Wisconsin River (At Castle Rock Lake), Big Roche A Cri Creek,Little Roche A Cri Creek,Lower Yellow (Juneau Co.) River Watershed (CW01)
Wisconsin River (At Castle Rock Lake), Big Roche A Cri Creek,Little Roche A Cri Creek,Lower Yellow (Juneau Co.) River Watershed (CW01)
Wisconsin River (At Castle Rock Lake) (1179900)
14.59 Miles
158.68 - 173.27
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.
Large River
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
Mercury Contaminated Fish Tissue, Degraded Biological Community, PCBs Contaminated Fish Tissue, Eutrophication
Mercury, Dioxin, Total Phosphorus, PCBs
Adams, Juneau
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.
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.
Default FAL
Fish and Aquatic Life - Default Waters do not have a specific use designation subcategory but are considered fishable, swimmable waters.


Overall, the Lower Wisconsin River portion of the Wisconsin River extends approximately 165 miles from the Castle Rock Flowage dam downstream to its confluence with the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien. There are two major hydropower dams operate on the Lower Wisconsin, one at Wisconsin Dells and one at Prairie Du Sac. The Wisconsin Dells dam creates Kilbourn Flowage. The dam at Prairie Du Sac creates Lake Wisconsin. The operating permit for the Prairie Du Sac dam is up for renewal by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Below the Prairie du Sac dam the river is free flowing for 92 miles.

The Lower Wisconsin River has been and continues to be an important economic resource throughout the state. The river’s power and energy have been harnessed for use in a variety of different industries including the papermaking industry. This industry in particular has a long history of contributing pollution to the river. The impacts of this industry included frequent fish kills, unpalatable fish flesh, and massive populations of bacteria, fungi, and protozoans. Although a combination of distance from the industrial waste sources and upstream impoundments partially spared Lake Wisconsin and the Lower Wisconsin River from the impacts of the pulp and paper mill industry, this segment of the river has been impacted by the papermaking industry.

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

In addition to its abundant and diverse aquatic resources, the lower reach of the Wisconsin River has also been recognized for its aesthetics and potential for recreation. As a result, the U.S. Park Service and U.S. Forest Service nominated it for inclusion in the national Wild and Scenic Rivers program. The Lower Wisconsin riverway is a very unique natural and scenic area with abundant resources including a variety of habitat types, historical and archaeological sites, abundant wildlife and good quality fisheries. The riverway is relatively free of development along the banks or on the overlooking bluffs. In recognition of this great resource, the Wisconsin Legislature created the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway (LWSR) in 1989, which includes a 92.3-mile free-flowing stretch of the river from the Prairie du Sac dam down to the river’s confluence with the Mississippi River. The riverway project covers 79,275 acres, of which the state already owns 43,740 acres with easements on another 2,800 acres. These publicly owned lands provide opportunities for hunting, wildlife viewing, hiking, biking, horseback riding, skiing, and snowmobiling. In addition to providing diverse recreational opportunities, these lands help to preserve large blocks of upland and lowland habitat for wildlife.

The Lower Wisconsin Rivers historical significance, good quality aquatic and wildlife resources, beautiful scenery and abundant recreational opportunities make the river a special resource. Unfortunately, there are a variety of issues that threaten to diminish the river’s aquatic, recreational and aesthetic values.

Elevated levels of PCBs and mercury have been found in some game fish samples taken from parts of the Lower Wisconsin River. Gamefish caught in the Lower Wisconsin River typically fall under the general mercury consumption advisory although some special advisories for PCB’s do exist for carp and Lake Sturgeon in Lake Wisconsin and below the Prairie du Sac dam.

The hydropower dam at Prairie du Sac operates as a "run-of-the-river" dam. It will release large volumes of water with little or no warning causing water levels on the river downstream of the dam to quickly rise. These changes in water level can have a negative effect on water quality and fisheries habitat due to increased bottom scouring, bank erosion and the flushing of spawning areas. Dissolved oxygen depletion has also been noted in the river below the dam. These problems are being addressed through the FERC relicensing process now underway for the Prairie du Sac dam. Wisconsin Power & Light, owner of the Prairie Du Sac dam, has put together a "comprehensive water quality plan".

