West Fork Chippewa River, West Fork Chippewa River Watershed (UC23)
West Fork Chippewa River, West Fork Chippewa River Watershed (UC23)
West Fork Chippewa River (2414500)
7.09 Miles
17.38 - 24.47
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.
Cool-Cold Headwater, 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.
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.
Streams capable of supporting a warm waterdependent sport fishery. Representative aquatic life communities associated with these waters generally require cool or warm temperatures and concentrations of dissolved oxygen that do not drop below 5 mg/L.
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 West Fork of the Chippewa River originates in Bayfield County, the East Fork originates in central Iron County. Both rivers flow southwesterly through Ashland and Sawyer counties until they join at the Chippewa Flowage, a reservoir formed by the Winter Dam.
The West Fork supports one reservoir upstream of the Chippewa Flowage - Moose Lake, a water storage impoundment with a thirteen foot head dam. The East Fork supports hydropower upstream of its confluence with the West Fork; the North Central Power Company dam generates electricity at Snaptail Rapids.
Both the East and West Forks were evaluated for in-stream habitat using the Wisconsin Warm Water Physical Habitat Rating System. The West Fork has a rating of "excellent", the East Fork rates between "good" and "excellent" (Kanehl and Lyons, 1990).

Larson, Nancy and Lisa Kosmond (Helmuth). 1996. Upper Chippewa River Basin Water Quality Management Plan.
PUBL-WR-345-96-REV. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  1996

Author   Aquatic Biologist


The West Fork of the Chippewa River is a low gradient, warm water river that originates
from the outlet of Chippewa Lake in southeastern Bayfleld County. It then flows
southeast into Ashland County where it turns and flows southwest through much of
Sawyer County before emptying into the Chippewa Flowage. The river flows through Day
and Upper Clam Lakes in Ashland County, and Lower Clam, Cattail, Meadow, Partridge
Crop, and Moose Lakes in Sawyer County. Moose Lake is a water storage impoundment
of the West Fork with a 13-foot head dam.
The predominant fisheries on the West Fork of the Chippewa are walleye, small mouth
bass, and muskellunge (District Fisheries Management) The river has a high potential
for endangered resource occurrences but no aquatic inventories have been conducted.

Date  1996

Author   Aquatic Biologist

West Fork Chippewa River, West Fork Chippewa River Watershed (UC23) Fish and Aquatic LifeWest Fork Chippewa River, West Fork Chippewa River Watershed (UC23) RecreationWest Fork Chippewa River, West Fork Chippewa River Watershed (UC23) 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.


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

West Fork Chippewa River is located in the West Fork Chippewa River watershed which is 284.78 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (62%), wetland (33.60%) and a mix of open (4.30%) and other uses (0%). This watershed has 256.71 stream miles, 6,208.10 lake acres and 60,035.54 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Low for runoff impacts on streams, Low 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.

Natural Community

West Fork Chippewa River is considered a Cool-Cold Headwater, 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.

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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