Rock River, West Branch, Upper Rock River Watershed (UR12)
Rock River, West Branch, Upper Rock River Watershed (UR12)
Rock River, West Branch (861300)
37.63 Miles
50 - 87.63
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.
Warm Mainstem, Macroinvertebrate, Warm Headwater, COOL-Warm Mainstem, 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
Elevated Water Temperature, Degraded Habitat
Total Phosphorus, Sediment/Total Suspended Solids, Unknown Pollutant
Dodge, Fond Du Lac
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 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.


The West Branch of the Rock River has its headwaters east of the Village of Brandon. It flows east and then south through mainly agricultural land. This area contains many drained wetlands, so there is likely a relatively high input of groundwater from drain tile. This river is only partially supporting its potential as a warmwater sport fishery. Observations and monitoring of the river reveal extensive sedimentation (WDNR, 1994). The West Branch is the principle source of runoff, nutrient and sediment loading to the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge (Rock River Partnership Monitoring Study, 1999). Baseline monitoring was conducted in 2000. Initial evaluation indicates the river is in fair condition.

Date  2002

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Rock River, West Branch, Upper Rock River Watershed (UR12) Fish and Aquatic LifeRock River, West Branch, Upper Rock River Watershed (UR12) RecreationRock River, West Branch, Upper Rock River Watershed (UR12) Fish Consumption

General Condition

Willow and Ladoga Creeks flow into the river from the west as the river flows south. There are no Surface Water Integrated Monitoring System (SWIMS) monitoring stations in this stretch; therefore, there is no water quality data available until the river intersects Highway 151 in the Town of Waupun (T-14-N; R-15-E, Sect 24, SWIMS station # 143258). Data from this station is limited legacy data from the winter of 1975-76. The next SWIMS station is approximately 500 feet south on Guenther Road (SWIMS station # 203105). There is an extensive amount of water quality data for this station dating from late 1997-2000.

The next SWIMS station is approximately two miles downstream at Oak Center Road. SWIMS lists four stations for this crossing. Two of the stations ( 203126 and 100000) have no data available in SWIMS. Station # 203129 has very limited water quality data but two Hilsenhoff Biotic Index (HBI) surveys have been conducted showing a HBI of 6.56 (fairly poor) in 2000 and 5.54 (fair) in 2008. In 2000, fish and habitat surveys were conducted at Oak Center Road (station 10008399) showing an Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) of 15 (very poor) and a Qualitative Habitat Rating of 40 (fair). The next monitoring downstream is approximately 1 mile southof the junction with the South Branch Rock River. The entire west Branch Rock River has been listed as an impaired water due to sedimentation, habitat degradation and excessive nutrients. Although the river has never been formally classified, it is a default warm water sport fishery, which would likely be the correct classification.

Date  2011

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Impaired Waters

The 2018 assessments of the West Branch Rock River (miles 50-87.63) showed impairment by phosphorus and temperature; new total phosphorus sample data overwhelmingly exceeded and new temperature sample 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, 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
Would like more than 3 months of data on this site to list for TEMP. Possible to get one more field season for additional [data]. AU: 11566; ID: 10044757
Navigability Determination
14N 15E S34; West Branch Rock River; extension of previous determination
Navigability Determination
T15N R14E ; West Branch Rock River;
Monitor Targeted Area
Work with the US Fish and Wildlife to assess the impacts of poor water quality on the Horicon marsh system.

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

West Branch Rock River is located in the Upper Rock River watershed which is 257.61 miĀ². Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural (54.60%), wetland (24.60%) and a mix of grassland (11.90%) and other uses (8.80%). This watershed has 335.43 stream miles, 1,629.48 lake acres and 40,442.61 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Medium for runoff impacts on streams, High 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

Rock River, West Branch is considered a Warm Mainstem, Macroinvertebrate, Warm Headwater, COOL-Warm Mainstem, 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.

Warm Mainstem waters are moderate-to-large but still wadeable perennial streams with relatively warm summer temperatures. Coldwater fishes are absent, transitional fishes are common to uncommon, and warm water fishes are abundant to common. Headwater species are common to absent, mainstem species are abundant to common, and river species are common to absent.

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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