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

The Upper Wisconsin River main stem is shown in Figure 1. The watersheds of the Central Sub-basin are shown in Figure 4. Information about the Wisconsin River is listed in Table 5.
The central portion of the Wisconsin River main stem starts at Merrill Dam (R.M. 286.7) and flows south
to the Wisconsin River Flowage - Whiting Dam (R.M. 221.9). The Wisconsin River stretches for 64.8
miles within the Central Sub-basin. This section of the river has nine power dams which are used to
generate hydroelectricity. The river receives effluent from six municipal WWTPs and eight industrial
wastewater treatment facilities, five of which are paper mills.
This portion of the Wisconsin River is classified as supporting a balanced warm water fishery and aquatic
life community (WWSF), with a diverse Game and non-game fishery. All of the 64.8 miles of the river
only partially support its potential biological use due to:
1. Excess nutrient loading from both point and nonpoint sources;
2. Urban runoff;
3. Fecal coliform bacteria exceedences above state standard;
4. Elevated levels of heavy metals and organic chemicals in sediments.
Ambient monitoring stations on the Wisconsin River in the subbasin, are located at the Merrill Dam,
Wausau Dam, Stevens Point Dam and Lake DuBay Dam. These four stations are sampled and maintained
by the DNR. Samples are collected monthly and analyzed for dissolved oxygen, pH, BOD,, suspended
scohlliodrsi,d eto, thala rpdhnoesssp,h ochrolourso, pahmylml, omniaag, nteostiaulm K, jealndda hfle cnailt rcoo5 ei fno,r mni trbaatcet-enriitar.o gAen ,r ecvailecwiu mo/ tchoisn dduacttai vinitdyi,c ates
that the river meets water qualit standards for all parameters with the exception of fecal coliform
bacteria. Violations of the stan ard have occurred at all four stations, but most of them at the Wausau
Toxics are a concern in this portion of the Wisconsin River, in particular the chemical pentachlorophenol
W(PiCscPo),n suisne dR iivne trh bee wtwoeoedn iMndeursrti l7 a ansd a R woothosdc hpirleds. erTvahteiv ec.h emKincoalw hna ss pbilele nsi tdese teexcitsetd aidnj atcheen ts etdoi mtheen ts below
and above the Rothschild Dam (Weyerhaeuser) and may be discharged to the river below Merrill, and on
the Rib River above Lake Wausau. More detailed sediment sampling needs to be conducted between
Merrill and Wausau to show the distribution and extent of PCP contamination. PCBs have also been
detected in sediments below the Wausau Dam.
Another concern in this segment of the Wisconsin River as well as the whole river system, is nutrient
loading. Many of the main stem reservoirs suffer from severe algal blooms and dense growths of aquatic
plants due to excess nutrients such as phosphorus. In many cases this impact on water quality prohibits
recreational uses in these impoundments. Currently, WWTPs are not required to remove nutrients
(phosphorus) from effluents and their contribution to the overall phosphorus in the river is significant
during low ilows. In any event, a study needs to be conducted t6 idehtify the source of the &os horus,
determining whether the majority comes from treatment lants or other sources, such as runoff. %his
information will determine if WWTPs should have an en!-of-the-~i~e effluent standard or total ~ounds I A discharge limit.

Date  1990

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Historical Description

Wisconsin River - Surface acres= 1,386, Length = 14 miles, Gradient = 1.4 ft/mile, Base discharge = 2,000 cfs.
A large tributary to the Mississippi River, the Wisconsin River drains only 225 square miles in northwest Dane County. Approximately 1/4 of this area is bottom lands, made up of a variety of wetlands ranging from deep marsh to shrub carr and lowland forest. About 2,700 acres of this valley make up the Mazomanle Wlldlife Area which supports diverse plant and wlldlife communitIes within its varied habitats (Dane Cty. Reg. Plann. Comm. 1979a). Much of the lower Wisconsin River valley has been drained for agricultural use. The remainIng upland portion of the Wisconsin River watershed is agricultural land, much of it hilly.
Conductivity, alkalinity, and other pollution indicators are significantly lower in the Wisconsin than in the smaller streams in Dane County. Dilution is probably a factor since the base discharge of the Wisconsin is 2 magnitudes higher than any other stream in the county. Dane County contributes agricultural pollution to the Wisconsin River, but point sources are negligible.
The Wisconsin River supports the most diverse warm water fishery in the county including several of the rarer species such as paddlefish and shovelnose sturgeon. Public access along the river is provided by two boat launching sites (Hwy. Y and in the Mazomanie Wildlife Area).
Fish species: lamprey (unsp.), silver lamprey, shovelnose sturgeon, paddlefish, mooneye, pike (unsp.). northern pike, hybrid muskie, minnow (unsp.), common carp, brassy minnow, speckled chub, emerald, silver, bigmouth, spotfin, and sand shiner, bluntnose and fathead minnow, pearl dace, carpsucker (unsp.), sucker (unsp.), quillback, highfin and river carpsucker, white sucker, bigmouth buffalo, golden and shorthead redhorse, channel and flathead catfish, white bass, bluegill, smallmouth bass, sand, Johnny, and banded darter, logperch, slenderhead darter, sauger, walleye, and freshwater drum.

