Lincoln Creek, Milwaukee River South Watershed (MI02)
Lincoln Creek, Milwaukee River South Watershed (MI02)
Lincoln Creek (19400)
9.70 Miles
0 - 9.70
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-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.
This river is impaired
Acute Aquatic Toxicity, Degraded Biological Community, Low DO, Degraded Habitat, PCBs Contaminated Fish Tissue, Chronic Aquatic Toxicity
Unspecified Metals, Chloride, PAHs, Total Phosphorus, Sediment/Total Suspended Solids, PCBs
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.
Default FAL Variance
Fish and Aquatic Life - Default Variance for DO and Pathogens. Waters do not have a specific use designation subcategory but are considered fishable, swimmable with the exception of their meeting water quality standards for dissolved oxygen and fecal coliform.


Lincoln Creek, in the Milwaukee River South Watershed, is a 9.70 mile river that falls in Milwaukee County. This river is managed for fishing and swimming and is currently considered impaired.

Date  2011

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Lincoln Creek Subwatershed, located in northwest Milwaukee County in the southwestern part
of the watershed, is drained by a perennial stream tributargr to the Milwaukee River.
Water Resources - Lincoln Creek, roughly 9.2 miles long, is located entirely in Milwaukee
Gunty and drains 19.3 square miles of the civil divisions of Milwaukee, Glendale, and Brown
Deer. Lincoln Creek discharges to the Milwaukee River and the Etabrook-Lincoln Greek Park
impoundment at T8N R22E, Sec.31, SE of NE quarter. Water resource conditions vary within
thc stream. As a result, biological use classifications have been assigned by individual segments.
Segment #I, downstream of Teutonia Ave. to the stream9s confluence with the Milwaukee
River, is rated for full fish and aquatic life (FAL-B). Segment #2, upstream of Teutonia Ave.
to the 32nd St. drop structure and from Hampton Ave. to the drop structure upstream of Silver
Spring Dr., is concrete-lined and rated marginal for fish and aquatic life (
#6, a short concrete-lined reach downstream of headwaters at 76th St., is alsorated marginal
for fish and aquatic life (MAR-E). Segment #3, 32nd St. to 35th St., segment #4, 35th St. to a
concrete drop structure near 47th St., segment Rc5, from the concrete drop structure at 47th St.
to Hampton Ave., segment #7, from the drop structure at Silver Spring Dr. to Mill Rd., and
segment #8, from Mill Rd. to ponds located on the Brynwood Country Club property upstream
of 60th St., are all rated intermediate for fish and aquatic life (INT-D).
Instream habitat varies, generally ranging from "absent" in the concrete-lined segments to "poor
to fair" within those segments still in earthen channels. Hydraulic scour, lack oE cover, bank
erosion and failure, shallow water depths, and sedimentation, all the direct result of excessive
hydraulic loading and past channelization, are the most severe limiting factors. Water quality in
Lincoln Creek was rated "very poor" using the Hilsenhoff Biotic Index in 1982. Benthic
organisms were nearly absent, indicating severe or toxic water quality conditions. All stream
segments in earthen channels are currently not meeting their full biological and recreation0d l usc
classifications. Observed or potential problems limiting full use potential include loss of
instream and riparian habitat through sedimentation, low dissolved oygen, bacteria, and toxics.
Factors contributing to these problems include concrete channelization of other stream sections,
fish migration barriers, hydraulic scour which alters the substrate by removal of fine-grained
material such as sand, urban runoff, bank erosion, spills, "conventional" pollutants such as
nutrients, toxics and bacterial pollutant loadings from combined sewer and sanitary sewer
overflows, leachate from landfills, and potentially toxic sediments (including PCBs and metals
such as lead, copper, zinc, chromium, and iron). Stream bottom sediments, analyzed for a
limited number of metals and/or PCBs in 1975, would be rated "heavily pollutedn by lead and
zinc and "moderately polluted" by chromium, copper and nickel.

