Pecatonica River, Middle Pecatonica River,Jordan and Skinner Creeks,Lower Pecatonica River Watershed (SP02)
Pecatonica River, Middle Pecatonica River,Jordan and Skinner Creeks,Lower Pecatonica River Watershed (SP02)
Pecatonica River (889100)
51.75 Miles
93.05 - 144.80
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, COOL-Warm Mainstem, Large River
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
Impairment Unknown
Total Phosphorus
Green, Lafayette
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.
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.
Aquatic Life
Waters that support fish and aquatic life communities (healthy biological communities).
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 East Branch of the Pecatonica River has its headwaters between Barneveld and Blue Mounds. Both villages discharge wastewater to the East Branch. The river flows thirty two miles down to the town of Blanchardville and is navigable for most of its length. The river has four miles of classified trout waters, but the majority of the river in this watershed is a warm water sport fishery. The gradient is fairly low in comparison to other streams in the area provides holes and areas of deep, slow moving water. Walleye, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and northern pike are found in the river. Walleye stocking appears to have been successful with larger numbers of walleyes being caught by anglers (Sims, pers. comm).

The rapid runoff of precipitation in this predominantly agricultural watershed causes problems with regard to habitat, turbidity, and nutrient load. Woody debris presents a problem to navigation. Additionally, the dam at Blanchardville impedes fish movement upstream.

Date  2006

Author   Aquatic Biologist


Nearly 37 miles of the West Branch of the Pecatonica River is contained in this watershed. The fish manager reports that this portion of the river is degrading, most likely due to manure and runoff from barnyards. Netting surveys conducted in 2001 showed that the upper end does not support walleye, smallmouth bass, or channel catfish even though the habitat is favorable. For more details on the Pecatonica River as a whole, see the focused watershed narrative on page number.

Twenty three miles of the river flows through LOWER PECATONICA RIVER WATERSHED. See the Pecatonica River Mainstem write up for more information.

Date  2001

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

The West Branch of the Pecatonica River is a warmwater seepage stream which, although it does not have the largest base discharge, does have the largest watershed in the county. It begins on the vale of the cuesta (Military Ridge) of the Galena-Black River Uplands and flows southerly into Lafayette County where it joins the East Branch and the Pecatonica River proper is formed. Principal tributaries in Iowa County are Livingston Branch and Williams Creek.

These contribute about 50 percent to its base flow in Iowa County. A stream system which begins in Iowa County but enters in Lafayette County is the Mineral Point Branch which drains about 98 square miles and has a base flow of about 8.7 cfs when it leaves the county. Heavy bank erosion is a common feature throughout its length. This is partly a result of the intensive use of the watershed lands for agricultural purposes. About 94 percent of the land is open land used mainly for crops and pasture. Three possible sources of pollution on the mainstream are the Cobb Sewage Treatment Plant, a cannery and a cheese factory. Their effluent is closely monitored by the Division of Environmental Protection. There is evidence that the canning company has been an intermittent source of pollution and has been the cause of fish mortalities in the past. The principal sport fishery throughout the watershed is smallmouth bass which varies from common to abundant. Channel catfish are also found in the lower sections. Forage fishes are abundant and include the following species; bluntnose, fathead and stoneroller minnows; common, rosyface and bigmouth shiners; hornyhead and creek chubs; hog and white suckers; redbelly dace and johnny darters. Panfish that are known include orange-spotted sunfish, green sunfish and black bullheads. Aquatic game assets include muskrats throughout most of its length and some migratory waterfowl. There are no public lands along its bank but it is accessible from eight road crossings.

West Branch of the Pecatonica River(Caygill) - Mouth location T4N R2E Section 17 -12, Surface area = 28.3 acres, Length = 20.5 miles, Gradient = 14.6 feet per mile, Total alkalinity = 272.0 mg/l, Volume of flow = 9.5 cfs.