From: Day, Elizabeth A.; Grzebieniak, Gayle P.; Osterby, Kurt M.; and Brynildson, Clifford L., 1985. Lake and Stream Classification Project. Surface Water Resources of Dane County, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  1985

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Historical Description

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 = 6,956.50 acres, Length = 42.5 miles, Gradient = 1.6 ft./mile, Flow = 9,180.0 c.f.s.
The Wisconsin River begins as a spring-fed stream in the Lac View Desert on the northern edge of Vilas County. From its source it flows generally southward more than 300 miles until deflected eastward by the Baraboo quartzite rtdges. At Portage it is deflected by sandstone bluffs and turns sharply westward flowing through the Driftless Area to the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien and thereby forming the northern boundary of Grant County. From the dam at Prairie du Sac in Sauk County to its mouth, the river is commonly referred to as the "Lower Wisconsin". The flow of the Upper Wisconsin is interrupted by 26 hydroelectric dams but the Lower Wisconsin flows freely to the Mississippi and offers unique opportunities for high-qualit recreation in fishing, hunting, float trips, and nature lore.

The Wisconsin River has a tremendous fishery potential, from the river itself and its oxbow lakes and sloughs, but is utilized by comparatively few people. The channel catfish is the most abundant sport specie and is the most sought-after. Other species which are commonly caught include smallmouth bass, walleye, sauger, and flathead catfish. Northern pike, largemouth bass, bluegills, crappies, and shovelnose sturgeon are occasionally taken. Forage and rough fish are abundant.
Hunting is as popular an activity as fishing along the river. A total of 7,235.8 acres of public hunting and fishing grounds are provided along the Wisconsin River in Grant County where an individual can enjoy this sport. Wood ducks, mallards, green- and blue-winged teal are common in the early fall. Jacksnir are found on the muddy marsh flats. Scaup and ringneck ducks are common near the mouth in late fall.

Ruffed grouse and woodcock are also common on adjoining upland and marsh areas. Deer, squirrels, rabbits, raccoon, and fox are abundant in many areas. Muskrat, beaver, mink, and otter are available to the trapper in the 7,556 acres of timber swamp and deep marsh wetland found adjoining the river.

The recent discovery of mercury contaminated fish in the Wisconsin River has blemished its reputatiQn. Because mercury is extremely toxic and consumption of large amounts can cause damage to vital organs, or even death, the Department of Natural Resources recommends that only one meal of fish from this river be eaten per week. The discharge of mercury is now under control; however, because of its buildup in bottom sediments and its slow dissipation it may be several years before the river returns to its normal state. The Villages of Muscoda and Blue River and the City of Boscobel are considered to be potential sources of sewage pollution to the Wisconsin River at the present time.

Nine public boat landings provide adequate access to this portion of the river and a total of 42.3 miles of public frontage is found along the Wisconsin River and its named Oxbow Lakes. Three bridges, one at Muscoda, one at Boscobel, and one at Bridgeport span the river in Grant County. Picturesque covered bridgei once crossed the river at Boscobel and Bridgeport.

This portion of the Wisconsin River with its resource potential, proximity to population centers and the increase in state
management can be expected to be one of the primary recreation areas in southwest Wisconsin.

