Seas Branch, West Fork Kickapoo River Watershed (LW04)
Seas Branch, West Fork Kickapoo River Watershed (LW04)
Seas Branch (1189800)
2.70 Miles
0 - 2.70
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-Cold 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.
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.
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.
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.


Seas Branch, located in central Vernon County, flows in an easterly direction for 4.5 miles
before reaching the West Fork of the Kickapoo River near Avalanche. This stream has a
gradient of 50 feet per mile and drains forested hillsides, an agricultural valley and an
agricultural headwater plateau. A wet flood control structure which creates the 11-acre Seas
Branch Pond is located approximately 2.5 miles upstream from the mouth of the stream.
In 1997, Seas Branch contained a self-sustaining brown trout population throughout its entire
length. Water temperatures and habitat in Seas Branch upstream of the flood control structure
was conducive to the establishment of a brook trout population. Consequently an
experimental stocking of wild brook trout coupled with removal of brown trout from upper
Seas Branch was undertaken in 1997. The brown trout removal effort involved shocking the
stream and moving brown trout to Seas Branch downstream of the flood control structure
where upstream migration is prohibited. Annual fishery surveys indicate a thriving brook trout
fishery upstream of the dam without the competition of brown trout for food and habitat. The
brown trout fishery downstream of the flood control structure is also thriving. These findings
support the Class I designation for the entire stream.
The most recent survey, conducted in 1997, documented brook trout, brown trout and
numerous forage fish species. The stream bottom consisted primarily of cobble and gravel. Instream
cover was comprised of LUNKER structures, boulders, and woody debris. Only brook
trout and mottled sculpin have been documented upstream of the dam since the brown trout
removal effort began in 1998.
WDNR records indicate Seas Branch was stocked with brown trout from 1960 to 1995. Brook
trout were stocked from 1988 to 1997. Access to Seas Branch is from one WDNR easement
and the county owned flood control structure. A rare aquatic species has been found in this

From: Ripp, Coreen, Koperski, Cindy and Folstad, Jason. 2002. The State of the Lower Wisconsin River Basin.
PUBL WT-559-2002. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  2002

Author  Cynthia Koperski

Historical Description

Seas Branch, T13N, R3W, Section 19. Surface Acres = 5.5, Miles = 3.5, Gradient = 50.0 feet per mile.
A Class II brown trout stream that has clear, hard water. It flows in a general southeasterly direction and joins the West Fork Kickapoo River below Avalanche. Scattered open water areas were found throughout its length by the winter aerial groundwater survey. Besides brown trout, a number of forage species are common, including white suckers, creek chubs, mudminnows and fantail darters. While sand is the dominant bottom type, there is considerable rubble and gravel, some silt, and a little boulder and detritus. Seas Branch Pond is located on the stream. The portion of the stream from the impoundment to the mouth was selected as a cold water research experimental site in 1968. There is public access from Seas Branch Pond and from the West Fork Kickapoo River, as well as from a parcel of land under State control. A few migrant puddle ducks use the water, and there is wood duck nesting.

From: Klick, Thomas A. and Threinen, C.W., 1973. Lake and Stream Classification Project. Surface Water Resources of Vernon County, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  1973

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Seas Branch, West Fork Kickapoo River Watershed (LW04) Fish and Aquatic LifeSeas Branch, West Fork Kickapoo River Watershed (LW04) RecreationSeas Branch, West Fork Kickapoo River Watershed (LW04) Fish Consumption

General Condition

Seas Branch (WBIC 1189800) from pl 556 to headwaters was assessed during the 2018 listing cycle; new total phosphorus and biological (macroinvertebrate and fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores) sample data were clearly below the 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Fish and Aquatic Life use. This water was meeting this designated use and was not considered impaired.

Date  2017

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.



Citizen-Based Stream Monitoring
Collect chemical, physical, and/or biological water quality data to assess the current overall stream health. The data can inform management decisions and may be used to identify impaired waters for biennial lists.

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

Seas Branch is located in the West Fork Kickapoo River watershed which is 118.04 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (41.10%), grassland (29%) and a mix of agricultural (25.50%) and other uses (4.40%). This watershed has 283.75 stream miles, 49.18 lake acres and 672.36 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

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

Seas Branch is considered a Cool-Cold Headwater, Cool-Cold 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.

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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