From: Piening, Ronald and Threinen, C.W., 1968. Lake and Stream Classification Project. Surface Water Resources of
Iowa County, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  1968

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

The Pecatonica River is formed by the joining of its East and West Branches about two miles east of the town of South Wayne. Although it leaves the county shortly after it comes into existence, it is by far the largest stream in
Lafayette County. It drains about 74.3 percent of the county's total land area, and 49.3 percent of its total watershed area in Wisconsin lies in Lafayette County. Of the Peca:tonica's watershed area within the county, 39.7 percent drains into the East Branch and its balance drains into the West BranCh. The Pecatonica flows through Green County into Illinois and the Rock River, down to the Mississippi. Within Lafayette County, the principal fishery is smallmouth bass, channel and flathead catfish, and walleyes. Farther downstream, in Illinois, there is a small commercial fishery for the latter three species. Northern pike are also present. Game assets include a sizeable muskrat population and large numbers of puddle ducks in the spring and all. The watershed in general also contains upland species common to the county. Public access within the county is provided from unimproved access points on its East and West Branches near the municipality of South Wayne.

Pecatonica River, T1N, R5E, Sections 1-13, Surface acres = 1.5, Miles = 0.2, Gradient = none in county,
Total alkalinity = 274 mg/l, Volume of flow = 695 cfs. (Average for 26 years)

From: Piening, Ronald; Poff, Ronald; Threinen, C.W., 1967. Lake and Stream Classification Project. Surface Water Resources of Lafayette County, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI.

Date  1967

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Pecatonica River, Middle Pecatonica River,Jordan and Skinner Creeks,Lower Pecatonica River Watershed (SP02) Fish and Aquatic LifePecatonica River, Middle Pecatonica River,Jordan and Skinner Creeks,Lower Pecatonica River Watershed (SP02) RecreationPecatonica River, Middle Pecatonica River,Jordan and Skinner Creeks,Lower Pecatonica River Watershed (SP02) Fish Consumption

Impaired Waters

The 2018 assessments of the Pecatonica River showed continued impairment by phosphorus; new total phosphorus sample data 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

Impaired Waters

Pecatonica River (889100) was placed on the impaired waters list in 2014 for total phosphorus. The 2016 assessments showed continued impairment by phosphorus; total phosphorus sample data exceed 2016 WisCALM listing criteria 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). This water was also assessed for chlorides and sample data did not exceed 2016 WisCALM chronic and acute listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use. 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.