Date  1972

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Historical Description

Wisconsin River - Mouth location T8N R1E Section 7, 10; Surface area = 5,637.6 acres, Length = 34.8miles, Gradient = 1.1 feet per mile, Total alkalinity = 67.3 mg/l, Volume of flow = 8,423 cfs (avg. 53 yrs. Muscoda, Wisconsin)
The Wisconsin River is the largest river lying wholly within the state and one of the largest in the midwest. By the time it passes Iowa County at Muscoda,where there is a USGS guaging station, it drains approximately 10,300 square miles. Its flow is regulated by 23 reservoirs above this station. Its flow in Iowa Co. is primarily regulated by a dam located at Prairie du Sac. Principal streams which enter from the Iowa County side are Marsh, Lowery, Otter, Mill, Rush and Blue Mounds Creeks for a total of 153.1 square miles. This is about 29% of the area of Iowa Co., excluding 77.1 square miles of watershed which drain to the Blue River and its tributaries whose water eventually reach the Wisconsin River further west. There are no direct sources of pollution from Iowa County. Possible sources of pollution exist in the sewage treatment plants of Lone Rock, Richland Co. and Spring Green, Sauk Co. and are small relative to the size of the river.
The primary sport fishery of the Wisconsin is its smallmouth bass and channel catfish which vary from common to abundant. Other principal game species include sauger, walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass. shovelnose sturgeon, white bass and flathead catfish. Lesser species consist of brown trout, muskellunge and puddlefish. Panfish are locally abundant and
include bluegills, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, black and white crappies, black, brown and yellow bullheads, yellow perch and orange-spotted sunfish. Many species of rough fish, such as mooneye, gar, carpsuckers are also caught by anglers but seldom eaten. There are at least 21 species of forage fishes represented which include chubs, shiners, suckers, dace, minnows, darters, carpsuckers and redhorse.
Miscellaneous fishes include the bowfin, mooneye, grizzard shad, grass pickerel, short and longnose gar, sheepshead, carp, buffalo and lake chubsuckers. Aquatic game assets are many and varied. However, notable populations of muskrats, beaver, otter and mink are known to exist. Waterfowl, representative of most species commonly found in Wisconsin, include Canada geese, woodducks, blue-winged teal, mallards and coots with wood-cock, snipe, great blue heron, and green heron being common in the adjoining wetlands.
Public access is present but improvements are needed. There are seven access points on the river in Iowa County or close by. Two of these are large enough to launch a boat from a trailer and have adequate parking. One of these is at Muscoda, Grant County and the other is located at the mouth of Otter Creek. Two more are located near the mouth of Blue Mounds Creek and one at Tower Hill State Park. These are suitable for launching canoes or duck boats. There are two others located near the U.S. 14 bridge. The one on the Spring Green, Sauk County side as well as the one on the Iowa County side are suitable for launching canoes or duck boats. If improved access were to be proposed these might be starting points for inquiries. In general more access is recommended. There are 26.6 miles of public frontage (including islands) most of which is located in the main floodplain and is not suitable for development.

From: Piening, Ronald and Threinen, C.W., 1968. Lake and Stream Classification Project. Surface Water Resources of
Iowa County, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  1968

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Historical Description

Wisconsin River T10N, R6E, Section 36,Surface Acres = 10,904, Miles = 65.8, Gradient = 0.5 feet per mile.
All that portion of the river from Wisconsin Dells to one mile below the
Prairie du Sac dam is considered in this report. Lake Wisconsin from the dam
to one mile below Dekorra is not included. The river above Prairie du Sac drains
over 8,944 square miles through central Wisconsin beginning in Lac Vieux Desert
in Vilas County. Two dams provide a combined head of 63 feet in this county
(Wisconsin Dells, 25 feet; Prairie du Sac, 38 feet). The water is normally
colored reddish-brown and contains industrial by-products and organic materials
assumed to cause a taste problem in river fishes. This is most noticeable in
late winter and early spring in fishes caught below the dams.
The river has a complex fishery. Walleye, sauger, catfish, both largemouth
and smallmouth bass and rock sturgeon are considered the dominant game fishes.
An occasional muskellunge is caught below Lake Wisconsin. Bluegills, white bass,
and crappies are harvested below the dams in the late spring and early summer.
Paddle fish inhabit the river below the Prairie du Sac dam and are protected
from capture by law.
The entire stream is navigable and heavily used by canoes and outboard
motorboats. An area 3.6 miles long below the Dells Dam and the one mile portions
immediately above the dam in these counties is known as the Dells, an important
scenic attraction. The shores rise as much as 120 feet vertically in the canyon
through Cambrian sandstone. This portion of the river is deep and navigable by
large boats. Extensive frontage in this area is controlled by companies
capitalizing on the scenic attractions.
Since much of the river shore elsewhere is subject to flooding, cottage
development in low areas is not extensive and the river still has high aesthetic
value with marsh and wooded lowland banks.
About 0.4 miles of shoreline are in public ownership in local parks and
5.33 miles, mostly within Pine Island Wildlife Area, are in state ownership.
Access is possible from Lake Wisconsin sites and from state and local public
lands, though launching on state lands is rather difficult. More than 3,000 acres
of wetland adjoin the stream affording excellent waterfowl habitat.

From: Poff, Ronald J. and C.W. Threinen, 1965. Surface Water Resources of Columbia County:
Lake and Stream Classification Project. Wisconsin Conservation Department, Madison, WI.

Date  1965

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Wisconsin River (At Castle Rock Lake), Big Roche A Cri Creek,Little Roche A Cri Creek,Lower Yellow (Juneau Co.) River Watershed (CW01) Fish and Aquatic LifeWisconsin River (At Castle Rock Lake), Big Roche A Cri Creek,Little Roche A Cri Creek,Lower Yellow (Juneau Co.) River Watershed (CW01) RecreationWisconsin River (At Castle Rock Lake), Big Roche A Cri Creek,Little Roche A Cri Creek,Lower Yellow (Juneau Co.) River Watershed (CW01) Fish Consumption

General Condition

Lower Wisconsin River
Impoundments on the river are a threat to the overall movement of aquatic resources. These impoundments all act to warm and slow down the water. In addition, these impoundments trap sediments and prevent the river from flushing its river channel. This can cause pollution to accumulate in these impounded areas, including the impact to aquatic resources.

