North Fork Popple River, Popple River Watershed (BR11)
North Fork Popple River, Popple River Watershed (BR11)
Popple (Poplar) River, North Fork (1754800)
20 Miles
0 - 20
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
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
High Phosphorus Levels
Total Phosphorus
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 Clark County Health Care Center (CCHCC) discharges treated wastewater to the North Fork Popple River. The CCHCC completed a facility upgrade in spring, 1996 to reduce the number of suspended solids violations. The rehabilitation of one wastewater treatment cell in the fall of 1996 has allowed the treatment system to operate optimally. This facility discharges to the North Fork Popple River in spring and fall (Pietz). Macroinvertebrate samples collected in 1990, below the CCHCC discharge, resulted in HBI values indicating some organic loading (WDNR, 1990).

Dorchester discharges to an intermittent tributary to the North Fork Popple River, and is classified in NR104 as a limited forage fishery stream. The Dorchester WWTP upgraded its facility in 1993 and has met permit limits since then, except for one period in June, 1996 (Pietz). Since the plant upgrade occurred in 1993, a water quality standards review should be conducted on the intermittent stream that receives the Dorchester discharge to document any water quality changes.

The upper reaches of the North Fork Popple River may experience large yearly variations in stream flows. It is thought that the river can only support a sport fishery during wet years. Anecdotal evidence indicates that a sport fishery has not existed in the upper reaches since the early 1980's. A fish kill in June 1996 confirmed the existence of a forage fishery in the upper five miles of this river. Runoff from manure spread too close to drainage ditches was determined as the cause of the fish kill. The breakdown of this organic waste robbed the water of all its oxygen. This river has low flow, a low gradient and little in-stream habitat for fish. Cattle commonly graze the streambanks (Talley).

The expansion of HWY 29 resulted in the sale of county land around the Clark County Health Care Center to the Department of Transportation. Wetland mitigation of approximately 100 acres took place on this property. Much of this land was previously in agricultural production. About one mile of streambank is now protected (Strand).

From: Koperksi, Cindy. 1999. Black River Water Quality Management Plan (draft). Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  1999

Author  Cynthia Koperski

Historical Description

North Fork of Poplar River T28N, R1W, S8, Surface Acres = 54.4, Miles = 20.4.

The North Fork of Poplar River is a clear, medium hard water stream that flows southward to join the south fork and form the main river. It appears to have a high gradient. Smallmouth bass and panfish constitute the fishery. About 70 percent of the watershed area is cleared for agricultural purposes. Waterfowl and furbearers are present. There are 2.4 miles of public frontage including a small park area. There is an unimproved boat landing at the park. Light boat traffic is possible, but portages are necessary except during high water conditions. Access is available at thirteen road crossings.

From: Klick, Thomas A. and C.W. Threinen, 1965. Surface Water Resources of Clark County: Lake and Stream Classification Project. Wisconsin Conservation Department, Madison, WI.

Date  1965

Author   Aquatic Biologist

North Fork Popple River, Popple River Watershed (BR11) Fish and Aquatic LifeNorth Fork Popple River, Popple River Watershed (BR11) RecreationNorth Fork Popple River, Popple River Watershed (BR11) Fish Consumption


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.



Wastewater Monitoring or Management
The City of Owen and the Village of Withee should work together to eliminate the inflow and infiltration to their sewer collection system in order to eliminate the need for bypassing raw sewage during rainfall events.

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

North Fork Popple River is located in the Popple River watershed which is 216.76 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural (54.90%), forest (17.50%) and a mix of wetland (14.70%) and other uses (12.80%). This watershed has 386.23 stream miles, 250.90 lake acres and 20,350.85 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Not Ranked for runoff impacts on streams, Not Available 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

Popple (Poplar) River, North Fork is considered a Coldwater, 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.

More Interactive Maps