South Branch Rock River, Upper Rock River Watershed (UR12)
South Branch Rock River, Upper Rock River Watershed (UR12)
Rock River, South Branch (869800)
3.58 Miles
0 - 3.58
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 Mainstem
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
Low DO, Degraded Habitat
Total Phosphorus, Sediment/Total Suspended Solids
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.
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.
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.


This river flows east for 17 miles through Dodge county and joins with the West Branch of the Rock River just southeast of Waupun before where it enters Horicon Marsh. The lower 3 miles of this stream have been classified as WWSF and monitoring confirms this portion of the river does support a sportfish community. Although the river has not been formally classified except for the lower 3 miles, sampling upstream indicates that water quality conditions support mainly tolerant forage fish (WDNR, 1994). Factors which limit this stream form reaching full potential are cropland erosion, wetland loss, streambank and riparian zone erosion and livestock access to streambanks.

Waupun is the largest city in the watershed with a 2000 population of just over 9,000. The city operates an activated sludge wastewater treatment plant that discharges to the West Branch Rock River. The plant had problems with sewage bypassing in 1999. The wastewater treatment plant has been assessing the possibility of “nutrient trading” in lieu of a meeting the 1 ppm phosphorous limit at the POTW now required under state regulations.

In 2001, the City of Waupun requested Nonpoint Source Program grant funding to develop a Stormwater Management Plan. Growth of Waupun's industrial park has been blamed for increased storm water flow originating from the city and flowing onto adjacent farm fields. The storm water runoff problems in the area are being looked at by the City and the adjacent townships. In 2001, the city along with the area townships and the Rock River Headwaters, Inc. hosted a “Community Supper” to begin developing a strategy for managing the area’s stormwater runoff. Storm water flow from municipalities is being experienced by down gradient landowners in the Basin, both near large and smaller urbanizing areas.

Date  2002

Author   Aquatic Biologist

South Branch Rock River, Upper Rock River Watershed (UR12) Fish and Aquatic LifeSouth Branch Rock River, Upper Rock River Watershed (UR12) RecreationSouth Branch Rock River, Upper Rock River Watershed (UR12) 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.



Navigability Determination
T15N R14E ; South Branch Rock River;
Navigability Determination
14N 15E S32,33,3; South Branch Rock River; extension of previous determination
Navigability Determination
14N 15E S31; Rock River, unnamed trib to S. bran; inspection may not have been conducted - 7m creek
Dam Safety or Removal
WM staff should evaluate the feasibility of removing the Waupun Millpond dam.
WM staff, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), should identify and implement feasible strategies for acquiring or otherwise protecting critical wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas, including conservation buffers on streams surrounding Horicon Marsh.
Protect Riparian or Shorelands
WM staff should restrict future channelization of streams in the Upper Rock River Watershed to reduce sediment and nutrient loading to Horicon Marsh.
TMDL Implementation
Continue work on the Rock River Recovery TMDL Implementation Plan to restore the Upper Rock portions of this impaired basin.
WM should work with county LCD, lake organizations, and conservation organizations to promote and install conservation buffers along all intermittent and perennial streams, wetlands, ponds, and lakes through easements, land acquisitions, and voluntary land owner cooperation.
Restore Wetlands
WM staff should work with public and private partnerships to install and restore wetlands in the watershed for water quality enhancement and to provide flood storage capacity in the watershed.
Dam Safety or Removal
WM staff should, as opportunities arise, work with partners to assist in abandoning and removing dams and restoring the in-stream and near-shore areas as dams are removed.
Aquatic Plant Management Project
WM staff should encourage the use of milfoil weevils and limited use of selective herbicides to control the propagation and spread of Eurasian water milfoil.
Protect Riparian or Shorelands
WM staff should work with local partners to discourage landowners from removing all shoreline vegetation, with the exception of viewing/access areas.
Natural Areas Protection
WM staff should encourage governments, non-profit conservation organizations and landowners to protect the remaining high quality natural areas in the watershed.
Action Migrated from WATERS
Forestry Management (FM) staff should work with local partners to encourage the use of good forest stewardship to maintain healthy forests to help minimize the effects of high populations of insects.
Habitat Restoration - Upland
FM staff should encourage the planting of permanent cover (like trees, shrubs, and grasses) on erodable lands.
Runoff Evaluation
Watershed Management (WM) staff should assess the effect of polluted runoff on the West Branch of the Rock River, the South Branch of the Rock River and their tributaries.
Information and Education
Watershed Management (WM) staff should encourage Dodge and Fond Du Lac counties to more aggressively enforce and educate residents concerning shoreland/wetland protection zoning ordinances.
The City of Waupun should consider acquisition of river corridor lands in the watershed using the state Urban Rivers and/or Streambank Protection funds under the state's Stewardship Program.
Stormwater Planning, Implementation
The City of Waupun should continue to implement the stormwater management plan that was developed to improve urban runoff. This should be done to improve water quality and reduce runoff quantity.
Rivers Management Grant
WM staff should work with the villages and cities in the watershed to apply for funding through the TRM or Urban Nonpoint Pollution grant programs to develop stormwater management plans and install practices that control urban stormwater impacts.

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

South 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, South Branch is considered a Cool-Warm Mainstem 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.

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