Big Creek, Crossman Creek and Little Baraboo River Watershed (LW23)
Big Creek, Crossman Creek and Little Baraboo River Watershed (LW23)
Big Creek (1280200)
0.50 Miles
0 - 0.50
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 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.
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
Fish and Aquatic Life - Default Waters do not have a specific use designation subcategory but are considered fishable, swimmable waters.


Big Creek is a half of a mile and located just below Lake Redstone where it enters the Baraboo River. Big Creek is considered to have a warm water sport fishery. A survey conducted in 1999 found 23 different species of fish in Big Creek and determined the water to be of fair quality as evidenced by the types and diversity of fish species present.

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

Big Creek, Crossman Creek and Little Baraboo River Watershed (LW23) Fish and Aquatic LifeBig Creek, Crossman Creek and Little Baraboo River Watershed (LW23) RecreationBig Creek, Crossman Creek and Little Baraboo River Watershed (LW23) 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.


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

Monitoring Studies

Biweekly chemical and flow monitoring was conducted on Big Creek a short distance below the Lake Redstone spillway (cover photo). Flow measurements ranged from 6.3 to 60 .9 cubic feet per second (cfs) and a mean of 20 cfs. Water quality below the dam is good and the stream benefits from substantial aeration as water plunges approximately 30
feet over the spillway. All continous and discrete dissolved oxygen measurements exceeded 7 mg/1, well above the water quality standards limit of 5 mg/1. Total phosphorus concentrations ranged from 18 to 76 [tg/l with a mean concentration of 41 ttg/1 . The average phosphorus discharge from the lake was 2 kg/day or approximately 13% of the seasonal phosphorus load from May through September. Table 1 below summarizes Big Creek water chemistry results.

The biweekly water chemical monitoring indicated favorable conditions for supporting fisheries . Results of the fish shocking and macroinvertebrate sampling directly support this finding . Five aquatic insect families were found below the dam (Hydropsychidae, Chaoboridae, Empididae, Simulidae, Chironimidae) . The taxa representing these insect families resulted in a Hilsenhoff Biotic Index (HBI) value of 5 .45, indicating "good" water quality (Hilsenhoff, 1987). Surprisingly, the water quality based on the HBI was
actually better below the dam than above the lake in the East Branch Big Creek. At LaValle Road, representative aquatic insect (Heptageniidae, Elmidae, Athericidae) and crustacean (Gammaridae) families indicated cool water habitat. However, the HBI value of 5 .81 indicated only "fair" water quality and "fairly signficant organic pollution". The results suggest that the East Branch Big Creek is not meeting water quality potential and sources of runoff pollution are affecting it.

Fish shocking results from July 10 indicated that Big Creek supports diverse fisheries below the dam. Twenty-four species were collected during a survey that encompassed most of the 700-meter stream . The environmental evaluation from the shocking results indicate "good" conditions based on a warmwater IBI (Lyons, 1992) score of 53. Walleye and musky were also observed in the stream during other surveys that summer but were not included in the IBI calculation. The combined fisheries and macroinvertebrate information dictates that management objectives must support warm water fish and aquatic life standards (NR 102). Table 2 contains a list of species and numbers found during the stream shocking survey.

Date  2011

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Watershed Characteristics

Big Creek is located in the Crossman Creek and Little Baraboo River watershed which is 213.80 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (36.40%), grassland (32.90%) and a mix of agricultural (20.40%) and other uses (10.30%). This watershed has 466.61 stream miles, 244.11 lake acres and 6,321.59 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

Big Creek is considered a 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.

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