Sauk Creek, Sauk and Sucker Creeks Watershed (SH01)
Sauk Creek, Sauk and Sucker Creeks Watershed (SH01)
Sauk Creek (49500)
15.90 Miles
0 - 15.90
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-Cold Headwater, 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.
This river is impaired
High Phosphorus Levels
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.
Supported Aquatic Life
Waters that support fish and aquatic life communities (healthy biological communities).
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 sport 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.


Sauk Creek is the major waterway in this watershed and Ozaukee County. The stream flows south and enters Lake Michigan in Port Washington. Sauk Creek originates within Ozaukee County just north of Fredonia at T12N R21E Sec. 26, just west of STH 57. The convergence of three unofficially named branches, hereby named for descriptive purposes as; Ludowissi Lake Branch, Hickory Grove Branch, and Holy Cross Branch, make up the headwaters of Sauk Creek. The Ludowissi Lake Branch of Sauk Creek originates from Ludowissi Lake (T12N R21E Sec. 1) and flows southerly 5.9 stream miles to the main branch of Sauk Creek at T12N R22E Sec. 20. The Hickory Grove Branch of Sauk Creek originates north of Hickory Grove Road at T12N R21E Sec. 12 and flows southerly 2.3 stream miles to a confluence with the main branch of Sauk Creek at T12N R22E Sec. 19. The Holy Cross Branch of Sauk Creek originates south of Holy Cross at T11N R22E Sec. 6 and flows north 3.6 miles to a confluence with Sauk Creek at T12N R22E Sec. 20. All three headwater branches are confluent with the main branch of Sauk Creek within a 1.5 mile reach just south of CTH D near CTH B.

Sauk Creek is classified as a Warm Water Sport Fish communities stream. A review of all historical fish surveys identifies 26 species in Sauk Creek (Fago 1986). Trout and salmon from Lake Michigan are also found in the stream during their seasonal spawning runs. The endangered striped shiner (Notropis chrysocephalus), had been historically found here.

Date  2001

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Sauk Creek is a shallow, low gradient stream flowing south and entering Lake Michigan at Port Washington. Fishery value is negligible and suckers and various forage minnows are the only species present. The stream may have supported a smelt fishery at times, however, this is not documented. The bottom is predominantly gravel with some sand. No dams are present. Public access is limited to town, county and state road crossings. Several drainage ditches enter the stream in the upper regions.

Sauk Creek T11N, R22E, Section 28, Surface Acres = 34.66, Length = 13.0 miles, Gradient = 16.19 feet per mile.
From: Poff, Ronald J., Gernay, Ronald, and Threinen, C.W., 1964. Surface Water Resources of Ozaukee County: Lake and Stream Classification Project. Wisconsin Conservation Department, Madison, WI.

Date  1964

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Sauk Creek, Sauk and Sucker Creeks Watershed (SH01) Fish and Aquatic LifeSauk Creek, Sauk and Sucker Creeks Watershed (SH01) RecreationSauk Creek, Sauk and Sucker Creeks Watershed (SH01) Fish Consumption

General Condition

Fish Community, Habitat, and Water Quality
During 1994 and 1997, fish and macroinvertebrate surveys, habitat assessments and water quality collections were collected in Sauk Creek. These data were reported in the 1999 Sheboygan River Basin State of the Environment Report (WDNR 1999). During 1999 the fish and habitat assessments were focused on the four branches of the stream that make up the headwaters of Sauk Creek.

The macroinvertebrate community is comprised of taxa mainly tolerant to very tolerant of poor water quality. Poor habitat, caused by high turbidity, low flow and excessive sedimentation of course substrate, limits the macroinvertebrate community. Over the last twenty years, Sauk Creek in Port Washington has become very wide and shallow. Fish habitat, water quality and stability of the stream banks have been significantly altered by urbanization in the area. During periods of low water, many sections are difficult for trout and salmon to navigate. During 1994 and 1995 a plan was put in place by WDNR, local sports clubs, city government and other entities to improve fish habitat, water quality and stabilize stream banks so that salmonids could be stocked in the stream (Eggold 1998). The main project objectives were 1) increase the carrying capacity of Sauk Creek; 2) improve the return of salmonids to Sauk Creek through improved imprinting of smolts at time of stocking; 3) improve water quality; and 4) increase fishing opportunities in Ozaukee County.

Sediment Quality
Sediment samples were collected in 1994 at three sites in Sauk Creek to obtain baseline sediment quality data for Sauk Creek and to assess the potential sediment quality impacts from the fly ash landfill adjacent Sauk Creek near Druecker's Quarry. The results for total PCBs for all sites came back less than detect at <0.05 ug/g. The heavy metals selenium, boron, and cadmium were higher in Sauk Creek near the former fly ash landfill. The levels are relatively low and not perceived to be at levels of concern based on the toxicity information that we have for these constituents at this time. Consequently, Sauk Creek adjacent the Druecker's Quarry does not require specific management activities (WDNR 1999).

