Bear Creek, St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River Watershed (LS01)
Bear Creek, St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River Watershed (LS01)
Bear Creek (2834600)
10.95 Miles
0 - 10.95
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
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.
Streams capable of supporting a warm waterdependent forage 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.
Streams capable of supporting a warm waterdependent forage 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.


This stream is a small and at least partly intermittent drainage feeder to Allouez Bay of the St. Louis River and has variable and seasonal flows. It was classified as a limited forage fishery. It previously received treated effluent from the Douglas County Hospital. This discharge no longer occurs and through the revision process of the NR104 listing of variance waters will be removed from the list of waters not expected to achieve standards for fishable, swimmable waters. Until otherwise formally classified, this stream should be assumed to meet fish and aquatic life uses. Bear Creek receives a discharge fro the Chicago and Northwestern Transport Co. Itasca Yard, via a drainage ditch. The mouth of Bear Creek is an important spawning area for northern pike and many other warm water species (Pratt 1996).

Descripton partially from: Turville-Heitz, Meg. 1999. Lake Superior Basin Water Quality Management Plan. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  1999

Author  Cordell Manz

Bear Creek, St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River Watershed (LS01) Fish and Aquatic LifeBear Creek, St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River Watershed (LS01) RecreationBear Creek, St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River Watershed (LS01) Fish Consumption

General Condition

Bear Creek is a small tributary to Allouez Bay of Lake Superior (or St. Louis River). Located on the southeast side of Superior, it has variable and seasonal flow levels, with its upper reaches being potentially intermittent at times. It had previously been classified as a limited forage fishery (LFF); however, the mouth of Bear Creek is an important spawning area for northern pike and many other warm water species (Pratt 1996), so a more appropriate classification of Bear Creek from its mouth upstream to U.S. Hwy 2/53 (river mile 1.3) would be as a warmwater sport fishery (WWSF). From U.S. Hwy 2/53 upstream, its current and attainable use would be most appropriately classified as a warmwater forage fish (WWFF) community. An unnamed tributary (WBIC 2834800) to Bear Creek that enters from the west side downstream of County Hwy Z would most appropriately be classified a LFF.

Preliminary results from 303d assessment in the Bear Creek watershed in 2009 suggest it could be impaired for degraded habitat as well as high turbidity. HBI ratings from invertebrate sampling in 2009 resulted in fair to fairly poor HBI scores (n = 3; range = 6.1 to 6.8). Limited water chemistry (sampling also resulted in high phosphorous levels that exceeded 0.10 mg/l (n = 5; range = 0.13 to 0.16 mg/l; mean = 0.14 mg/l). Future monitoring should be a priority. Bear Creek does receive a discharge from the Chicago and Northwestern Transport Co. Itasca Yard via a drainage ditch (Lake Superior Basin Water Quality Management Plan, WDNR, 1999).

Date  2010

Author  Cordell Manz

Impaired Waters

The 2018 assessments of Bear 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.

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.



Restore Wetlands
Restore Wetlands
Restore Wetlands
Restore Wetlands
Monitor Targeted Area
Further monitoring is recommended to conclusively determine the status of Bear Creek with regard to whether it is meeting appropriate fish and aquatic life uses, and whether Bear Creek should be included on the 303(d) list. Monitoring is currently planned for 2010-11 with sampling efforts to include monitoring for potential habitat and turbidity (sedimentation/TSS) impairments, and also phosphorus levels.

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

Bear Creek is located in the St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River watershed which is 159.67 miĀ². 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.

Natural Community

Bear Creek is considered a Macroinvertebrate, Cool-Cold Headwater 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) 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.