Nonpoint source water pollution is also a problem on the Lower Wisconsin River. Since the basin is primarily agricultural, the largest source of nonpoint source pollution is from agricultural sources. These problems include sedimentation, high bacteria as a result of barnyard runoff, poor manure storage and spreading practices and cattle access to streams. Other sources of nonpoint source pollution are the result of development activities in the drainage basin of the river. Highway construction and urban stormwater runoff have the potential to contribute to nonpoint source pollution problems.

Point source discharges to the Wisconsin River are less of a water quality concern than they once were. Four municipalities discharge treated wastewater directly to the Lower Wisconsin River: Wisconsin Dells-Lake Delton, Portage, Spring Green and Boscobel. There are also four industrial discharges that discharge treated wastewater to the river: Chula Vista Resort, Crocketts Resort, U.S. Badger Army Ammunition Plant, and Alliant/Wisconsin Power and Light. Other municipal and industrial facilities near the river either discharge treated wastewater to groundwater or to tributaries to the river. The reach of the Wisconsin River from the Prairie du Sac dam to its confluence with the Mississippi River has been recommended for exceptional resource water (ERW) status under NR 102 and NR 207, Wis. Adm. Codes, which would lead to stricter regulation of new or increased wastewater discharges to the river.

Elevated levels of pesticides, most notably atrazine, have been found in some groundwater wells on the sand plains adjacent to the river. In addition, contaminated groundwater at, and in the vicinity of, the Badger Army Ammunition Plant (BAAP) appears to be migrating toward the river.

Development along the river is also a threat to wildlife habitat and to sensitive plant and animal species. The Lower Wisconsin River Basin is in close proximity to over four million people within a four-hour drive of the riverway. Increased use and development of the area may have significant effects on the quality and the status of these resources.

