West Br Baraboo River, Seymour Creek and Upper Baraboo River Watershed (LW24)
West Br Baraboo River, Seymour Creek and Upper Baraboo River Watershed (LW24)
West Br Baraboo River (1288400)
7.24 Miles
0 - 7.24
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 Mainstem, 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
Low DO
Total Phosphorus, BOD, Sediment/Total Suspended Solids
Juneau, Vernon
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.
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.


From Sebranek Lane to the headwaters (class 3).

Date  2002

Author   Aquatic Biologist


The West Branch of the Baraboo River, located in northeastern Vernon County and western
Juneau County, flows in a northeasterly direction for 16 miles before reaching the Baraboo
River at Union Center. One dam at the Village of Hillsboro impounds the West Branch of the
Baraboo River at its midpoint. Some people and references in documents erroneously identify
the portion of river downstream of Hillsboro Lake as South Branch of the Baraboo River
when in fact it is the West Branch of the Baraboo River. The South Branch of the Baraboo
River, also known as South Branch Creek, is a tributary to the West Branch at Hillsboro Lake.
The West Branch of the Baraboo River has a gradient of 69 feet per mile upstream of
Hillsboro Lake and drains hilly agricultural and forested land. The West Branch of the
Baraboo River upstream of Hillsboro Lake is in the Hillsboro Lake Priority Watershed.
The West Branch of the Baraboo River is a Class III trout stream for 4.6 miles upstream of
Sebranek Road just west of Hillsboro. The remainder of the river contains forage fish species
and possibly some game fish species.
The most recent biological survey, conducted in 1988, documented a marginal trout fishery
upstream of Sebranek Road just west of Hillsboro. The stretch of river from this bridge downstream
to Hillsboro Lake was inhabited by white suckers and largemouth bass. The West
Branch of the Baraboo River upstream of Hillsboro Lake suffers from flooding, sedimentation
of pools and riffles, manure runoff, and lack of instream habitat for adult trout. The water
quality standard for dissolved oxygen has been violated under low-flow conditions
downstream of Hillsboro Lake in 1983, consequently a 1.75 mile section of this river below
the lake is classified as an impaired water (303d list). Several factors may contribute to the
lack of dissolved oxygen including: discharges from the Hillsboro wastewater treatment plant
and from Foremost Farms USA, low stream velocity, an upstream impoundment with algae
problems, and stream channelization. To increase dissolved oxygen levels in the river, the
Village of Hillsboro may want to review and possibly change dam operation procedures
during summer months when algae blooms occur. Since this stretch of river has a very low
gradient which is not conducive to aeration, an alteration of the river to induce more aeration
may also prove beneficial. If dissolved oxygen levels in the West Branch of the Baraboo
River consistently stay above the state standard, removal from the impaired waters list would
result. WDNR records indicate that the West Branch of the Baraboo River has been stocked
with brown trout consistently since 1960. Access to the West Branch of the Baraboo River is
from seven road crossings.

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

This stream is a Class III trout stream above Hillsboro Lake. Water quality is generally
good in the upper reaches, with water temperatures and dissolved oxygen levels suitable
for trout. Nonpoint sources of pollution are affecting habitat and water quality. The main
problems are with in-stream siltation filling spawning areas and deep pools, nutrient
loading to the stream, and elevated water temperatures in the lower reach (Biebl,1991).
The water quality standard for dissolved oxygen has been violated under lowflow
conditions (less than 7 cubic feet per second) downstrem of Hillsboro. Several
Factors may contribute to this problem, including the discharges from the Hillsboro
wastewater treatment plan and AMPI-Warner Creek Cheese, low stream velocity, an
upstream impoundmnt, stream channelization, and beaver ponds (Sorge, 1991-92).

Date  1994

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Historical Description

Highway 80 to the headwaters (class 3).

Date  1980

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

Historical Description

Baraboo River, West Branch, T14N, R1E, Section 35. Surface Acres = 7.7, Miles = 5.8, Gradient: 69.2 feet per mile.
This clear, hard water stream flows in a general southeasterly direction and joins the South Branch in Field-Veterans Memorial Lake at Hi11sboro. The entire stream above the lake is Class III brown trout water. White suckers, creek chubs, and common shiners also inhabit the stream. Silt is the dominant bottom type, with sand, gravel, rubble, detritus. boulder. and clay also present. Access is possible from the impoundment at Hillsboro and from six road crossings. Approximately eight acres of wetland adjoin the stream. Wood ducks nest along the stream, and a small number of migrant puddle ducks use the water.

