Bull Branch, Galena River Watershed (GP01)
Bull Branch, Galena River Watershed (GP01)
Bull Branch (936400)
3.75 Miles
0 - 3.75
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
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 Habitat, Chronic Aquatic Toxicity
Zinc, Sediment/Total Suspended Solids
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.
Default FAL
Fish and Aquatic Life - Default Waters do not have a specific use designation subcategory but are considered fishable, swimmable waters.


Bull Branch is a 3 mile long tributary to the Galena River. It derives much of its flow from mine discharges in the area. The stream is listed as an Impaired Water [on the 303(d) list] due to sedimentation caused by nonpoint source pollution. While this may have been a cause for impairment in the past, current data (2010) and an observation of land use practices suggest that the stream impairment may now be more related to high concentrations of heavy metals that are leaching from the historic mining in this area. Water chemistry data shows zinc concentrations near levels shown to cause toxicity in aquatic organisms. Bioassays show the waters of Bull Branch to inhibit growth and reproduction of test organisms at the base of the food chain.

Bull Branch may be able to sustain some level of cold water fishery if water quality is improved and physical impairments (perched culverts) are removed. However, the same groundwater that lends itself as a source of cool water to the system also contains the metals that limit its use.

While physical factors such as sedimentation and hydrologic modification are keeping certain fish species from inhabiting the stream, alleviating these issues is of questionable value until the metal toxicity can be mitigated. The description of Bull Branch on Wisconsin’s Impaired Waters list should be modified to include aquatic toxicity caused by heavy metals and hydrologic modification due to perched culverts on the stream, as major impairments.

Date  2010

Author  James Amrhein


Bull Branch is a tributary to the Galena River in the southwest corner of Lafayette County. The stream is on the state’s official impaired waters (303d) list and is not supporting its full biological potential use most likely due to non-point pollution. In 1995 and 1996, the macroinvertebrate community of Bull Branch was sampled. Although the HBI indicated good water quality in the stream, there were very few mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies present. Nearly 70% of the sampled macroinvertebrates were midges, which indicates ecological disturbance and most likely high non-point pollution from agricultural sources (Gamman, 1983, Marshall, 1999). Additional monitoring on the stream could help to better characterize the problems.

Date  2001

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Bull Branch receives a major portion of its flow volume from two mines located in its immediate drainage area. It is a very swift stream as one would expect upon noting its gradient. Although its temperature might suggest suitability for trout, only forage fishes are present. The bottom type is mostly gravel. Most of the land in the watershed is devoted to agricultural pursuits. Habitat for waterfowl and furbearers are limited. Public land is lacking but access to toe stream is possible from three town road crossings which is considered adequate for the resource at this time.

Bull Branch, T1N, R1E, Sections 32-14, Surface acres = 0.6, Miles = 0.6, Gradient =62.0 feet per mile, Total alkalinity = 334 mg/l, Volume of flow= 4.2cfs.

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

Bull Branch, Galena River Watershed (GP01) Fish and Aquatic LifeBull Branch, Galena River Watershed (GP01) RecreationBull Branch, Galena River Watershed (GP01) Fish Consumption

General Condition

Based on our 2014 TP assessments, we do not have TP data for this stream in SWIMS. Recommend adding the following impairment source category to the existing degraded habitat impairment listing (this is the closest match I can find in the drop-down menu): �hydrostructure impacts on fish passage�

Date  2014

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 Fish Community
AU 13836, poor fIBI, Station 10030382
Monitor Fish Community
The DNR should monitor the following streams to track the status of state endangered and threatened species and state species of concern: Bull Branch.

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

Bull Br is located in the Galena River watershed which is 241.84 mi². Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural (63.10%), grassland (26.40%) and a mix of forest (5.70%) and other uses (4.60%). This watershed has 572.33 stream miles, 65.18 lake acres and 681.01 wetland acres.

Nonpoint Source Characteristics

This watershed is ranked Not Ranked for runoff impacts on streams, Not Available 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

Bull Branch is considered a Cool-Cold 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 (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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