Date  1992

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Historical Description

PCBs were present in concentrations ranging from 3.2-7.5 m&. Likely sources of heavy metals and PCBs in Lincoln Creek are municipal and industrial p i n t sources, spills, illegal discharges and urban nonpoint source runoff. There are 18 known industrial dischargers, 15 of which are non-contact cooling water, and at least 55 municipal sanitaly sewer relief devices or combined sewers that discharge
to Lincoln Creek. Two of the non-contact cooling water discharges include water treatment or biocide additives. These dischargers are not permitted to add pollutants to their effluent, but concern has been raised about potential chlorine toxicity, as all industries discharging cooling water obtain that water from the city of Milwaukee public water supply. A total residual chlorine concentration of 0.5-1.0 mg/l is maintained in the city of Milwaukee public water distribution system and may therefore contribute to potential chlorine toxicity. Prior to 1983, iron sulfate and other heavy metals were being discharged randomly from abandoned acid pits
("pickling liquor") on the kO.Smith property. Although remedial control measures have been implemented, the events continue and other dischargers may be responsible for these incidents.

Industrial spills (intentional or accidental) and landfill leachate discharges continue to be a significant problem limiting Lincoln Creek water quality, as does bacterial contamination from urban runoff and the combined and sanitary sewer overflows.
Lincoln Creek is classified as supporting "partial-body contact" forms of recreational use although frequent bacterial and other pollutant contamination severely limits this use.

Fisheries - Lincoln Creek is the largest perennial tributary to the lower Milwaukee River, but has been lined with concrete, straightened or dredged for nearly its entire length. Only the lowermost reaches, dredged but otherwise left in a semi-natural state, are still used by smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappie, northern pike, redhorse and numerous other native species. Largemouth bass, green sunfish and a few species of minnows can also be found in a few of the less-altered upstream reaches.

Concrete channelization, and the extreme fluctuations in stream Row that have resulted, are the principal factors limiting fisheries in this stream. The resultant destabilized hydrology of the stream systems has also precipitated extensive habitat degradation in the few remaining natural reaches through streambank erosion, loss of riparian vegetation and cover, inadequate summer Rows/increased water temperatures, and substrate scouring which inhibits successful spawning and production of insects, a critical food item for most fish species. Toxic discharges and the related fish kills continue to suppress the fisheries potential of Lincoln Creek and the Milwaukee River to which it flows.

Date  1992

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Historical Description

Wildlife - There are no riparian wetlands within the subwatershed. Wetland restoration or creation of waterfowl pair ponds at Have Nature Preserve is possible. Approximately 53 percent of the riparian area is open space and the remaining 47 percent is urbanized. I Parks - The only state-owned recreation site in the entire Milwaukee River South Watershed, the 237-acre Navenw Environmental Awareness Center, is lscated in this subwatershed. Havenwoods lies adjacent to Lincoln Creek, much of which is concrete-channelized. This site offers educational programs and nature study to school groups and youth groups, and is open to all state residents. Eleven of the forty four Milwaukee County park sites are located in this subwatershed as well.

They encompass a total of 262 acres of recreational open space. None of these sites are located along a riparian corridor. Columbus, Wyrick, Lindsay, Meaux, Nash, Schoenecker, Vogel, Wahl, and Smith Parks are small neighborhood sites under county jurisdiction. The two largest sites in this subwatershed are Dineen and McGovern County Parks. Dineen Park, 59 acres in size, has both swimming and wading pools, a fishing pond, picnic areas, four tennis courts, a nine-hole golf course, ice skating rink, playing fields, and one of only two lawn bowling greens located in the county park system. The 70-acre McGovern Park offers swimming and wading pools, six tennis courts, picnic areas, playing fields, and fishing in and ice skating on the two ponds located in the park. In addition, there are 14 community-owned sites. All of these are located in the city of Milwaukee and include municipal playlots, totlots or playgrounds, and open space sites. The 191-acre Brym and 157-acre Tripoli private country clubs also are located in this subwatershed. Although neither are located along streams, ponds have been dug on the golf couhses at each of these sites. In addition, there are about two miles of environmental corridor lands, identified by SEWRPC, located along the mainstem Milwaukee River.

Land acreage is currently under management of the Forest Tax laws (FCL, MFL) because of the urbanid nature of this subwatershed and no Conservation Reserve
Program (CRP) tree planting urs. A scattering of black walnut trees throughout the
subwatershed leads to numerous requests by the urban landowners for information on the removal and marketing of backyard walnut trees. Private, parochial, and public schools participate 's "Free Tree Program" for fourth-grade students. Demonstration forest on the Haven operv, designated as a state forat preserve, is planned. In addition, this center offers "Project Learning Tree" to interested teachers. Little impact information is available concerning d the dump site in
the old tom of GranGlle. mree sits, the U.Se SF, and the U.S.