Date  2001

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Impaired Waters

Sauk Creek (49500) was listed for total phosphorus in 2012. This water was assessed during the 2016 listing cycle; total phosphorus sample data overwhelmingly exceed 2016 WisCALM listing thresholds 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, no change in existing impaired waters listing is needed.

Date  2015

Author  Aaron Larson


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
Water quality biologists should complete stream monitoring special project and assessments for Sucker Creek and Sauk Creek.
Restore Riparian Habitat
The City of Port Washington proposes to improve the stream habitat and fish passage at the mouth of Sauk Creek and Mineral Springs Creek. This phase of the project would include the planning and design work to remove a concrete weir and nearby seawalls on the south side of Sauk Creek and the smaller tributary. The project area is the lower 435 feet of Sauk Creek and the lower 120 feet of Mineral Springs Creek. Details include developing a preliminary grading plan that identifies feasible utility routes and identifies design challenges relative to planned creek improvements, completing feasibility study of weir removal, including final design plans, and providing preliminary design plans for stream restoration. Deliverables will include a preliminary grading plan of the south bank of Sauk Creek, feasibility study and final design plans for weir removal and preliminary design plans (60% completion) for stream restoration.
Restore Wetlands
Restore Wetlands in the Sauk Creek Watershed.
Monitor Targeted Watershed Area (TWA)
Conduct HUC 12 level monitoring on Sauk Creek and unnamed tributaries in Ozaukee County. [40301011204]
Runoff Grant
Minimize polluted runoff from agricultural areas in the Sauk and Sucker Creeks Watershed. Because funding for farm conservation practices is limited, these resources should be directed to the highest priority runoff areas first. Goals should include reducing soil erosion, controlling animal waste runoff, and meeting nutrient management requirements.
Restore Riparian Habitat
Fisheries and water quality staff should continue to work with external partners on habitat improvement projects on Sauk Creek.
Restore Wetlands
Restore and manage key wetlands, woodlands, and shorelands in the Sauk and Sucker Creeks Watershed
Best Management Practices, Implement
DNR should continue to work with partners to gather ambient data on sediment, biology and phosphorus to monitor the effectiveness of best management practices as they are implemented throughout the watershed for the restoration of Sauk Creek (49500).
Monitor Invasive Species
Facilitate and provide incentives for increased management by private landowners, organizations, businesses, municipalities and agencies to monitor and control the invasion by non-native species in the Sauk and Sucker Creeks Watershed.
Ordinance Development or Implementation
The City of Port Washington and the county should continue implementation of its stormwater program and provide updates on key milestones and performance goals if that data is available. 14
Ordinance Development or Implementation
The Department should work with local entities to inventory and improve construction site erosion and stormwater management ordinances that minimize runoff from agricultural and developed areas.
Protect Riparian or Shorelands
The Sheboygan River Basin staff supports and should assist Ozaukee County Land Conservation Department in obtaining stream bank buffers along all of the streams in the county.
Monitor Watershed (Status,Sources,Impairments)
Water quality biologists should continue working with the communities, Ozaukee Land Conservation Department, agricultural community and others to improve the water quality by decreasing sediment runoff, nutrient loads, and stormwater runoff to Sauk & Sucker Creeks.
Information and Education
Increase awareness, understanding and participation in watershed stewardship in the Sauk and Sucker Creeks Watershed.
Ordinance Development or Implementation
Ozaukee County should continue effective implementation of its stormwater program.
Fish Management, Access
Improve fish passage in the Sauk and Sucker Creeks Watershed.
Map Invasive Species
Determine the extent and distribution of invasive plant species in the Sauk and Sucker Creeks Watershed.
Permit Compliance Inventory
Review wastewater and stormwater discharges in the Sauk and Sucker Creeks Watershed for compliance.
Stormwater Planning, Implementation
The Department should assist and encourage the City of Port Washington to adopt a stormwater management ordinance for water quantity and quality including a snow disposal policy.
Monitor Targeted Area
Water quality biologists should conduct stream assessments on all of the tributaries to Sucker Creek and Sauk Creek.
Monitor Targeted Area
The water quality biologists should conduct stream assessments on the tributaries to Lake Michigan within the Sauk & Sucker Creeks Watershed.
Runoff Grant
Sauk and Sucker Creeks Watershed should continue to be considered as a high priority for selection of nonpoint source management projects and funding.
Monitor Watershed (Status,Sources,Impairments)
Water quality biologists should continue to assist Ozaukee County in identifying drain tile connections from septic systems and milk-house wastes to surface waters in the Sauk and Sucker Creeks Watershed and facilitate the corrections.
Engage Volunteers in Monitoring/Restoration
Water quality biologists should work with the local schools and interest groups to establish volunteer monitoring in the Sauk and Sucker Creeks Watershed.

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

Sauk Creek is located in the Sauk and Sucker Creeks watershed which is 58.43 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural (60.90%), grassland (17.50%) and a mix of suburban (6.80%) and other uses (14.80%). This watershed has 83.35 stream miles, 8,362.44 lake acres and 1,578.16 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

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

Sauk Creek is considered a Cool-Cold Headwater, Cool-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.

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.

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.

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