Newton Creek, St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River Watershed (LS01)
Newton Creek, St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River Watershed (LS01)
Newton Creek (2843650)
1.76 Miles
0 - 1.76
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, 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.
This river is impaired
Degraded Biological Community, Chronic Aquatic Toxicity
Unspecified Metals, PAHs, Foam/Flocs/Scum/Oil Slicks, Unknown Pollutant
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.
Restricted Aquatic Life
Fish and Aquatic Life communities are not fully supported in this ecosystem.
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.
Streams capable of supporting small populations of forage fish or tolerant macro-invertebrates that are tolerant of organic pollution. Typically limited due to naturally poor water quality or habitat deficiencies. Representative aquatic life communities associated with these waters generally require warm temperatures and concentrations of dissolved oxygen that remain above 3 mg/L.


This is a heavily polluted stream recommended for classification as a limited forage fishery, even though it currently contains limited aquatic life due to severe pollution. It drains a large wetland area just west of the Murphy Oil refinery in the city of Superior. Murphy Oil discharges to Newton Creek at T49N R14W S25 SWSE. This streams flows north through a city park before emptying into a wetland and shallow water area, Hog Island Inlet, which empties into Superior Bay in the Duluth-Superior Harbor. While the headwater wetlands contribute to the stream's baseflow, the majority of the stream's flow arises in the refinery's lagoons. Fish and other higher aquatic life forms are unable to survive in this stream. Bioassays have shown that Newton Creek water and the area around the creek mouth at Hog Island Inlet demonstrate acute and chronic toxicity in test organisms. Present are petroleum byproducts, metals and other substances. Water quality data collected by WDNR indicated that some reaches of the stream have levels of dissolved oxygen below the 5 milligram per liter necessary for growth and activity of fish, at times ranging below levels that would stress most aquatic organisms.

Phosphorus concentrations range as high as 300 parts per billion. Levels of more than 30 ppb are thought to increase plant growth. Total phosphorus levels in Hog Island Inlet were measured with values that would indicate eutrophic waters, higher than 100 ppb in several samples. In 1993 and 1994, WDNR conducted a characterization study of contamination in the sediments of the Newton Creek system, which encompasses the 1.5-acre impoundment at its headwaters, the stream and flood plain and 15-acre Hog Island Inlet of Superior Bay. Study of the system prior to 1993 indicated contaminants at levels harmful to aquatic life and raised concerns that contamination from Newton Creek reaches Superior Bay and Lake Superior. The characterization study has concluded that ecological impacts in most reaches of Newton Creek Impoundment and the creek are severe, based on observed impairment to the aquatic community, measured toxicity and high concentrations of diesel range organics and lead. Severe ecological impacts also appear to occur in the sediment community of the western and central portions of Hog Island Inlet.

Sediment analysis turned up varying levels of toxicity throughout the inlet. The wetland isthmus between Hog Island Inlet and Superior Bay showed significant impairment to the sediment-dwelling community. The study concluded the wetland area may be suffering some ill effects from Newton Creek contamination, but not at severe levels. In Superior Bay, significant, but not severe sediment toxicity was observed at one station, but no effects at another. There did not appear to be any observed effect on the sediment-dwelling aquatic community. The study recommends three portions of the Newton Creek System be considered for remediation: The entire area of the impoundment including about 1,600 cubic yards of soft sediments. The entire length of the creek from 21st Street to 6th Street, except for one upstream reach, and the length from U.S. Highway 2-53 to Hog Island Inlet. The volume of stream sediments and floodplain soils that should be considered for remediation in this stretch include 2,300 cubic yards of material along 5,600 linear feet of stream. The western one-third of Hog Island Inlet, comprising 34,200 square yards and representing an estimated sediment volume of 16,000 cubic yards. Pollutants of concern in the Newton Creek System include hydrocarbons, metals and ammonia. Diesel range organics concentrations exceed 10,000 micrograms per gram at several locations in the impoundment, with the creek and inlet exhibiting lower, but still high maximum concentrations. Maximum background concentrations in reference creeks and inlets in the area ranged between 13 and 340 micrograms per gram.

Date  1999

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Enrichment with oil and grease in the system corresponds with the distribution and concentration of diesel range organics. Generally, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) levels have not exceeded upperbound estimates from the reference sites. A few locations do, however, appear to be enriched. Lead, chromium and mercury levels are also elevated in the Newton Creek System. Concentrations of ammonia-nitrogen in the sediments were also elevated.

The wetland complex of Hog Island Inlet off the mouth of Newton Creek is presently used by waterfowl. The site could provide important shallow water and wetland habitat if remediated. The Lake Superior Binational Program has identified this inlet as important to the integrity of the Lake Superior ecosystem for coastal wetlands.

As part of RAP projects to assess the impact of contaminated sediments on the ecosystem, staff evaluated whether tree swallows that feed from insects emerging from the waters of Hog Island Inlet are accumulating contaminants. The study has shown that the hatching success in the Newton Creek watershed is significantly lower than at a control site, and evidence of petroleum hydrocarbons was detected in the livers and digestive tracts of young birds. The study will continue, using liver enzyme assays as a measure of exposure during remediation (Patnode).

In August 1997, Murphy Oil began cleanup of the impoundment off of Stinson Avenue and a 780-foot stretch of Newton Creek near its headwaters under a memorandum of understanding with the department. The project involved the removal of 4,100 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the impoundment, and 100 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the reach of the creek. The contaminated sediment was combined with cement to bind it and disposed of on Murphy Oil's property in two existing wastewater lagoons that were converted into a disposal site.

Newton Creek has also been affected by a former municipal combined sewer overflow and other possible sources have affected Hog Island Inlet (Walz). A five-year study of the creek is ongoing as part of the memorandum of understanding with Murphy Oil (Liebenstein). WDNR is now working with the city of Superior to cooperatively clean up other stretches of the stream and inlet (Berg 1998, Liebenstein).

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

Date  1999

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Newton Creek, St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River Watershed (LS01) Fish and Aquatic LifeNewton Creek, St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River Watershed (LS01) RecreationNewton Creek, St. Louis and Lower Nemadji River Watershed (LS01) Fish Consumption

Impaired Waters

The 2018 assessments of Newton Creek showed impairment by phosphorus; new total phosphorus sample data exceeded 2018 WisCALM listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use and biological impairment was observed (i.e. at least one macroinvertebrate and fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scored in the "poor" condition category). Based on the most updated information, no change in the existing impaired waters listing was needed.

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.



Monitor Water Quality or Sediment
Category 5A with additional 5A for biology. 2018 TP Results: May Exceed. Station: 163325. AU: 305141.
Monitor AOC Beneficial Use Impairments
Newton Creek. This project involves evaluating 303d waters including Newton Creek and Hog Island Inlet which is required for proposing removal of waters from the state's impaired waters list.
Monitor EPA SP12 (Measure W)
Recommend continued special project for biological monitoring of the invertebrate and fish community (HBIs and FBIs). This work is ongoing as part of a 3-year project (2008-2010) to assess the biological recovery of Newton Creek after clean up and restoration efforts, to determine whether it can be delisted. Recommend sediment monitoring for previous contaminants also.

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

Newton 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

Newton Creek is considered a Macroinvertebrate, Warm Headwater 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.

Warm Headwaters are small, usually intermittent streams with warm summer temperatures. Coldwater fishes are absent, transitional fishes are common to uncommon, and warm water fishes are abundant to common. Headwater species are abundant to common, mainstem species are common to absent, and river species are absent.

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