Shullburg Creek, Galena River Watershed (GP01)
Shullburg Creek, Galena River Watershed (GP01)
Shullburg Creek (937000)
13.58 Miles
0 - 13.58
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-Cold Mainstem, Cool-Cold Headwater, 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.
Suspected Poor
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.
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.


Shullsburg Branch is a tributary to the Galena River west of the Village of Shullsburg in Lafayette County and is managed as a smallmouth bass fishery. A number of closed lead and zinc mines are within its drainage area. No recent information exists on whether these mines with their mine waste piles have had or are having any impact of water quality of the stream. However, recent instream water chemistry monitoring indicated elevated levels of zinc in the water column. Follow-up toxicity testing of Shullsburg Branch indicated that water quality problems due to past mining activities may still exist (WDNR, 2000). Stream habitat is also affected by non-point source pollution.

The DNR has acquired some public fishing easements along Shullsburg Branch. The stream flows through Shullsburg, a city of 1,272 people (1997 est.). The population growth rate for Shullsburg between 1990 and the end of 1997 was 2.6%. The Shullsburg wastewater treatment plant discharges to Shullsburg Branch and a tributary to Shullsburg Branch.

Date  2001

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

Located in the heart of the county's lead mining district, Shullsburg Branch is a fairly large warm water drainage stream. It is a major tributary of the Fever River (Galena). Its watershed area is approximately 22 percent of the total watershed area of the Fever River (Galena). The base discharge of Shullsburg Branch normally amounts to over 50 percent of the total base flow of the Fever River (Galena). Within the watershed there are two active mines, one sewage treatment plant at Shullsburg and one cheese factory. Since they are all possible sources of pollution, the Division of Resource Development and Division of Health monitor them closely. Shullsburg is located on the upper portion and is the only urban development on the stream. Spring Branch is the only named tributary and enters approximately 2.5 miles above the mouth. Its base flow is about 22 percent of the total base flow of Shullsburg Branch. There are also six unnamed tributaries with perennial flows. The predominant land use in the watershed is agricultural. The uplands are generally cleared and in crops while the steeper slopes and otherwise poor land is in firm pasture and woodland. The floodplain is likewise in either firm pasture or meadow with some cropland. Bank erosion is light to moderate throughout the basin. The bottom type is gravel except for some silt at the headwaters. The stream's character consists of many deep pools and some quiet stretches of fairly deep water. The stream is presently managed for smallmouth bass. There are catfish in the deeper areas near the mouth and there is a large forage fish population. Upland game species are pheasants, quail, Hungarian partridge, ruffed grouse, deer, rabbits and squirrels. Ducks are common during the spring and fall migrations as are muskrats throughout the year. There are no public lands within the watershed at present. However, the county is anticipating the purchase of some land in the area just west of Shullsburg for the development of county park which will include a lake with camping and picnicking facilities. At the present time access to the stream is limited to eight road bridges.

Shu11sburg Branch, T1N, R1E, Sections 14-11, Surface acres = 34.6, Miles = 18.3, Gradient =13.1 feet per mile,Total alkalinity = 269 lng/I, Volume of flow = 12.7 cfs.

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

Shullburg Creek, Galena River Watershed (GP01) Fish and Aquatic LifeShullburg Creek, Galena River Watershed (GP01) RecreationShullburg Creek, Galena River Watershed (GP01) 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.



Monitor Aquatic Biology
Conduct biological (mIBI or fIBI) monitoring on Shullsburg Br, WBIC: 937000, AU:13843
Citizen-Based Stream Monitoring
Encourage citizens to be involved in volunteer stream monitoring and to be active in the restoration of riparian and in-stream habitat.
Monitor Targeted Area
The DNR should conduct additional monitoring and follow-up investigations on Shullsburg Branch to determine if zinc or mine waste is causing water quality problem in the stream. If the stream is found to have a water quality problem due to past mining practices, it should be considered for addition to Wisconsin 303(d) list of impaired streams

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

Shullsburg 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

Shullburg Creek is considered a Cool-Cold Mainstem, Cool-Cold Headwater, 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.

Cool (Cold-Transition) Mainstem streams are moderate-to-large but still wadeable perennial streams with cold to cool summer temperatures. Coldwater fishes are common to uncommon, transitional fishes are abundant to common, and warm water fishes are uncommon to absent. Headwater species are common to absent, mainstem species are abundant to common, and river species are common to 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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