Fish and Aquatic Life
Bluff Creek is an approximately 18.2 mile red-clay tributary of Lake Superior, which flows into Allouez Bay on the southeast side of the City of Superior. Primarily a warm-water runoff stream, it is flashy in nature during high-water storm events or runoff periods, with seasonal low flow conditions. Koshere (1981) stated that evidence of frequent flood events was common.
Based on an older classification memo (Koshere 1981), a one-mile stretch of Bluff Creek was listed as a limited forage fishery (LFF). However, results from monitoring efforts in 2009 (to evaluate for potential inclusion of Bluff Creek on the 303d list) suggest the most appropriate current and attainable use designation of Bluff Creek from its mouth upstream to County Hwy Z (river mile 5.8), and potentially as far as river mile 8.5 where an unnamed tributary enters on the west side, would be as a warm-water sport fishery (WWSF). This conclusion is based on fish community surveys in 2009 which found northern pike and walleye present in the lower reaches of Bluff Creek. In addition, Pratt (1996) noted that the mouth of Bluff Creek is an important spawning area for northern pike and other warm-water species. From river mile 5.8 (or 8.5) and upstream, fish surveys and habitat suggest the most appropriate designation would be as a warm-water forage fishery (WWFF) community. The upper reaches and unnamed tributaries Bluff Creek have even lower flows (tributaries can be intermittent) and a limited amount of suitable habitat that would be required by gamefish species. Fish IBI results for either warmwater or small/intermittent streams resulted primarily in fair to poor scores depending on sampling locations and fish IBI used.
A large portion of the upper reaches of the Bluff Creek watershed is open fields and agricultural land. While performing survey work for coastal wetlands evaluation, Epstein (1997) documented significant sources of pollutants include barnyards, livestock, cropland, and erodible stream banks, with point source and septic contributions present. Impacts to Bluff Creek noted from surveys conducted in 1997 and also 303d assessment in 2009 include significant turbidity, silt or sedimentation, and low flow conditions. It has also been previously noted that runoff from Burlington Northern rail-yards and engine house reaches the stream (Lake Superior Basin Water Quality Management Plan, WDNR, 1999). Limited nutrient sampling (n=8) in 2009 in the Bluff Creek watershed also documented fairly high phosphorus levels (range = 0.07 to 0.20 mg/l; mean = 0.13 mg/l).
Invertebrate sampling conducted in the spring and fall of 2009 resulted in “fair” to “fairly poor” HBI scores (n = 8; range = 5.6 - 7.0). However, whereas 2009 HBI results were as noted, M-IBI scores for those same samples were mostly "excellent" in rating. Epstein (1997) found moderate richness of macroinvertebrate taxa and one rare macroinvertebrate at his study site. Invertebrates will be further sampled in 2010 by DNR and the Lake Superior Research Institute also. Final interpretation of invertebrate sampling will be analyzed more closely once all results are complete.
Presently, Bluff Creek has been placed under "High Watch-Water" status. Further monitoring in addition to invertebrate sampling is planned to determine the most appropriate classification and official status of Bluff Creek in regards to whether it is impaired or not, and if placement on the 303d list is appropriate.
Author Cordell Manz
The 2018 assessments of Bluff Creek 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.
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.
Monitor Targeted Area
Further monitoring to the status of Bluff Creek (and unnamed tributaries: WBICs - 2833400, 2833500, 2833900) to conclusively determine if it is meeting appropriate fish and aquatic life uses, and if it should be included on 303(d) list. Effort should include monitoring for potential habitat, turbidity (sedimentation/TSS), and phosphorus impairments.
Monitor or Propose 303(d) Listing
Further monitoring to conclusively determine the status of Bluff Creek (and unnamed tributaries: WBIC's - 2833400, 2833500, 2833900) in regards to whether it is meeting appropriate fish and aquatic life uses, and if it should be included on 303d list.
Effort should include monitoring for potential habitat, turbidity (sedimentation/TSS), and phosphorus impairments.
A one-mile stretch of this stream was listed as a limited forage fishery based upon an older classification memo. We do not know the current condition of this 18-mile long stream, which empties into Allouez Bay of Superior Bay. Since we know little about this stream it should thus be considered capable of supporting fish and aquatic life until formally classified. Runoff from the Burlington Northern railyards and engine house reaches this stream. The mouth of Bluff Creek is an important spawning area for northern pike and many other warm water species (Pratt 1996).
During survey work for the coastal wetlands evaluation, one rare macroinvertebrate was found in this stream, which has moderate richness of macroinvertebrate taxa (Epstein 1997). Impacts noted at the survey site included significant turbidity, silt and low flow conditions. Significant sources of pollutants included barnyards, livestock, cropland and erodible stream banks, with point source and septic contributions present (Epstein 1997).
From: Turville-Heitz, Meg. 1999. Lake Superior Basin Water Quality Management Plan. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.
Author Aquatic Biologist
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
|WBIC||Official Waterbody Name||Station ID||Station Name||Earliest Fieldwork Date||Latest Fieldwork Date||View Station||View Data|
|2833200||Bluff Creek||163232||Bluff Creek - Above Rr Tracks/75 Yds Ds Drainage From Koppers||9/9/1992||9/9/1992||Map||Data|
|2833200||Bluff Creek||10035962||Bluff Creek - Area of Open Water||6/29/2010||9/1/2010||Map||Data|
|2833200||Bluff Creek||10015463||Bluff Creek- Upstream Valley Brook Rd- Station #2||5/14/2009||1/1/2015||Map||Data|
|2833200||Bluff Creek||10040432||Bluff Creek at City Limits Rd||9/3/2008||10/10/2018||Map||Data|
|2833200||Bluff Creek||10030045||Bluff Creek ~500 m above Powerline behind Allouez Taconite Fac.||5/12/2009||1/1/2015||Map||Data|
|2833200||Bluff Creek||10031958||Bluff Creek at end of City Limits Road||1/1/2015||7/9/2018||Map||Data|
|2833200||Bluff Creek||10030049||Bluff Creek - Off CTH A upstream of confluence w/ unnamed trib||5/14/2009||1/1/2015||Map||Data|
|2833200||Bluff Creek||163231||Bluff Creek - County Highway C||9/9/1992||10/10/2018||Map||Data|
|2751220||Lake Superior||163419||Superior Harbor - Fraser||Map||Data|
|2833200||Bluff Creek||10015462||Bluff Creek- Upstream Hwy Z- Station #1||5/12/2009||1/1/2015||Map||Data|
Bluff Creek is located in the St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River watershed which is 159.67 mi². Land use in the watershed is primarily wetland (44.10%), forest (32.50%) and a mix of grassland (11.10%) and other uses (12.40%). This watershed has 432.66 stream miles, 8,490.75 lake acres and 26,945.85 wetland acres.
Nonpoint Source Characteristics
This watershed is ranked Not Ranked for runoff impacts on streams, Not Available for runoff impacts on lakes and Low for runoff impacts on groundwater and therefore has an overall rank of Low. 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.