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


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.
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.
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.
Train DNR Staff on Data Access and Management
Training online for DNR biologists and water resources specialists.
Water Quality Modeling
Data collected will be used to run EPD-RIV1 model. The model will provide a longitudinal profile of dissolved oxygen along segment BC of the Wisconsin River
Educate and engage residents
Adams County proposes to provide educational and technical assistance to the public and Adams County lake organizations for the installation of shoreline buffers on waterways so they comply with the Adams County Shoreland, Wetland, and Habitat Protection Ordinance.
Habitat Restoration - Shoreland
Educate and engage residents
The Portage Co. Land Conservation Dept. proposes to continue its funding of a nutrient management educator position to work with agricultural producers to reduce phosphorus inputs into the Upper Wisconsin River watershed and associated flowages.
Cost-Share Agreement
Adams County proposes to provide up to 75% of the cost of shoreland restoration practices to lake front property owners on Castle Rock Lake. Grant funds will be distributed to fund removal of sea walls, minor bank re-shaping, placement of rip-rap, establishment of vegetative buffers and implementation of individual stormwater management plans.
Water Quality Modeling
Adams County proposes to provide up to 75% of the cost of shoreland restoration practices to lake front property owners on the Petenwell Flowage. Grant funds will be distributed to fund removal of sea walls, minor bank re-shaping, placement of rip-rap, establishment of vegetative buffers and implementation if individual stormwater management plans.
Informational Meetings
Friends of the Lower Wisconsin River will facilitate the gathering of stakeholders, cultural and natural resource experts and agency staff to share scientific and technical information and perspectives on the Lower Wisconsin River via symposiums and field trips. The focus will be to build capacity in the Lower Wisconsin River region through on "the state of the river", as a first step that describes the area's natural and cultural resources, their interrelationships and management issues, for a fairly broad audience. It will encourage pathways of communication through which discussions of these topics might continue, and increase much-needed awareness in the more general public, through media coverage. Project Deliverables: Symposiums and field trips (several in summer and fall) will culminate in a compilation of presentations, summaries/abstracts. Attendee surveys will rate success of limitations of symposiums and field trips. Symposium will be publicized in local newspapers, and on FLOW\2019s website. Flow will also partner with various conservation organizations to promote events. Photo exhibits during symposiums.
Rivers Planning Grant
Lake Wisconsin Alliance will undertake a River Planning Grant project that will expand outreach and education of Lake Wisconsin natural and recreational resources, and lake water quality issues. The goal is to increase membership, provide identity to the LWA, and inform citizens living within the Lake Wisconsin watershed. Deliverables: 1. The Lake Wisconsin Alliance technical advisory team will provide action items to LWA members to help attain goals and objectives to protect and enhance L. Wisconsin. 2. Communicate the LWA mission and organizational roles through brochures and website development. 3. Develop a logo to give the alliance identity. 4. Website membership development to assist in expansion of membership, and develop a calendar of activities hosted by the alliance. 5. Host workshops and seminars to educate the public on lake water quality and strategies that help protect/enhance lake water quality.
Rivers Planning Grant
FLOW will undertake a River Planning Project of Organization Building and Outreach. Project deliverables are as follows: 1.) Hire an environmental educator to coordinate outreach activities, volunteer monitoring and data management, and to coordinate AIS activities, 2.) Purchase water quality monitoring instruments and gear for volunteer stream monitoring, 3.) Gather basic water quality data on the Lower Wisconsin River and floodplain lakes and enter the data into SWIMS, 4.) Conduct a recreational use survey using volunteers, 5.) Present educational programs for both adults and public schools.
TMDL Implementation
The Petenwell and Castle Rock Stewards (PACRS) propose to initiate a public education campaign to inform members of the public about the organization's work on behalf of improved water quality on the Petenwell and Castle Rock flowages in Adams and Juneau counties. Major project elements to include: a) signage at public boat landings, b) distribution of informative place mats to area restaurants, c) development of future communications planning, d) water quality monitoring, and e) development of an annual report.
Land Acquisition
The Aldo Leopold Foundation will sponsor a project in the Leopold-Pine Island Important Bird Area (IBA) that encompasses roughly 12,000 acres of public and private land and 16 miles of Wisconsin River frontage, east of Wisconsin Dells and Portage. Project deliverables are as follows: 1.) Create family friendly IBA educational materials explaining Aldo Leopold family history and producing educational materials that partners can use during tours, 2.) Utilize Leopold-Pine Island IBA visitors as citizen scientists to assist with collection of data for scientific use. 3.)eBird website and smart phone interface that allows citizen-scientists to record bird observations and attribute them to management units relevant to the adaptive management planning and execution on the IBA, 4.) Maintain Leopold-Pine Island IBA partner relationships by hosting meetings with agenda items consisting of opportunities/issues relevant to the partnership and/or local natural resources.
Land Acquisition
The Aldo Leopold Foundation will sponsor a project in the Leopold-Pine Island Important Bird Area (IBA) that encompasses roughly 15,000 acres of public and private lands and 16 miles of Wisconsin River frontage, east of Wisconsin Dells and Portage. Project will include development of shared land management goals and objectives in care of bird and plant communities, including floodplains, forests and wetlands. Project deliverables include: 1.) creating vegetation/habitat/plant community map of IBA. 2.) In combination with 2011 bird survey, analyze and develop more prescriptive land management goals and objectives for IBA partners, neighboring lands through conservation delivery programs. 3.) Host two partner meetings to review opportunities/issues relevant to the partnership and/or local natural resources, share report findings and its relevance for the IBA and partners, 4.) Share the report and land management objectives with conservation partners, 5.) Communicate to general public audience about the IBA public-private partnership.
