Beaver Dam River, Beaver Dam River Watershed (UR03)
Beaver Dam River, Beaver Dam River Watershed (UR03)
Beaver Dam River (831400)
3.09 Miles
11.06 - 14.15
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.
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
Low DO, Degraded Habitat
Total Phosphorus, Sediment/Total Suspended Solids
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 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.
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 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.


The Beaver Dam River is the largest stream in this watershed, flowing for 31 miles before emptying into the Crawfish River. This river is severely affected by polluted runoff from soil erosion and barnyard runoff. These sources deliver excessive amounts of sediment and nutrients to the river and lead to excessive populations of rough fish. The river experiences low dissolved oxygen levels and temperature fluctuations. Stream flows are controlled by the dam in the City of Beaver Dam (WDNR, 1993). The American eel, a fish on the state's watch list, has been found in the river (Fago, 1982). The dam at Lowell prohibits fish migration up and down the river. The lower reach of the river flows through the wetlands in and around the Mud Lake Wildlife Area.

The river winds through the City of Beaver Dam, (population 14,000). Commercial buildings encroach upon the riverbank downtown. In 2001, the city completed a sewer service area plan as required under Chapter NR 121, Wisconsin Administrative Code. The plan helps the city better manage urban growth; identify areas for development and guide how that development will be staged over time. The plan also identifies environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands, floodplains, stormwater conveyance and treatment areas, and other areas unsuitable for development or otherwise not to be developed.

An old coal gasification plant site is in Beaver Dam adjacent to the Beaver Dam River. Groundwater and river sediment monitoring has indicated there are no existing threats to groundwater from coal tars or associated contaminants at the site (WDNR, 1994).

Beaver Dam is experiencing growth; recently, at least one of the surrounding towns has reported problems associated with increased stormwater flows. Apparently, these increased flows are causing problems for property owners adjacent the city. The city obtained a DNR grant through the Beaver Dam River Nonpoint Pollution Priority Watershed Project to develop a construction site erosion control ordinance. The ordinance, which went into effect in 2001, is expected to provide increased control of sediment runoff into the watershed. Also in 2001, the city installed a large stormwater detention pond through funding obtained from the Priority Watershed Project. The detention pond is located on the east side of highway 151 and helps control urban stormwater runoff and pollution in the area.

The city operates an activated sludge wastewater treatment plant. The city did experience bypassing in 1998 due primarily to heavy rains.

The city could better protect Beaver Dam River and Beaver Dam Lake, particularly through the Beaver Dam River Watershed Priority Watershed Project. Protection measures could include enacting and enforcing a stormwater management ordinance, and acquiring parkland and natural areas adjacent and along drainage ways leading to the river and lake.

Lowell and Reeseville, two small communities two miles apart, operate wastewater treatment plants. Both are lagoon systems that discharge to the Beaver Dam River. Reeseville has added a disinfection unit to aid treatment.

Date  2002

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Land Use

The Beaver Dam River Watershed drains 292 square miles of land in Dodge, Columbia, Green Lake and Fond du Lac counties in South Central Wisconsin. The watershed is part of the Upper Rock River Basin. The Beaver Dam River drains to Crawfish River. The Beaver Dam River Watershed was divided into 17 smaller drainage areas, called subwatersheds, for this planning effort. Land use in the watershed is mainly agricultural, and is currently dominated by dairy and cash grain farming. The watershed population is stable approximately 35,000 people. About half the population of the watershed lives in rural areas, while half live in the cities of Beaver Dam, Fox Lake, and Juneau.

Date  2018

Author   Priority Watershed Plan

Beaver Dam River, Beaver Dam River Watershed (UR03) Fish and Aquatic LifeBeaver Dam River, Beaver Dam River Watershed (UR03) RecreationBeaver Dam River, Beaver Dam River Watershed (UR03) 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.



Nine Key Element Plan
The Beaver Dam River and the majority of other streams in the watershed suppmt a warm water sport fishery. The streams of the watershed are not reaching their highest potential use due to pollution from point and nonpoint sources.
Nine Key Element Plan
Beaver Dam PWS - Nine Key Element Plan - The Beaver Dam River and the majority of other streams in the watershed suppmt a warm water sport fishery. The streams of the watershed are not reaching their highest potential use due to pollution from point and nonpoint sources.
TMDL (USEPA) Approved
Beaver Dam TMDL Approved
Runoff Grant - Targeted Runoff Urban
WM staff should work with the villages and cities in the watershed to apply for funding through the TRM or Urban Nonpoint Pollution grant programs to develop stormwater management plans and install practices that control urban stormwater impacts.

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

Beaver Dam River is located in the Beaver Dam River watershed which is 290.25 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural (62.90%), wetland (13.80%) and a mix of grassland (9.50%) and other uses (13.90%). This watershed has 421.30 stream miles, 3,607.03 lake acres and 29,349.96 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

Beaver Dam River is considered a 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.

Warm Mainstem waters are moderate-to-large but still wadeable perennial streams with relatively warm summer temperatures. Coldwater fishes are absent, transitional fishes are common to uncommon, and warm water fishes are abundant to common. Headwater species are common to absent, mainstem species are abundant to common, and river species are common to absent.

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