of gravel, rubble and sand.

Sedimentation (particularly in the case of fine sediments which remain in suspension longer) also causes elevated turbidity, which reduces the penetration of light necessary for photosynthesis in aquatic plants, reduces feeding efficiency of visual predators and filter feeders, and lowers the respiratory capacity of aquatic invertebrate by clogging their gill surfaces.
In addition, other contaminants such as nutrients (phosphorus) attached to sediment particles can be transported to lakes and streams during runoff events. Nutrient enrichment can contribute to dissolved oxygen sags by stimulating aquatic plant growth and their oxygen consumption demands.

Date  2014

Author  Cynthia Koperski


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 2016 . See also 'monitoring' and 'projects'.



TMDL Development
TMDL Development for Squaw Creek and Stillwell Creek, Monroe County, WI
TMDL Monitoring
USGS Gage stations funded
TMDL Development
A nine key element plan might be created for this area with cost share funding for BMPs through grant programs.

Standards Details

This water was reclassified by David Vetrano, John Noble from a survey in October 2003. This stream contains adequate habitat and water quality conditions for trout.It requires annual stocking of legal-sized trout to provide trout fishing. Generally there is no carryover of trout from one year to the next. Above the cranberry property, surveys show this stream may have some natural reproduction but not enough to utilize available food and space. Therefore, stocking sometimes is required to maintain a desirable sport fishery. This stream shows good survival and carryover of adult trout.

Date  2008

Author   Aquatic Biologist

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

Stillwell Creek is located in the Upper La Crosse River watershed which is 126.12 mi². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (62.40%), grassland (11.90%) and a mix of agricultural (9.80%) and other uses (16.10%). This watershed has 167.76 stream miles, 207.50 lake acres and 4,875.27 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked High for runoff impacts on streams, Not Ranked for runoff impacts on lakes and Medium for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of Medium. 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

Stillwell Creek is considered a Cool-Cold Headwater 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.

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.

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