Data analysis, report production
The Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW) will conduct a project to increase its organizational effectiveness and ability to attract new members and stakeholders. Along with a final report, project deliverables include: 1) seek legal assistance in order to attain status as a 501 (c 3) organization; 2) organize events to attract new members; 3) meet and work with other Lower Wisconsin Riverway partners, schools, government, in promoting education and better management of the riverway of the riverway; and 5) share information through its website and newsletters.
Watershed Mapping or Assessment
Aldo Leopold Foundation, Inc, will conduct a project to identify critical properties from a strategic and conservation perspective. The final report/product will be a prioritized land protection plan for the land health conservation area along the Wisconsin River (Wisconsin Dells to Portage). Specific components and activities covered by this grant include: 1) Narrative Overview, 2) Real Estate Assessment and Value Estimates 3) Draft Conservation Easements (with legal counsel review) 4) GIS Mapping and other Analysis, Planning, Resarch and Assessment Associated with the objectives of this project.
Data analysis, report production
This project, which is part 1 of a two-part project, focuses on collection of new scientific data on nongame fishes and other aquatic life inhabiting backwater sloughs of the Lower Wisconsin river. The findings of this project will fill important gaps in the database for off-channel fisheries and associated aquatic life along the river.
Educate and engage residents
The Northwoods Land Trust will conduct a direct-mail education campaign to all property owners on priority river and stream segments in Oneida County that were identified by the DNR Northern Rivers Initiative. An information packet will be provided highlighting voluntary conservation options property owners can utilize to protect the priority river and stream corridors. These options include Land Protection Agreement (Conservation Easement), Land Donation, Land Registry and Conservation Buyer programs. Specific activities include: * Identify all property owners with natural shoreland frontage along all of the priority river and stream segments in Oneida County. * Assemble and mail information packets on conservation options to all identified property owners. * Follow-up contacts with interested landowners to provide legal and technical assistance for conservation options. Specific products or deliverables include: * Maps showing parcels with existing natural shoreline. * Generalized list of landowner follow-up contacts. It is anticipated this project will result in one or more landowner commitment to donate a conservation easement to permanently protect their river or stream shoreline but this result can not be guaranteed.
Information and Education
The primary goal of this project is to produce and distribute an educational poster about the unusual and rare nongame fish species found in various Lower Wisconsin River sloughs. Information collected from the sampling conducted in backwater sloughs (see RP-141-08) will be incorporated into the final poster and widely distributed.
Rivers Planning Grant
Golden Sands RC&D proposes to administer a grant, funding to be used by the Central Wisconsin Basin Partnership to enhance its capacity to implement river protection efforts, especially through development of a volunteer water quality monitoring network. Major project elements include: 1) Development and distribution of "Sense of Place" booklet, 2) stream-monitoring equipment purchase and training, 3) Op/Ed-style newspaper article.
Educate and engage residents
Sauk Prairie River Projects Association LTD will organize existing groups, clubs, and organizations and will work with local and state agencies in order to develop a plan for the project area. That plan will involve local groups in understanding and protecting: river natural resources and features, the positive impact of these resources on the local economy, and the importance of river access and recreational opportunities. A full description of the project goals, objectives, methods, activities, products and deliverables is included in the grant application, which is a part of this grant contract.
Restore Wetlands
Restore Wetlands
TMDL Implementation
Wisconsin River TMDL monitoring, evaluation, planning, implementation.
Purchase Dissolved Oxygen Meter
WCR is seeking funds to purchase a YSI continous multiprobe sonde to monitor several 303d listed streams in the Central Wisconsin basin. Continuous monitoring, specifically dissolved oxygen (DO), would be completed on waterbodies that are on the 303d list for low DO as well as waterbodies not on the list, where low DO is suspected as an impairment. Streams that are currently listed for low DO include Mill Creek and the Big Eau Pleine River. DO monitoring would also be completed on the Wisconsin River to verify that current Waste Load Allocations are protective of the river and flowages.
Sewer Service Area Planning
Update Marshfield SSA Plan, supported by North Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
Sewer Service Area Planning
The Wausau Urban Area 2025 Sewer Service Area (SSA) Plan updates planning goals, objectives, and procedures, and expands the sewer service area by adding 12,823 acres, for a new total SSA of 53, 271 acres. Initially, approximately 29% of this area (15,271 acres) will be undeveloped. The SSA excludes wetlands, floodplain and steep slope areas that are considered "environmentally sensitive areas". The plan update has been adopted by the Marathon County Metropolitan Planning Commission. The approval of this sewer service area amendment does not constitute approval of any other local, state, or federal permit that may be required for sewer construction or associated land development activities.
Monitor Fish Tissue
1179900 name Wisconsin River TMDL ID 530 Start Mile 268 End Mile 289.17
Monitor Fish Tissue
1179900 name Wisconsin River TMDL ID 622 Start Mile 0 End Mile 27.67
Monitor Fish Tissue
1179900 name Wisconsin River TMDL ID 622 Start Mile 57.66 End Mile 90.94
Monitor Fish Tissue
1179900 name Wisconsin River TMDL ID 530 Start Mile 138.07 End Mile 158.68
Monitor Fish Tissue
1179900 name Wisconsin River TMDL ID 530 Start Mile 237.05 End Mile 268
Monitor Fish Tissue
1179900 name Wisconsin River TMDL ID 530 Start Mile 116.16 End Mile 138.07
Monitor Targeted Area
Continue long term trends water quality monitoring of the Wisconsin River at the Muscoda monitoring station.
Monitor or Propose ORW or ERW
Lakes, sloughs and oxbows associated with the Wisconsin River should be given additional protection by classifying them as Outstanding Resource Waters.
Lakes Protection Grant
Adams County has a successful Citizen Monitoring program established. Adams County is encouraged to seek grant opportunities to continue their Citizen Lake Monitoring work.


