Eau Claire River, Lower Eau Claire River Watershed (LC14)
Eau Claire River, Lower Eau Claire River Watershed (LC14)
Eau Claire River (2125600)
11.92 Miles
15.13 - 27.05
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.
Macroinvertebrate, Cool-Cold Headwater, Cool-Warm Mainstem, Coldwater, Cool-Warm Headwater, 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.
Eau Claire
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.
Supported Aquatic Life
Waters that support fish and aquatic life communities (healthy biological communities).
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.


Eau Claire River - The North Fork of the Eau Claire River originates in southwestern Taylor County. It flows for approximately 48 miles before joining up with the South Fork in Eau Claire County. The South Fork of the Eau Claire River originates in northwestern Clark County and is approximately 40 miles in length. The main stem of the Eau Claire River flows in a westerly direction for approximately 34 miles before emptying into the Chippewa River in the City of Eau Claire. The Eau Claire County Forest lies along the majority of the river’s main stem. The Clark County Forest lies along approximately the lower five miles of the South and North Forks. Two major impoundments are present on the main stem of the river - Lake Eau Claire (1,118 acres) and Lake Altoona (840 acres). The flowages are used exclusively for recreation although historically there were efforts to convert both dams to hydropower generation.

Mead Lake is a 320-acre impoundment of the South Fork in Clark County, used exclusively for recreation. Numerous small streams drain into the North Fork, South Fork and main stem of the river. The average annual flow of the river is 557 cfs at the Lake Eau Claire dam and 568 cfs at the Lake Altoona dam. The drainage area upstream of the Lake Altoona dam is approximately 811 square miles.

Water Quality: The Eau Claire River has slightly brown-stained, generally clear water with a shifting sand substrate. Planktonic algae from Lake Altoona cause some turbidity during summer. Also, the Otter Creek watershed in Eau Claire contributes considerable suspended sediment loading during storm events.

Fishery: Limited fishery surveys have been conducted in the Eau Claire River and very little is known about the fish community in the river below the Altoona dam. It is assumed that many of the fish species present in the Chippewa River below the Dells dam also may use this portion of the Eau Claire River. Fifty-two fish species have been collected from the river upstream of the Lake Altoona dam. None of these species are on the state endangered or threatened species list. Ten additional species are known to exist below the Altoona dam. Of these, the paddlefish and blue suckers are state-threatened species.

The major sport fish species in the river include walleye, muskellunge, smallmouth bass, yellow perch and black crappie. Currently, no commercial fishing is allowed in the Eau Claire River. Except for the flowages, no fish stocking occurs in the

Voss, Karen and Sarah Beaster. 2001. The State of the Lower Chippewa River Basin. PUBL-WT-554 2001. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  2001

Author   Aquatic Biologist


Summary of Mainstem River Resource Issues, Threats and Opportunities
Protection and Management of Threatened and Endangered Species: The Chippewa, Red Cedar and Eau Claire rivers are complex and very dynamic, and are some of the last free-flowing segments of “big rivers” in the Upper Mississippi River Valley. Many of the state's endangered and threatened resources and some of the states “big rivers species” are found in the free-flowing segments of these Rivers. The status, life history and range of these species needs to be more well defined in order to provide effective preservation and habitat management.

Inventory and Monitoring Needs: Lack of information on the biological community of the “big rivers” in the basin contributes to sub-optimal management of these complex resources. Inventory and monitoring needs include sedimentation, non-point source influences, contaminated fish monitoring, fish migration and passage, water level fluctuations from hydropower operations, water quality impacts from reservoirs and agricultural uses, waste assimilation, increased recreational use demands and land use changes in the watershed. Effective future management will require that multiple stakeholders participate in identifying common goals for the big river resources.

Hydropower relicensing opportunities: Hydropower peaking operations, lack of fish passage, or poor water quality can negatively affect the aquatic ecosystem of many rivers. Periodic relicensing requirements provide an opportunity to adjust hydropower operations for the benefit of river ecosystems. Relicensing generally occurs about once every 30 years, and should be considered a high priority opportunity.

Voss, Karen and Sarah Beaster. 2001. The State of the Lower Chippewa River Basin. PUBL-WT-554 2001. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  2001

Author   Aquatic Biologist


Shoreland Ordinance
Eau Claire County proposes to amend or create a shoreland zoning ordinance that complies with the requirements of NR 115, Wisconsin Administrative Code (as revised effective February 1, 2010) and retain existing regulations that exceed the water resource protections of NR 115 or are specific or unique to local needs.
Monitor Water Quality or Sediment
Category 2. 2018 TP Results: May Exceed. Station: 10029179. AU: 6931339.
Protect Riparian or Shorelands
This plan is a protection and restoration document to address issues in the watershed. The Watershed includes numerous trout streams and surface waters that have received special designations due to their good water quality and wildlife habitat.
Nine Key Element Plan
Lower Eau Claire Riiver PWS Plan - Nine Key Element Plan - The Lower Eau Claire River Priority Watershed Project plan assesses the nonpoint sources of pollution in the Lower Eau Claire River Watershed and guides the implementation of nonpoint source control measures. These control measures are needed to meet specific water resource objectives for the Lower Eau Claire River which is a tributary to the Eau Claire River.

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

Eau Claire River is located in the Lower Eau Claire River watershed which is 216.31 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (44.70%), agricultural (30%) and a mix of grassland (16.20%) and other uses (9.00%). This watershed has 414.24 stream miles, 937.46 lake acres and 10,770.45 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

Eau Claire River is considered a Macroinvertebrate, Cool-Cold Headwater, Cool-Warm Mainstem, Coldwater, Cool-Warm Headwater, Large River under the state's Natural Community Determinations.

Natural communities (stream and lake natural communities) represent model results and 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.

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.

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