Date  1992

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Historical Description

Disciplinaly Barracks, all located in the city of Milwaukee, are suspected of negatively influencing Lincoln Creek. The Hercules Gompany in the city of Milwaukee may be a former spill site, not an actual landfill. The Reuben Katz and the AO. Smith lagoon in the city of Milwaukee are problem sites with caustic contamination at Reuben Katz and a cutoff well and ongoing monitoring at the lagoon. The city of Milwatakee dump site in the city of Milwaukee is a storage facility for Commerce Industrial Ct~emical ampany and has been inspected recently by the EPA No data results are available at this time. Lincoln Creek flows through the Whitefish Bay Ash Site in the village of Whitefak Bay. Discharge either to or from the creek is suspected, but little information is available at this time. The other two sites, the Johnson Controls-Battery Division(#2) and another site designated as "Not available" are both located in the city of Milwaukee and no information is available mncerning their respective water resource impact.

- The Lincoln Creek subwatershed is served by municipal water from Lake
Michigan. There are no community systems and minimal private well usage.
- Regular program activities ur on a case-bycase basis and are in response to actions or requests from individuals. These activities include protection of wetlands through review and regulation of county wetland/shoreland ordinances and
incorporation of watershed objectives into projecb requiring water regulation permits. Additional program responsibilities include the review of and response to the Federal Clean Water Act, Section 404 applications to fill small wetlands, to assist with and oversee adoption of ordinances for the city of Milwaukee, and to evaluate and assist with the SD Stormwater Control project.

Wastewater - This subwatershed, in the city of Milwaukee, is served by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) municipal wastewater treatment plant. The MMSD municipal treatment plants are regulated by the Department Wastewater Program and are described in detail with recommendations in Section C, the Point Source Report. Combined sewers and sanitary sewers occasionally discharge to Lincoln Creek.

- Established urban areas contribute 85 percent of the sediment loads to
Lincoln Creek; eroding stream banks contribute the remainder. Established urban areas contribute over 5500 tons of sediment annually. This represents over 50 percent of the total urban sediment load in the entire watershed, and nearly 25 percent of the total sediment load from all sources in the entire watershed. Lincoln Creek receives an estimated annual lead load of approximately 10,000 pounds, in addition to other toxicants present in the storm water runoff.

Date  1992

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Lincoln Creek, Milwaukee River South Watershed (MI02) Fish and Aquatic LifeLincoln Creek, Milwaukee River South Watershed (MI02) RecreationLincoln Creek, Milwaukee River South Watershed (MI02) Fish Consumption

Impaired Waters

Lincoln Creek was placed on the Impaired Waters List in the 1998 cycle for PAHs, unspecified metals, total phosphorus, and sediment. This segment of Lincoln Creek was evaluated every two-year cycle from 2012 to 2022; PCBs were identified as a pollutant in the 2012 cycle and chlorides in the 2014 cycle. In the 2022 cycle evaluation temperature values were good and the impairment of elevated temperature was removed.

Date  2022

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.
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.
Stormwater Planning, Implementation
To arrest the negative impacts of nonpoint source pollution, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District seeks to innovate a subsurface gravel wetland that holds rainwater where it falls, infiltrates and filters it, absorbs it through plant root systems, and evapotranspires it to the atmosphere. Through this project, the Sewerage District will implement this innovative infrastructure measure in the Green Tree Basin on Lincoln Creek, a tributary of the Milwaukee River, to address six beneficial use impairments in the Milwaukee Estuary Area of Concern.
Rivers Management Grant
The Foundation will assist in the development of a new river management organization. Assisting in identifying local businesses, neighborhood associations, institutions, and schools willing to become fonding members of the Lincoln Creek Watershed Association. Their goal is to develop stewardship focus areas and capacity building through a workshop series linking organizational development, a strategic plan, and sustainability to waterhed protection and water quality management.

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

Lincoln Creek is located in the Milwaukee River South watershed which is 167.90 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily suburban (27.40%), urban (24.80%) and a mix of agricultural (18%) and other uses (29.80%). This watershed has 203.63 stream miles, 13,038.94 lake acres and 5,996.03 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked High for runoff impacts on streams, High 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

Lincoln Creek is considered a 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.