As a result of its local and national importance, and the historical and current threats to the river, there are several active projects focused on improving and preserving the river and its resources. The Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board was created to help protect and manage the vast resources of the area. The Board is an independent state agency and was created to help protect the valley’s beauty and natural character. The main function of the board is to preserve the aesthetic quality of the river valley without prohibiting development.

The following are the water resource related goals of the riverway project that can hopefully be achieved through the continued partnering of the Board, the DNR, local citizens, environmental groups, municipalities, politicians, and the state:
· Protect, maintain and enhance the generally natural and undeveloped scenic beauty of the river corridor.
· Maintain the fishery and fishing opportunities in the riverway.
· Maintain and enhance wildlife populations, hunting opportunities and associated habitats.

The riverway project may also abate water quality and habitat problems in the Wisconsin River through added restrictions on forestry and excessive development. Wetlands adjacent to the river may be protected as they come under public ownership. Riverway staff have a number of water resources concerns which may or do have an effect on public usage including:
· Water level fluctuations due to the operation of the hydropower dam at Prairie du Sac.
· Nonpoint sources of water pollution, both in and outside of the riverway project boundary.
· Potential for toxic substances to enter or already be in the water column and sediment.
· Point source discharges to the river.

In addition, a fisheries plan, developed by the Wisconsin DNR, addresses management issues for the aquatic resources in the portion of the river from the Kilbourn Dam, at the Wisconsin Dells, to the Mississippi River. The following are the main objectives of the plan:
· Restore natural fish migration and movement patterns within the Lower Wisconsin River system.
· Establish natural flow patterns within the Lower Wisconsin River system.
· Minimize fish mortality from turbine entrainment/impingement at the Prairie du Sac and Kilbourn dams.
· Maintain and enhance habitat quality.
· Enhance and maintain water quality standards in the Lower Wisconsin River system.
· Continue annual fisheries surveys to monitor game and nongame fish populations.
· Monitor population levels of threatened and endangered indigenous species within the Lower Wisconsin River system.
· Monitor the advancement and impacts of unwanted non-indigenous fauna and flora into the river.
· Maintain and enhance multi-use recreational opportunities.

This fisheries plan will hopefully help to prioritize management objectives and actions on the river to help improve the water quality and aquatic habitat.The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has monitoring stations at the Kilbourn Dam and a monitoring station at Muscoda. These sites are also part of a Long Term Trend Monitoring project. The data collected from both of these efforts is used to analyze trends and general water quality conditions of the Wisconsin River.

Additionally, the Wisconsin Stewardship Program enhances wildlife and recreational opportunities along the river. The program provides $2 million each year for property acquisition for recreation, wildlife, and fishery management in the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway.

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

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

Wisconsin River is located in the Little Roche A Cri Creek watershed which is 196.20 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (55.60%), agricultural (23.20%) and a mix of wetland (9.70%) and other uses (11.50%). This watershed has 108.40 stream miles, 12,554.07 lake acres and 18,156.97 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

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

Wisconsin River (At Castle Rock Lake) is considered a Large River 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.

Fisheries & Habitat

Overall, the Lower Wisconsin River is classified as a diverse warm water sport fishery (WWSF) and anglers enjoy the opportunity to catch a variety of different sport fish on the river.. The 92-mile stretch of river from Prairie du Sac to the Mississippi River supports a rich diversity of fish, mussels, herptiles and aquatic insects and fish species accounts indicate that the Wisconsin River and its backwaters support up to 95 native fish species. Of these 95 species, nineteen are state threatened or endangered species and several are specific hosts for the glochidial stage of a number of rare, threatened and endangered freshwater mussels. The Lower Wisconsin River is also home for a variety of unusual and rare insects and threatened or endangered amphibians and reptiles. There are eight species of mayflies (Ephemeroptera) and four species of beetles (Coleoptera) that are found almost exclusively in the river. In addition, during a Wisconsin River aquatic insect survey, a couple of rare dragonfly species were also found. The river is also home for eight species that represent primitive or ancient "living fossil" forms.

Paddlefish (Polyodon spathula), a state threatened species, are found in the Lower Wisconsin River below the Prairie du Sac dam. These fish first appeared in the fossil record 300 to 400 million years ago and were once common in the large rivers of the Mississippi River System. As a result of overharvest and modification of the rivers by dams, their populations have declined. The paddlefish found in the Wisconsin River has only one other known species in its family, the Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius), found in the Yangtze River in China. Paddlefish live in large riverine systems, are highly mobile, can reach up to five feet or more in length, average 60 pounds and may live in excess of 50 years.

Lower Wisconsin River - Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) are an ancient species, or living fossil, found in the Lower Wisconsin River. These fish are bony plated bottom feeders and are typically 3 to 5 feet in length and can reach up to 80 pounds, though some fish have been found to be up to 7 feet and 200 pounds. The fish mature between the ages of 15 and 20 and spawn every four to six years throughout their lifespan of between 50 to 100 years. Due to their slow reproductive cycle, Lake Sturgeon are especially vulnerable to overfishing. In addition, they are sensitive to pollution and dams that block spawning areas impact their populations. As a result, the Lake Sturgeon has been designated as a state species of concern.

Date  2011

Author  Cynthia Koperski

More Interactive Maps
Maps of Watershed