Nutrient Strategy Priority
The Driftless Area Land Conservancy will: 1. Work with municipalities and their consultants in a series of meetings to discuss scale and tactics for reducing phosphorus in the Pecatonica River. 2. In consultation with the Wisconsin DNR, county conservation staff in Iowa and Lafayette Counties, natural Resources Conservation Service, TNC, etc., identify 2 to 3 priority areas within the basin that address significant water impairment problems while offering significant aquatic habitat enhancement and cost-effective opportunities for phosphorus reduction. 3. Craft a Delphi Survey instrument targeting landowners within priority sub-watersheds to better understand farmer perspectives on water quality programs and practices and identify potential champions that we can partner with in the future. DALC will submit the draft survey to Jordan Petchenik, Department of Natural Resources Science Services, for approval prior to using survey. Petchenik can be reached at 608-266-8523. 4. Complete a 3-5 year plan for next steps within targeted sub-watersheds. Deliverables: Hold 3-5 meetings with municipalities. Write a summary document for each individual meeting that describes: who participated, the topics discussed, issues and concerns, possible solutions, conclusions and next steps. Identification of 2-3 targeted sub-watersheds within the Pecatonica basin to explore implementation of practices to reduce phosphorus loading and enhance habitat. Conduct a Delphi Survey within these priority watersheds. Provide a report summarizing the results from the Delphi Survey for each watershed. Share the results of the Delphi study with all participants and partners (e.g., landowners, agency staff, nonprofit partners, and municipalities). Provide a 3-5 year planning document focusing on future implementation efforts and share the document with our partners as a means to encourage future action and coordinate next steps.
Rivers Planning Grant
DALC will undertake a River Planning Project to prepare a restoration, maintenance and monitoring plan for the newly acquired Erickson Wetlands and the associated stretch of the Pecatonica River. Project deliverables are as follows: 1.) Gather and review data and documents that are relative to the project area and develop base maps, 2.) Develop a preliminary restoration, maintenance, and monitoring plan framework, guiding principles, goals, and objectives, 3.) Meet with Village of Argyle and partners to present and discuss the components of the preliminary plan, 4.) Prepare draft restoration, maintenance and monitoring plan, including cost projections, present the draft to partners for review and comment, and update the plan based on comments; 5.) Present the draft plan for comment at a public workshop update the plan based on comments, 6.) Completion of final maintenance and monitoring plan, present the plan to the Village, and have all documents, maps, and photos delivered by the contractor in hardcopy and electronic format.
Water Quality Planning
The Driftless Area Land Conservancy will sponsor a project to build organizational capacity to improve and enhance the water quality and aquatic habitat within the Pecatonica River. Project deliverables are as follows: 1.) Complete an organizational assessment by working with a capacity building consultant to develop effective community engagement and outreach strategies, 2.) Develop strategic partnerships with key stakeholders, 3.) Identify and prioritize critical stream segments and/or sub-watersheds to accomplish targeted water quality goals and/or aquatic habitat restoration, 4.)Reach out to willing landowners in targeted areas to seek their interest in floodplain and/or stream restoration protection effort, 5.)Expand student knowledge of the Pecatonica River ecosystem and engage them in projects that can provide data for agency and nonprofit scientists by giving at least three presentations and encouraging science programs to collect and/or expand their water quality monitoring, 6.) Complete a community outreach strategy and action plan for 2013 by November, 2012, 7.)Increase membership by 25% in the final quarter of 2012, 8.) Participate in at least two community events within the basin by June 30, 2013, 9.)Participate in at least four targeted outreach events within the basin such as formal presentations or field trips prior to June 30, 2013.
Watershed Mapping or Assessment
Southwest Badger Resource Conservation & Development Council, Inc. will build local understanding of and support for the restoration, protection and management of grassland habitat in the headwaters of the Sugar and Pecatonica Rivers.
Information and Education
The Gratiot Sportsman's Club will: 1) establish the Pecatonica River Enhancement Council as a nonprofit, Chapter 181 corporation with the state of Wisconsin and achieve 501(c ) (3) status with the IRS, 2) recruit a diverse membership for active participation within the Pecatonica River Enhancement Council, 3) promote river awareness and education through newsletters, brochures, open houses, and field days, and 4) develop a long term strategic plan addressing wetland preservation, watershed land use, riparian zone conditions, water quality, recreational use, and public access.
Restore Wetlands
Restore Wetlands
Water Quality Planning
Pecatonica River Large River Survey
Nine Key Element Plan
Upper West Branch Pecatonica River PWS Plan - Nine Key Element Plan - The purpose of a priority watershed plan is to access the specific causes and critical sources of the water quality problems and identify the most practicable means of abating those pollution problems.
Monitor or Assess Watershed Condition
Conduct a comprehensive review of waters in watershed to update the watershed plan, stream narratives (if possible) and to gather background information on Silver Spring as a "pre-Phosphorus index"  project look-see.

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

Pecatonica River is located in the Jordan and Skinner Creeks watershed which is 94.06 mi². Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural (41.80%), grassland (41.30%) and a mix of forest (11.80%) and other uses (5.20%). This watershed has 234.78 stream miles, 48.73 lake acres and 1,559.08 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Not Ranked for runoff impacts on streams, Not Ranked 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.This water is ranked Medium Stream for individual Rivers based on runoff problems and the likelihood of success from project implementation.

Natural Community

Pecatonica River is considered a Warm Mainstem, COOL-Warm Mainstem, Large River 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 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.