East Fork Chippewa River, East Fork Chippewa River Watershed (UC21)
East Fork Chippewa River, East Fork Chippewa River Watershed (UC21)
East Fork Chippewa River (2399800)
11.25 Miles
74.46 - 85.71
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.
Macroinvertebrate, Cool-Warm 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.
Ashland, Iron
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.
Class III Trout
Streams capable of supporting a seasonal coldwater sport fishery and which may be managed as coldwater streams.
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.
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.


The East Fork of the Chippewa River originates in west central Iron County, meanders in southwesterly across Ashland County. and empties into the Chippewa Flowage in Sawyer County. The river flows through sLu lakes: Sells, Pelican, and Bear Lakes in Ashland County: and Barker, Hunter, and Blaisdell Lakes in Sawyer County.

The dam at Snaptail Rapids near Winter may be degrading the fishery in the East Fork of the Chippewa (Pratt 1993). The headwaters of the river, from Iron County through Sells Lake in Ashland County, are listed as Class 11 and III trout waters where brook and brown trout are the major species. Below this, the river becomes a very good warm water sports fishery supporting muskellunge, walleye and bass.

There is good potential for endangered resource occurrences in the East Fork of the Chippewa, but inventories have not been done. The Bureau of Endangered Resources has applied for federal funds to conduct dragonfly and mussel surveys in this area. Bear Lake has a mercury advisory for walleye, and thus a similar problem may exist for the section of the East Fork of the Chippewa River that flows through this lake.

Date  1996

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Facilities Management

The East Fork of the Chippewa River originates in central Iron County; the West Fork originates in Bayfleld County. Both rivers flow southwesterly through Ashland and Sawyer counties until they join at the Chippewa Flowage, a reservoir formed by the Winter Dam. Minimal pollutant sources discharge to these Chippewa River headwaters. The East Fork receives municipal wastewater treatment plant discharges at Glidden.

Date  2017

Author  Lisa Helmuth

East Fork Chippewa River, East Fork Chippewa River Watershed (UC21) Fish and Aquatic LifeEast Fork Chippewa River, East Fork Chippewa River Watershed (UC21) RecreationEast Fork Chippewa River, East Fork Chippewa River Watershed (UC21) Fish Consumption

General Condition

The East Fork of the Chippewa River (miles 32.83-52.23) was assessed during the 2018 listing cycle; new total phosphorus, biological (macroinvertebrate and fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores), and temperature sample data were clearly below 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Fish and Aquatic Life use. This water is meeting this designated use and is not considered impaired.

The water was assessed during the 2018 assessment cycle and mIBI conditions found to be "excellent". This water was assessed during the 2014 listing cycle; biological sample data (i.e. macroinvertebrate or fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores) clearly meet 2014 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Fish and Aquatic Life use.

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.



Monitor or Assess Watershed Condition
The Rocky Run Creek East Fork of the Chippewa River and Muskellunge Creek east Fork of the Chippewa River HUC 12 watersheds are listed as healthy but vulnerable watersheds.

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

East Fork Chippewa River is located in the East Fork Chippewa River watershed which is 305.16 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (63.90%), wetland (32.70%) and a mix of grassland (1.60%) and other uses (1.70%). This watershed has 310.53 stream miles, 2,431.41 lake acres and 65,073.81 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Not Ranked 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

East Fork Chippewa River is considered a Macroinvertebrate, Cool-Warm 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 (Warm-Transition) Headwaters are small, sometimes intermittent streams with cool to warm summer temperatures. Coldwater fishes are uncommon to absent, transitional fishes are abundant to common, and warm water fishes are common to uncommon. Headwater species are abundant to common, mainstem species are common to absent, and river species are absent.