Major portions of this watershed were logged in the late-1800's. Transport of these logs was largely accomplished by placing them on frozen waterways in winter and waiting until the high flows of spring to carry them to the Black River via the East Fork. Coffer dams on some creeks helped store water which provided higher spring flows to carry logs (Eswein). The next major resource harvested in the watershed was sphagnum moss. This industry continues today in the marshes of the East Fork of the Black River watershed. The culture of cranberries appeared in the early 1900s and has grown considerably since then in the southwestern portion of this watershed. Cranberries naturally reproduced in wetland areas where conditions were right. Many streams in this watershed are ditched to provide water for the culture of cranberries.
Very little water quality or fisheries information is available for the streams in this watershed. Only 14% of the watershed contains agricultural activities. Partly due to state and county ownership, the majority of the forest and wetland areas remain intact from pre-settlement times. This watershed contains approximately 31,000 acres of wetlands, the largest area of wetlands within any watershed of the Black River basin. The water in this watershed is generally characterized as dark and infertile, but largely free of sediment. The streams have not been surveyed recently, but many streams are expected to contain forage fish. The major limiting factor for many streams in this watershed is lack of streamflow due to natural causes or agricultural use.
Nonpoint and Point Sources
Hewitt's Meat Processing is the only permitted point source in this watershed. They landspread waste in the extreme western edge of this watershed. This facility is not shown on the East Fork Black River Watershed map.
The Central Sand Plains Ecological Landscape, located in central Wisconsin, occurs on a flat, sandy lake plain, and supports agriculture, forestry, recreation, and wildlife management. The Ecological Landscape formed in and around what was once Glacial Lake Wisconsin, which contained glacial meltwater extending over 1.1 million acres at its highest stage. Soils are primarily sandy lake deposits, some with silt-loam loess caps. Sandstone buttes carved by rapid drainage of the glacial lake, or by wave action when they existed as islands in the lake, are distinctive features of this landscape.
The historic vegetation of the area included extensive wetlands of many types, including open bogs, shrub swamps, and sedge meadows. Prairies, oak forests, savannas and barrens also occurred in the Ecological Landscape. An area of more mesic forest with white pine and hemlock was found in the northwest portion, including a significant pinery in eastern Jackson County. Today, nearly half of the Ecological Landscape is nonforested, in agriculture and grassland. Most of the historic wetlands were drained early in the 1900s and are now used for vegetable cropping. The forested portion is mostly oak-dominated forest, followed by aspen and pines. A minor portion is maple-basswood forest and lowland hardwoods.
Most of the Sandhill Wildlife Area is within the East Fork Black River watershed. The remainder is in the Lower Yellow River watershed, which drains to the Wisconsin River. This wildlife area consists of approximately 9,500 fenced acres containing numerous large and small mammal species. Sandhill is managed as a wildlife demonstration area. It serves as a living laboratory not only to test management techniques for wildlife, but also to test the effects of manipulating hunter and trapper numbers, their harvest methods, season length and bag limits. These studies are evaluated for application elsewhere in the state. Wildlife viewing, photography and hunting are popular recreational activities within Sandhill.
Wildlife and Habitat
Numerous aquatic dependent species of concern have been documented in this watershed. Management decisions should consider potential affects to these species. Other species may be present but not yet documented.
Monitoring & Projects
Projects including grants, restoration work and studies shown below have occurred in this watershed. Click the links below to read through the text. While these are not an exhaustive list of activities, they provide insight into the management activities happening in this watershed.
The following lakes should be considered high priorities for a
lakes planning grant for developing lake management alternatives:
Black River Flowage
WDNR staff should continue to encourage communities to develop wellhead protection plans in the Watershed and the whole basin.
Watershed History Note
Major portions of the East Fork Black River Watershed were logged in the late 1800's. Transport of these logs was largely accomplished by placing them on frozen waterways in winter and waiting until the high flows of spring to carry them to the Black River via the East Fork. Coffer dams on some creeks helped store water which provided higher spring flows to carry logs (Eswein). The next major resource harvested in the watershed was sphagnum moss. This industry continues today in the marshes of the East Fork of the Black River watershed.
Sphagnum moss grows naturally from seedlike spores with no assistance from anyone, but it takes a full seven years before a marsh is mature enough to cut again. Dried moss can hold up to twenty times its weight in water - a fact recognized by early Native Americans, who used moss for baby diapers, and by World War I medics, who found the plant's absorbency useful for surgical dressings. Today moss is packed around the roots of trees and shrubs for shipping, for hanging baskets, mulch, and for decorative topiary. It's a mainstay of the international floral trade to keep flowers and greenery moist in transit.
One local family in the Jackson County area has been in the mossing business for four generations. The mossers use sturdy rakes with long, curved tines and try to start before dawn and finish by noon before the sun and the bugs are at their worst. The moss is forked onto a boat or toboggan, pulled by an old tractor fitted out with wooden slats on the tracks. The slats act like snowshoes, spreading out the weight and keeping the machinery from sinking in the soft muck. The bogs are a gift from the last glaciation period. When the last glacier receded, Glacial Lake Wisconsin took so long to drain that it stimulated the growth of wetland bog plants like moss, pitcher plants, and tamarack.
Picture at right from: http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM1K5P