Little Platte River, Little Platte River Watershed (GP03)
Little Platte River, Little Platte River Watershed (GP03)
Little Platte River (943800)
33.98 Miles
0 - 33.98
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 Mainstem, 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.
This river is impaired
Degraded Biological Community
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 Little Platte River rises in Livingston and flows southerly to its confluence with the Platte River near Dickeyville. Many reaches of the stream flow through scenic rural landscapes including some areas with steep limestone bluffs that rise above the river. White pine dominates some of the steep bluffs creating micro-ecosystems generally uncommon in this area.

The headwaters of the Little Platte River are in the Village of Livingston. From the headwaters downstream 1.5 miles the stream is classified as a Limited Forage Fishery (LFF) stream. The stream is considered to be a class II trout stream (WDNR, 1980) from the LFF reach downstream four miles. The remainder of the Little Platte is classified as a warm water sport fishery (WWSF) and a regionally important smallmouth bass fishery stream, second only to the Galena River in southwest Wisconsin. The significance of the smallmouth bass fishery is one reason the stream was put on Wisconsin’s Exceptional Resource Waters (ERW) list. The smallmouth bass fishery of the Little Platte has seen fluctuations in populations over the years (Mason, 1993). Monitoring conducted in 1993 found few bass in the Little Platte River, however, 1996 monitoring indicated that the Little Platte had one of the best smallmouth bass populations in southwestern Wisconsin, a significant rebound in population from the 1993 survey (Wang, 1996).

It appears that a number of factors may affect the bass populations. Major runoff events, particularly during the critical late spring period, appear to have an adverse impact on populations. These runoff events are usually associated with dissolved oxygen levels that often fall below water quality standards. Non-point sources of pollution such as excessive streambank pasturing, streambank erosion, and runoff from barnyards and cultivated fields, can and do have an effect on instream habitat and water quality and aquatic life. Populations are higher in years of few, or smaller, major runoff events and when baseflow (average stream flow during dry periods) is higher.

Date  2001

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Due in part to the stream’s value as a smallmouth fishery and to the threats the stream faces from non-point source pollution, volunteer citizen stream monitors have taken an interest in the stream and have been collecting data at two locations on the Little Platte River, one site is above the Highway 80 bridge in Arthur, the other is 300 feet upstream from Maple Ridge Road (Trout Unlimited 2001).

Samples taken at both sites last spring and summer found good temperatures and dissolved oxygen. Spring and summer NTU values (Nephelometeric Turbidity Units), or the measure of water clarity or turbidity, were fair to good. Overall, most samples were below the stress level, although on certain days, NTU’s were high. Low water clarity, or high turbidity is often an indication of a problem with non-point source pollution. The higher the volume of solids in the water column, the lower the water clarity. After a rainfall event, turbidity readings are generally higher (Trout Unlimited, 2001).

The monitors began to take samples again this past March, 2001 at the Arthur site. Dissolved oxygen levels were lower, but still sufficient, as a result of cooler temperatures, and with the exception of March 19, all turbidity values were below the stress level (Trout Unlimited, 200).

In addition to its value as a smallmouth bass stream, the Little Platte River has been known to be home for some rare aquatic species. Two pollution intolerant species listed on the Wisconsin threatened and endangered species list have been found in the Little Platte River.

The only permitted wastewater discharge to the Little Platte River is from the Village of Livingston. Livingston has had a problem with the operation of its wastewater treatment system. High flows and equipment malfunctions have led to bypassing of untreated sewage to the Little Platte. The Village has taken steps to address and correct these problems.

Date  2001

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

A seepage- and spring-fed stream beginning just south of Livingston and flowing southwest to empty into, the Platte River two miles northwest of Dickeyville. The upper six miles of the stream, sometimes called "Arthur Branch", is considered a cold-water stream and the remainder is a sluggish warmwater stream. About four miles of "Arthur Branch" is managed as marginal trout water. Brown and rainbow yearlings have been stocked by the Department of Natural Resources. Trout are also stocked from the Iowa-Grant Rearing Pond located along this section of stream. The portion of the stream below trout water is wide and sluggish with many deep pools and long boulder-rubble riffles. This portion is considered to be some of the best small- mouth bass water in Grant County. Catfish are found as far upstream as the mouth of the Rountree Branch. Forage fish are abundant throughout. A dam was to be constructed on the stream below the mouth of the Rountree Branch in the past, but it was never developed. Only about 30 percent of the watershed is covered by woodlands inhabited by raccoon, squirr deer, and ruffed grouse. Muskrat, mink, and beaver frequent the 781 acres of productive wetland adjoining th lower reaches of the stream. Overgrazing and bank erosion are major use problems throughout the watershed. A severe fish kill occurred on the trout stream portion in June, 1969, as a result of pollution from milk processing. This creamery has stopped operation since that time. A large amount of polluted water was entering from the Rountree Branch when this survey was conducted. The Village of Livingston and the Livingston Creamery Company are also considered to be potential sources of pollution. The stream is easily' accessible from 2.1S miles of stream easement and lS bridge crossings. The Platte River provides navigable water access.

From: Smith, Tom D., and Ball, Joseph R., Lake and Stream Classification Project. Surface Water Resources of Grant County, Department of Natural Resources, 1972. Surface Area = 142.20 acres, Length = 39.1 miles, Gradient = .12 ft./mile, Flow = 103.3 c.f.s.

Date  1972

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Little Platte River, Little Platte River Watershed (GP03) Fish and Aquatic LifeLittle Platte River, Little Platte River Watershed (GP03) RecreationLittle Platte River, Little Platte River Watershed (GP03) Fish Consumption

Impaired Waters

Little Platte River (943800) from mouth to Waterfall Rd was assessed during the 2016 listing cycle; total phosphorus sample data exceed 2016 WisCALM listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use and biological impairment was observed (i.e. at least one macroinvertebrate or fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scored in the poor condition category).

Date  2015

Author  Aaron Larson


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.



Partnership Project
The Platteville Area Stream Stewardship Network will build an organization that empowers individuals to implement changes that improve water quality.
Runoff Grant
The Little Platte River watershed should be considered by the DNR, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and Grant County as a high priority candidate a non-point source pollution abatement project. Specifically, Targeted Runoff Management (TRM) or EQIP projects should be considered by the DNR and Grant County for all or portions of the Little Platte River, Blockhouse Creek, Mounds Branch, Rountree Branch, and/or Snowden Branch Result: Snowden Branch (done- see attached report)
Stormwater Planning, Implementation
The City of Platteville, with the assistance of the DNR, Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Agency, and Southwest Badger RC&D, should address stormwater management issues and problems in the city. Result: Stormwater plan written in 2006. Utility rejected by City council. They will be over 10,000 in the next census and will be required to have a permit.

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

Little Platte River is located in the Little Platte River watershed which is 154.94 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural (46.20%), grassland (38%) and a mix of forest (10.40%) and other uses (5.50%). This watershed has 389.19 stream miles, 19.99 lake acres and 585.06 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked High 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

Little Platte River is considered a Cool-Cold Mainstem, 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) Mainstem streams are moderate-to-large but still wadeable perennial streams with cold to cool summer temperatures. Coldwater fishes are common to uncommon, transitional fishes are abundant to common, and warm water fishes are uncommon to absent. Headwater species are common to absent, mainstem species are abundant to common, and river species are common to absent.