Black River, Black and Upper Nemadji River Watershed (LS02)
Black River, Black and Upper Nemadji River Watershed (LS02)
Black River (2836900)
4.23 Miles
31.11 - 35.34
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-Warm 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.
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 20-mile upper reach from just north of its headwaters in Black Lake on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border down to Interfalls Lake in Pattison State Park is classified as a Class III trout stream with numerous brook trout and a brown trout presence. The upper reaches of the river flow through relatively flat plain of clay and glacial stream deposits with numerous wetlands that stain the river dark before it passes over Little Manitou Falls, a 30-foot escarpment to Interfalls Lake. Downstream of the lake, the river plunges over the Superior Escarpment at Big Manitou Falls. At 165 feet, this is the highest waterfall in the state and ends the trout portion of the river. Downstream of the falls, a few game fish are found as the river continues until it empties into the Nemadji. Burbot run up the river in winter to spawn. Stream bottom types range from sand and muck in the upper reaches, gravel and boulders in the middle reaches and silt and clay below the falls.

Pattison State Park discharges treated wastewater from an outfall at T47N R14W S21 NESE, which then flows to the Black River. This tributary has been proposed for classification as supporting limited aquatic life, to be listed in the update of NR104.

During survey work conducted as part of the coastal wetlands evaluation, two rare species of macroinvertebrate were found in the river and the overall taxa richness was high (25 or more species). The survey identified impoundment and low flows as factors potentially affecting water quality. Significant filamentous algae, and to a lesser extent slime and aquatic plants were present. (Epstein 1997).

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

Date  1999

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Black River, Black and Upper Nemadji River Watershed (LS02) Fish and Aquatic LifeBlack River, Black and Upper Nemadji River Watershed (LS02) RecreationBlack River, Black and Upper Nemadji River Watershed (LS02) Fish Consumption


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 Watershed Area (TWA)
The Black River and Little Black River in Douglas County will be monitored to further document their high quality. The watershed is 94.4% undeveloped. Pattison State Park and Pattison Falls, Wisconsin's highest waterfall are located on the river. Three sites on the Black River and one site on the Little Black River have excellent IBI's for both fish and macroinvertebrate communities. They appear to be excellent candidates for applying the proposed protection tier for tiered aquatic life uses (TALU). HUC12s include 040103010302, 040103010303, 040103010304.
Nine Key Element Plan
Lower Black River PWS Plan - Nine Key Element Plan - The Lower Black River Priority Watershed Project plan assesses the nonpoint sources of pollution in the Lower Black River Watershed and guides the implementation of nonpoint source control measures. These control measures are needed to meet specific water resource objectives for Lower Black River and its tributaries. The purpose of this project is to reduce the amount of pollutants originating from nonpoint sources that reach surface water and groundwater within the Lower Black River Priority Watershed Project area.

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

Black River is located in the Black and Upper Nemadji River watershed which is 125.62 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily forest (62%), wetland (30.30%) and a mix of grassland (6.10%) and other uses (1.60%). This watershed has 254.49 stream miles, 219.11 lake acres and 19,504.82 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

Black River is considered a Cool-Warm 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 (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.