Bugle Lake, Elk Creek Watershed (BT03)
Bugle Lake, Elk Creek Watershed (BT03)
Bugle Lake (1782700)
24.58 Acres
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.
Impounded Flowing Water
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.
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.
Impounded Flowing Water
This classification includes waterbodies created by dams (mill ponds, reservoirs, flowages, and other impoundments) with a residence time of 14 days or more (under summer (June – Sept) mean low flow conditions with a 1 in 10 year recurrence interval (US EPA 2000)). Many natural lakes also have dams or water level control structures. However, to be included in the Impounded Flowing Waters category, the dam or water level control structure, must account for more than half of a waterbody’s maximum depth. Impoundments with a residence time of less than 14 days should be covered under the rivers and stream assessment methodology process.
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.
Aquatic Life
Waters that support fish and aquatic life communities (healthy biological communities).
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.


Bugle Lake is a 35 acre impoundment of Elk Creek in the City of Independence. Bugle Lake has a maximum depth of eight feet and a mean depth of 5.8 feet, based on measurements in its lower 21 acres. The contributing watershed area is approximately 112 square miles (71,849 acres). Both upland and stream bank erosion are significant problems in the Elk Creek watershed. Because of extensive erosion within the watershed, Bugle Lake has a long history of sedimentation problems, dating back to its creation in 1877.

Date  1996

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Source: 1970, Surface Water Resources of Trempealeau County Bugle Lake, T22N, R9W, S25 Surface Acres = 34.7, S.D.F. = 2.78, Maximum Depth = 10 feet.

A medium hard water, drainage impoundment located on Elk Creed within the City of Independence. Its maximum depth is controlled by stoplogs and a tainter gate. The dam is owned by the city and it has a height of 10 feet. The water is clear, alkaline, and has a low transparency. Largemouth bass and bluegill comprise the major fishery and were stocked following chemical treatment in 1966 to remove carp, suckers, and small forage fish species. Some brown and rainbow trout are present. Carp are again present, but were not a problem at this writing. There is public access from two parks. Migrant puddle ducks use the impoundment.

Date  1970

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Bugle Lake, Elk Creek Watershed (BT03) Fish and Aquatic LifeBugle Lake, Elk Creek Watershed (BT03) RecreationBugle Lake, Elk Creek Watershed (BT03) Fish Consumption

General Condition

A self-help volunteer and Adopt-A-Lake participants on this lake could aid in documenting water quality trends and in increasing awareness about and protective actions for this lake. WDNR Watershed Management staff could collect other water quality data to build on past collection efforts.

Restoration Efforts
In 1979, the Elk Creek watershed was selected as a WDNR Nonpoint Source Priority Watershed Program and best management practices (BMPs) were implemented from 1980 to 1988. Watershed improvements due to these BMPs included upland erosion control practices, stream bank stabilization and fencing, and barnyard runoff controls. During this same period, frequent complaints of shallowness and turbidity in Bugle Lake led to a lake rehabilitation feasibility study. WDNR accepted a proposed dredging project for Bugle Lake under its Office of Inland Lakes Renewal (OILR).

Hydraulic dredging on Bugle Lake during 1981 removed about 175,000 cubic yards of sediment from 21.5 acres, based on lake volume estimates. The total project cost, including dredge spoil site preparation, dredging, engineering, administration, and watershed improvements - primarily stream bank riprapping - was $505,680 (Marshall). The millpond was dredged to a uniform depth of 10 feet with moderately sloped sides. As a result, the lake's volume almost tripled from 61 acre ft. to about 170 acre ft (Table 29).

The Bugle Lake Protection and Rehabilitation Project Final Report (1982) estimated the sediment delivery rate to the lake could be reduced 50 60 percent, to about 19,800 cubic yards per year, by implementing watershed improvements. The report projected that the lake's life expectancy would be 25 30 years following dredging.

Unfortunately, watershed improvements did not meet earlier expectations. Stream bank erosion continues to be a serious problem. Despite efforts of the priority watershed project, approximately 60 percent of identified eroding stream banks in the watershed were not controlled. (Schreiber).

Estimates from field survey data in 1983 and 1989 indicate a higher sedimentation rate and more rapid decline in lake volume than anticipated: See "Bugle Lake Sedimentation Rates Since 1981" (Table 29), "Bugle Lake Bathymetry" (Figure 3), and "Changes in Volume of Bugle Lake".

