Sinsinawa River, Galena River Watershed (GP01)
Sinsinawa River, Galena River Watershed (GP01)
Sinsinawa River (940200)
10.82 Miles
10.31 - 21.13
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, Cool-Cold Mainstem, 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
Degraded Biological Community
Total Phosphorus
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.
Fish and Aquatic Life - waters that do not have a specific use designation subcategory assigned but which are considered fishable, swimmable waters.
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 Sinsinawa River rises in south central Grant County and flows into Illinois. Historically, it has had a good smallmouth bass fishery. In general, the river has good smallmouth bass habitat (WDNR, 1990). The smallmouth bass fishery, however, has periodically been affected by fish kills that can be attributed to manure spills and runoff events that lead to low dissolved oxygen levels (Mason, 1993).

DNR fish surveys, conducted annually between 1989 and 1997 on an 1800 meter reach of the river, have found that the smallmouth bass population can be extremely variable. The greatest evidence of this can be seen by looking at the 1989 to 1991 data. In 1989, 445 bass were collected at this site. In 1990 and 1991, however, zero bass were found at the same site. Since this population crash in the early 1990’s, the smallmouth bass population in the Sinsinawa has been slowly recovering and recent field observations indicate the smallmouth bass fishery has improved (Wang,, 1997, Kerr, 1998).

Water quality and habitat best management practices were installed at some locations on the river as part of the priority watershed project in the 1980’s. As with other streams in the watershed, water quality improvements due to the BMP installations has been masked by uncontrolled non-point pollution sources. Macroinvertebrate sampling over the years have shown that the Sinsinawa’s Hilsenhoff biotic index (HBI) ranges from good to fairly poor (Kroner, 1992; Lillie and Schlesser, 1993). The fair and poor HBI ratings are a sign of indicate significant water quality impairment due to agricultural non-point sources of pollution.

Date  2001

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Historical Description

A seepage- and spring-fed stream beginning two miles east of Louisburg and flowing in a southerly direction to enter Illinois two miles southwest of Hazel Green. Over 90 percent of this watershed has been cleared for agricultural purposes. Bank and channel erosion are severe problems. This is a fairly wide stream with rubble and boulders being the predominant bottom types. Smallmouth bass comprise a good fishery but fishing pressure is very light. Forage species common throughout the watershed include white suckers, bluntnose minnows, common shiners, creek chubs, and fantail darters. Game assets include muskrats, mink, raccoon, squirrels, deer, and a few migratory waterfOwl. Improved soil and water control practices could greatly benefit the water quality of this stream. There are no public lands along the stream, but it can be reached from five bridge crossings. Eight dwellings can be seen adjoining the stream.

From: Smith, Tom D., and Ball, Joseph R., Lake and Stream Classification Project. Surface Water Resources of Grant County, Department of Natural Resources, 1972. Surface Area = 21.09 acres, Length = 8.7 miles, Gradient 22 ft./mile, Flow = 10.5 c.f.s.

Date  1972

Author   Aquatic Biologist

Sinsinawa River, Galena River Watershed (GP01) Fish and Aquatic LifeSinsinawa River, Galena River Watershed (GP01) RecreationSinsinawa River, Galena River Watershed (GP01) Fish Consumption

Impaired Waters

Sinsinawa River (940200) was assessed during the 2016 listing cycle; total phosphorus sample data exceed 2016 WisCALM listing criteria for the Fish and Aquatic Life use and biological impairment was observed (i.e. at least one macroinvertebrate or fish Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scored in the poor condition category).

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.



Monitor Targeted Watershed Area (TWA)
Sinsinawa River Targeted Watershed Assessment: A Water Quality Report to Restore Wisconsin Watersheds (2020) Public Review Draft
Monitor or Propose 303(d) Listing
Fisheries has determined the Sinsinawa River to be a very productive smallmouth bass system that has been subject to periodic fish kills. This survey will help determine priority area in which to work. The data will also be used to determine whether streams in this system are achieving their attainable use and assess the overall health of the watershed as required by Section 303(d) and Section 305(b) of the Clean Water Act.
Water Quality Planning
Runoff Evaluation
Grant and Lafayette County Land Conservation Department staff should work with landowners in subwatersheds containing valuable, but threatened smallmouth bass fisheries and nursery streams to manage manure to avoid applications during high risk periods which could lead to runoff and fish kills. Specific areas include the Menominee River, Sinsinawa River, Shullsburg Branch, Madden Branch, and Pats Creek sub-watersheds.
Information and Education
Stress the importance of soil conservation and proper chemical and manure handling, storage and application procedures and increase available resources to implement related Best Management Practices.
Monitor Targeted Area
The following streams should be monitored and considered for addition to the impaired waters 303(d) list due to habitat impairment from sediment: Apple River, Coon Branch, Fair Play Creek, Madden Branch, Pats Creek, Shullsburg Branch, and Sinsinawa River. An assessment should be made to determine what action could help improve these 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

Sinsinawa River 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

Sinsinawa River is considered a Cool-Cold Headwater, Cool-Cold Mainstem, 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.