From: Klick, Thomas A. and Threinen, C.W. 1973. Lake and Stream Classification Project. Surface Water Resources of Vernon County, Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  1973

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

West Br Baraboo River, Seymour Creek and Upper Baraboo River Watershed (LW24) Fish and Aquatic LifeWest Br Baraboo River, Seymour Creek and Upper Baraboo River Watershed (LW24) RecreationWest Br Baraboo River, Seymour Creek and Upper Baraboo River Watershed (LW24) Fish Consumption

General Condition

West Branch Baraboo River (miles 9.3-15.79) was assessed during the 2018 listing cycle; new biological (macroinvertebrate and fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores) and temperature sample data were clearly below the 2018 WisCALM listing thresholds for the Fish and Aquatic Life use. This water was meeting this designated use and was not considered impaired.

Date  2017

Author  Ashley Beranek

Impaired Waters

The West Branch of the Baraboo River (Mouth to trib 1/2 mile west of Juneau-Vernon county line) was listed for phosphorus, sediment, and oxygen in 1998. Every two years between 2014 and 2018 phosphorus evaluation showed continued impairment. In 2020 bug community health indicated a possible impact on health. Further monitoring of bug community health is recommended. This water is part of the Wisconsin River TMDL.

Date  2019

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.



County Land and Water Management Plan
The Vernon County Land Conservation Department proposes to reduce sedimentation to Hillsboro Lake by 1404 tons over a five year period through implementation of Best Management Practices approved, but unlikely to be funded at any time soon, by the state's Nonpoint Source Program. High Residue Management, Conservation Cropping Plans, Grassed Waterway, Critical Area Stabalization, Grade Stabalization Structures, Streambank Riprapping, Streambank Fencing, Stream Crossings and Streambank Shaping and Seeding.
Delist Impaired Water
The West Branch of Baraboo River at Sebranek Road had a median value for phosphorus of 0.077 mg/l, but did not exceed the lower confidence limit for the 12 samples, thus is not considered as impaired for phosphorus. This water should not be listed as impaired.
Delist Impaired Water
The West Branch should be removed from the impaired waters list for Low DO, phosphorus, sediment, total suspended solids and BOD. Biological information rated from fair to excellent and does not support listing the stream for biological impairment.
Monitor Targeted Area
The West Branch of Baraboo River phosphorus monitoring site located at STH-33, should not be used as a stream site for calculation of phosphorus values, due to the site being located within Hillsboro Lake. Instead use the phosphorus values from the Sebranek Road site.
Monitor Water Quality or Sediment
DNR should monitor Hillsboro Lake to determine lake health and condition.
Natural Community Review or Change
The West Branch of Baraboo River fish natural community designations of cool-cold were verified, and the fish and aquatic life should be changed to good or supporting.
Nine Key Element Plan
Hillsboro Priority PWS Plan - Nine Key Element Plan - The Hillsboro Priority Watershed Project plan assesses the nonpoint sources of pollution in the Hillsboro Watershed and guides the implementation of nonpoint source control measures.
Monitor Water Quality or Sediment
This assessment unit is 7 miles long and MIBI score reflects conditions at upper end of AU below mill pond outflow. Would prefer that bug and fish data be collected throughout this assessment unit before making a biological recommendation.
Partnership Project
DNR should work with the Hillsboro School District to encourage environmental programs and citizen monitoring of streams and Hillsboro Lake through the Citizen Lake Management Network and the Water Action Volunteer Programs.
Best Management Practices, Implement
DNR should investigate management actions that may help increase base flow and dissolved oxygen to the West Branch of the Baraboo River, downstream of the lake.
DNR should work on outreach efforts with landowners in the watershed, and research opportunities for harvestable buffers to provide economic incentives for maintaining buffers along streams.
Protect Riparian or Shorelands
The West Branch of Baraboo River has some stream segments that, while not excessively grazed, have steep or vertical banks. DNR and Partners should implement stream bank erosion controls on bends to reduce erosion and stream siltation.
Restore Hydrology, Morphology
The West Branch of Baraboo River fish lunker structures in the segment upstream of STH-33 have either collapsed or silted in. DNR should work with Trout Unlimited to restore structures and improve cover for fish.

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

West Branch Baraboo River is located in the Seymour Creek and Upper Baraboo River watershed which is 171.73 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (36.60%), grassland (33.40%) and a mix of agricultural (20.30%) and other uses (9.80%). This watershed has 414.62 stream miles, 124.03 lake acres and 4,637.96 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Medium for runoff impacts on streams, Not Ranked 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

West Br Baraboo River is considered a Cool-Cold Mainstem, 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.

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