By January 1989, lake volume had already declined 30 percent in the dredged area, decreasing from 170 acre ft. to 119 acre ft. During these eight years, approximately 82,600 cubic yards of sediment were deposited in the lake. This amounts to an average sedimentation rate of 10,325 cubic yards per year, or 3.6 inches per year.

Assuming an average trap efficiency of 33 percent (Brune), the estimated average sediment delivery rate to Bugle Lake from 1981 to 1989 was 31,288 cubic yards per year. This is a 58 percent higher sediment delivery rate than the 19,800 yards per year hoped for in the 1982 Project Final Report.

A somewhat different estimate was made in a 1980 USGS study of the Elk Creek Watershed. USGS estimated the sediment delivery rate to be about 24,790 cubic yards per year. However, this estimate could be higher than normal due to a 28 percent above-normal stream flow for 1980. Using the 1980 USGS estimated sediment delivery rate (24,790 cubic yards per year) and the average inflow rate of 67.4 cubic feet per second (cfs), which was adjusted down 28 percent from 1980 stream flow level, life expectancy for the millpond was estimated using the Brune curve to estimate trapping efficiency with declining lake volume. Trap efficiency values were obtained from the high curve for sediment trapping efficiency because of the perceived coarse nature of transported sediments.

Based on the above assumptions, it would take approximately 21 years, rather than the 25 30 years originally estimated, for Bugle Lake to return to its pre dredged volume. This means that by the year 2002, the City of Independence will once again have to address sedimentation in Bugle Lake.

Sedimentation in the lake varied substantially with time and location. For example, average sediment deposition of 6.5 inches for the entire lake was much higher during the first 22 months compared to the average 2.8 inches for the last six years. With respect to location, a comparison of average sedimentation in the lower versus upper end of the lake indicated as much as 3.5 times more deposition in the upper end.
A noticeable delta has developed in the northwest portion of the lake where Elk Creek enters the impoundment. Sediment deposition in the delta has been extremely high, as much as one foot per year. In the lower end, deposition has been much less, roughly 2 inches per year.

Many factors could explain why Bugle Lake is filling in more quickly than expected. One reason may be the continued contributions from upstream erosion. As cited previously, 60 percent of the identified eroding stream banks were not controlled by the priority watershed project. Another reason may be that watershed improvements implemented over the last nine years would have little effect on the movement of existing channel sediments, also known as bedload. After the lake was dredged, high levels of sediment delivery to the lake could have resulted from channel scouring, or head cutting, immediately above the lake. The large discrepancy between sedimentation in the upper and lower ends, plus the high deposition rate immediately following dredging, suggest that channel scouring of relatively coarse bedload material is a major contributor to sedimentation in Bugle Lake.

In its present state, Bugle Lake supports a marginal bass and walleye fishery with some natural reproduction. Trout species have also been stocked in the lake and in Elk Creek. Dredging the lake to a uniform depth provided poor game fish habitat. Thus, fish cribs have been placed in the lake to provide some structure. An annual ice fishing contest sponsored by the Elk Rod and Gun Club has become an important community event and fundraiser. Despite the rehabilitation project, the quality of the fishery is expected to decline as sedimentation progresses (Talley).

Date  1996

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Impaired Waters

Island Park Beach on Bugle Lake was evaluated for bacteria in the 2022 cycle; E. coli levels were above listing thresholds as outlined in 2022 WisCALM. This beach was added to the 2022 Impaired Waters List.

Date  2022

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.


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

Bugle Lake is located in the Elk Creek watershed which is 112.95 mi². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (41.90%), agricultural (28.70%) and a mix of grassland (23.30%) and other uses (6.20%). This watershed has 284.80 stream miles, 47.13 lake acres and 3,310.85 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

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

Bugle Lake is considered a Impounded Flowing Water 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.

This classification includes waterbodies created by dams (mill ponds, reservoirs, flowages, and other impoundments) with a residence time of 14 days or more (under summer (June – Sept) mean low flow conditions with a 1 in 10 year recurrence interval (US EPA 2000)). Many natural lakes also have dams or water level control structures. However, to be included in the Impounded Flowing Waters category, the dam or water level control structure, must account for more than half of a waterbody’s maximum depth. Impoundments with a residence time of less than 14 days should be covered under the rivers and stream assessment methodology process.