Narrows Creek, Narrows Creek and Baraboo River Watershed (LW22)
Narrows Creek, Narrows Creek and Baraboo River Watershed (LW22)
Narrows Creek (1276400)
22.84 Miles
0 - 22.84
Natural Community
Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model results that use predicted flow and temperature based on landscape features and related assumptions. Ranges of flow and temperature associated with specific aquatic life communities (fish, macroinvertebrates) help biologists identify appropriate resource management goals. Wisconsin Natural Communities.
Cool-Cold Headwater, Cool-Cold Mainstem, Macroinvertebrate, Cool-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
Impairment Unknown
Total Phosphorus
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.
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.
Default FAL
Fish and Aquatic Life - Default Waters do not have a specific use designation subcategory but are considered fishable, swimmable waters.


Narrows Creek flows about 18 miles from its sources near Hillpoint and Lime Ridge to its junction with the Baraboo River at Rock Springs. The creek has been heavily impacted by agriculture, particularly dairy farming practices and experiences heavy bank erosion and siltation during periods of rapid rainfall. As late as the early 1970s it supported a respectable smallmouth bass fishery, which has since declined. Recently the watershed has received attention from a priority watershed project administered by the Sauk County Land Conservation Department (LCD). Now seven years into the project, which expires in 2004, 45% of the eligible landowners have signed up for improvement practices such as new barnyards, the stabilization of streambanks, and installation of grassed waterways, with about 50% of the jobs completed. To date 65% of the phosphorus removal goal has been met and 60% of the sediment removal goal has been achieved. In addition, a few watershed and stewardship easements have been purchased from landowners. This has allowed 160 acres of wetlands to be restored to date. Also WDNR fish management has conducted smallmouth bass habitat improvement on approximately 2 miles of Narrows Creek. Early evaluation showed a 3-9 times increase in the bass population in one area compared to two control areas.

With more streambank easement acquisition, more work can be accomplished. Fish analysis throughout the watershed typically ranks the stream as fair rating, which shows the need for further improvements. Low dissolved oxygen has been documented for short periods of time which probably reflects agricultural waste episodes. These have devastating consequences on aquatic life.

It is anticipated that with the ongoing removal of the last remaining dams on the Baraboo River, the Narrows Creek fishery will benefit from summer migrations, particularly of catfish, smallmouth bass and walleye species, which will utilize the habitat of Narrows Creek. Baseline monitoring was conducted on three tributaries to Narrows Creek in 2001. A rare aquatic species has been found in the creek in past surveys. Narrows Creek receives discharges from the communities of Lime Ridge and Loganville. Sauk County Health Care discharges to a tributary of Narrows Creek.

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

Narrows Creek, Narrows Creek and Baraboo River Watershed (LW22) Fish and Aquatic LifeNarrows Creek, Narrows Creek and Baraboo River Watershed (LW22) RecreationNarrows Creek, Narrows Creek and Baraboo River Watershed (LW22) Fish Consumption

General Condition

This water was assessed during the 2014 listing cycle; total phosphorus sample data exceed 2014 WisCALM listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use, however, available biological data do not indicate impairment (i.e. no macroinvertebrate or fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scored in the "poor" condition category). Jean Unmuth, biologist recommends that the water remain a Category 5P, as biology does not confirm change to 5A. "The poor MIBI samples were collected in a flood year; water was noted as turbid, and timing is very crucial in spring, so I would not hang my hat on this MIBI. All other FIBI data scores for Narrows in last 10 years are excellent."

Date  2014

Author  Jean Unmuth

Impaired Waters

Narrows Creek (1276400) was placed on the impaired waters list in 2014 for total phosphorus. The 2016 assessments showed continued impairment by phosphorus; total phosphorus sample data exceeded 2016 WisCALM listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use, however, available biological data did not indicate impairment (i.e. no macroinvertebrate or fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scored in the "poor" condition category). Based on the most updated information, no change in existing impaired waters listing is needed.

Date  2015

Author  Aaron Larson


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.
Water Quality Planning
Narrows Creek and Baraboo River (LW22) Watershed Planning. This watershed lies entirely within Sauk County. It includes the portion of the Baraboo River from Reedsburg to the west edge of Baraboo. Smallmouth bass fishing is considered a valuable asset to the watershed. The majority of the watershed is agricultural. Dairy farming is the dominant agricultural activity. Other major land cover in the watershed includes broad-leaf deciduous forest and grassland. There are a few wetland areas in the watershed.
Nine Key Element Plan
Narrows Creek PWS Plan - Nine Key Element Plan - The Narrows Creek Priority Watershed Project plan assesses the nonpoint sources of pollution in the Narrows Creek Watershed and guides the implementation of nonpoint source control measures. These control measures are needed to meet specific water resource objectives for Narrows Creek and the Baraboo River and tributaries. The purpose of this project is to reduce the amount of pollutants originating from nonpoint sources that reach surface water and groundwater within the Narrows Creek and Baraboo River Priority Watershed Project area.
Monitor Water Quality or Sediment
1 poor bug. 2 others are fair. Needs further investigation.

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

Volunteer Monitoring

Water Quality Monitoring has occurred through the Water Action Volunteers Program on this water. This program involves citizen monitors collecting water quality data which is used by the DNR to assist in making management decisions.

Goals of the program include collecting high quality data that can be used for management decisions, building relationships between DNR staff and citizen monitors, and assessing areas in need of additional monitoring, restoration and/or protection. Ultimately, volunteer participation in this project aids DNR staff by allowing for increased capabilities to monitor streams. Communities and the DNR can use this water quality information to make decisions that affect the management of streams throughout Wisconsin.

Data collected by Water Action Volunteers can be used by DNR staff as screening tools. The process of data collection helps Wisconsin citizenry enhance their understanding of data collection and in many cases, move to more sophisticated data collection work including biological and additional physical site data..

Date  2014

Author  Christina Anderson

Watershed Characteristics

Narrows Creek is located in the Narrows Creek and Baraboo River watershed which is 176.33 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (31.70%), agricultural (30.90%) and a mix of grassland (25.80%) and other uses (11.60%). This watershed has 368.35 stream miles, 331.44 lake acres and 4,694.54 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

Narrows Creek is considered a Cool-Cold Headwater, Cool-Cold Mainstem, Macroinvertebrate, Cool-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.

Cool (Cold-Transition) Mainstem streams are moderate-to-large but still wadeable perennial streams with cold to cool summer temperatures. Coldwater fishes are common to uncommon, transitional fishes are abundant to common, and warm water fishes are uncommon to absent. Headwater species are common to absent, mainstem species are abundant to common, and river species are common to absent.

Cool (Cold-Transition) Headwaters are small, usually perennial streams with cold to cool summer temperatures. Coldwater fishes are common to uncommon (<10 per 100 m), transitional fishes are abundant to common, and warm water fishes are uncommon to absent. Headwater species are abundant to common, mainstem species are common to absent, and river species are absent.