North Fork Eau Claire River, Watershed (NA)
North Fork Eau Claire River,  Watershed (NA)
North Fork Eau Claire River (2145400)
31.43 Miles
22.48 - 53.91
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.
Not Determined
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.


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.

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  Karen Voss

Historical Description

The North Fork of the Eau Claire River begins in Taylor County. Habitat degradation due to streambank pasturing has been noted, as well as low dissolved oxygen levels, particularly during low-flow conditions. In Taylor County, many river locations have no flow in the fall (Water Resources Management, Fisheries Management). Water quality sampling near the river mouth produced dissolved oxygen data ranging from 7.2 to 14.2 mg/l. The water quality standard for surface waters is 5 mg/l. The water was observed to be brown and turbid during high flows (Hazuga).

Monitoring in the vicinity of Eidsvold during the winter of 1990, documented under-ice river oxygen values as low as 3.6 mg/l, which is below the water quality standard of 5 mg/l. Monitoring during the drought of 1988 found daily oxygen fluctuations down to 3 mg/l (LaLiberte 1990). Since no point source discharges or surface water runoff occurred during the monitoring, the oxygen problem had to be the result of natural aeration insufficient to offset sediment oxygen demand. The river has a very weak base flow in this reach (LaLiberte 1994). The Lublin wastewater treatment plant discharges to a dry run tributary to the North Fork. Discharges from the two-cell stabilization pond system are only authorized in spring and fall. The permit sets maximum discharge rates for each month. A stream study would verify if the discharge rates are appropriate. The discharge is below the 150-pound-per-month threshold for requiring phosphoms removal under Mi 217.

The Thorp wastewater treatment plant discharges treated wastewater only in the spring and fall with the discharge rate proportional to stream flow. River oxygen levels have not been monitored in the spring. Spring oxygen and temperature data are needed to confirm that the river oxygen levels assumed to exist during effluent limit development are correct. The stream oxygen, temperature and macroinvertebrate data collected since the Thorp discharge began has not been evaluated (LaLiberte 1994). Raber Foods discharges treated wastewater intermittently to a wetland tributary to the North Fork Eau Claire River. In 1986 the wetland was classified as capable of supporting marginal aquatic life, and the tributary as capable of supporting intermediate aquatic life due to the presence of a reproducing forage fishery (LaLiberte 1986).

Date  1996

Author  Paul Laliberte

Historical Description

A medium hard water, light brown colored stream that flows south and then west into Eau Claire County where it joins the south fork to form the main Eau Claire River. Muskellunge and smallmouth bass are the primary sport fish. About 75 percent of the watershed area in Clark County has been cleared and 25 percent is wooded or wild. Waterfowl and furbearers are present. There are 15 miles of public frontage (forest cropland). Access is possible from nine road crossings. Light boat traffic is possible (especially in the lower portion of the stream), but portages are frequent except during high water conditions.

North fork of Eau Claire River T27N, R4W, S18, Surface Acres = 75.6, Miles = 24.0, Gradient = 7.5 feet per mile.

From: Klick, Thomas A. and C.W. Threinen, 1965. Surface Water Resources of Clark County: Lake and Stream Classification Project. Wisconsin Conservation Department, Madison, WI.

Date  1965

Author   Surface Water Inventory Of Wisconsin

North Fork Eau Claire River,  Watershed (NA) Fish and Aquatic LifeNorth Fork Eau Claire River,  Watershed (NA) RecreationNorth Fork Eau Claire River,  Watershed (NA) Fish Consumption

General Condition

The North Fork of the Eau Claire River is a 56 mile warm water sport fishery. Recent surveys in Clark and Eau Claire Counties found a very diverse fishery and smallmouth bass were the dominant game fish. Multiple year classes of smallmouth bass were found throughout the river, however lower densities are typically found in central Clark County.

The river in this reach lacks deep water habitat for smallmouth bass especially during low flow periods and there is a greater accumulation of fine sediments in this section. Grab water chemistry sampling on the North Fork Eau Claire indicates total phosphorus concentrations are highest in central Clark County and are nearly 3 times higher than the proposed water quality standard. Nonpoint source runoff is the primary contributor of sediment and nutrients to the river.

Date  2010

Author  Paul Laliberte

Impaired Waters

The 2018 assessments of the North Fork Eau Claire River showed impairment by phosphorus; new total phosphorus sample data at the above (Assessment Unit (AU) 6923457) and below (AU 16146) stream segments exceed 2018 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). Based on the most updated information, this water segment of the N Fk Eau Claire River (this AU: Wolf River to Sterling Creek) was proposed for the impaired waters list.

Date  2017

Author  Ashley Beranek

Impaired Waters

Multiple segments of the North Fork Eau Claire River were assessed in 2018: Mouth to Wolf River (miles 0-10.49); Sterling Creek to headwaters (miles 22.48-53.91). The 2018 assessments of the North Fork Eau Claire River showed impairment by phosphorus; new total phosphorus sample data exceeded the 2018 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, this water was proposed for the impaired waters list.

Date  2017

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.



Water Quality Planning
Project: North Fork Eau Claire (LC17) Watershed Planning
Lake Management Plan Implementation
Reduce phosphorus loading to reduce excessive algae growth in Lakes Eau Claire and Altoona. Implement key best management practices on agricultural lands in the upper portion of this watershed for phosphorus control.
Water Quality Planning
Complete land use modeling report and use the results to better direct BMP selection in all contributing watersheds.
Trout Classification Mgmt
Trout stream classifi cations of some streams may need to be changed as a result of the additional monitoring identifi ed above.
Monitor Baseline Survey
Stream assessment monitoring should be completed on Swim, Sterling, Shambaugh, Loper and Beeman Creeks to determine appropriate stream classifi cations. These streams are classifi ed as trout water even though historic data does not support a cold water designation or data does not exist.
Wastewater Monitoring or Management
WDNR should collect spring oxygen and temperature data on the North Fork of the Eau Claire River for verification of Thorp treatment plant effluent limits (Type B).

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

North Fork Eau Claire River is located in the watershed which is mi². This watershed has stream miles, lake acres and wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Unknown for runoff impacts on streams, Unknown for runoff impacts on lakes and Unknown for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of Unknown. 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

North Fork Eau Claire River's natural community is not yet identified 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.