The Black and Little Black Rivers watershed, located in eastern Taylor County, contains the headwaters of the Black River. A combination of woodlands and wetlands, with substantial acres of agricultural land, make up the major land uses. Agricultural lands are more concentrated in the southern half of the watershed.
Most of the watershed is ground moraine, where soils are silt loams underlain by stony loams. A narrow band along the watershed's northwest edge is end moraine where most of the lakes in this watershed are found.
Population, Land Use
The City of Medford with a population of 4,318 is the largest community in this watershed as well as the Black River Basin. The small, unincorporated communities of Chelsea and Whittlesey are also present.
The Black and Little Black Rivers Watershed is primarily located in the Forest Transition Ecological Landscape which lies along the northern border of Wisconsin's Tension Zone, through the central and western part of the state, and supports both northern forests and agricultural areas. The central portion of the Forest Transition lies primarily on a glacial till plain deposited by glaciation between 25,000 and 790,000 years ago. The eastern and western portions are on moraines of the Wisconsin glaciation. The growing season in this part of the state is long enough that agriculture is viable, although climatic conditions are not as favorable as in southern Wisconsin. Soils are diverse, ranging from sandy loam to loam or shallow silt loam, and from poorly drained to well drained.
The historic vegetation of the Forest Transition was primarily northern hardwood forest. These northern hardwoods were dominated by sugar maple and hemlock, and contained some yellow birch, red pine and white pine. Currently, over 60% of this Ecological Landscape is non-forested. Forested areas consist primarily of northern hardwoods and aspen, with smaller amounts of oak and lowland hardwoods. The eastern portion of the Ecological Landscape differs from the rest of the area in that it remains primarily forested, and includes some ecologically significant areas. Throughout the Ecological Landscape, small areas of conifer swamp are found near the headwaters of streams, and associated with lakes in kettle depressions on moraines. Ground flora show characteristics of both northern and southern Wisconsin, as this Ecological Landscape lies along the Tension Zone.
Wildlife and Habitat
Two 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.
Monitor biology on WBIC: 1765900
Conduct biological (mIBI or fIBI) monitoring on East Branch Little Black River, WBIC: 1765900, AU:14319
Confirm FCA: IW pre-2000 data
1676700 name Black River TMDL ID 2012-56, 51, 707 Start Mile 0 End Mile 24.44
East Branch Little Black River Biology
The site of the poor fish IBI is in the very headwaters of the watershed and was from 2008, a drought year. I suspect this is a site that may dry up at times.
AU: 14319; Station ID: 10029115
Black River TP
Category 3. 2018 TP Results: May Exceed. Station: 613086. AU: 201404.
WDNR staff should continue to encourage communities to develop wellhead protection plans in the Watershed and the whole basin.
DNR Water Division staff should assess nonpoint sources and other potential sources which appear to have caused a decline in the trout population in the Black River above Medford.
Watershed History Note
The Black and Little Black Rivers Watershed surround the City of Medford in Taylor County. The first newspaper was the Taylor County News, edited and published by John A. Ogden, and issued March 31, 1875, the same year that Taylor County became a county. Copies of that first issue are missing, but the second issue published on April 7 of that year is on microfilm and can be viewed at the Medford Library.
The paper consisted of four pages; the front page was devoted to national news and page 2 consisted of local ads and state news. One item tells that, 'men from all over the country are flocking to Taylor County to settle. Let them come. There is room. Land is cheap. Lumber is plenty. And we want the land cultivated.' There is also an item calling attention to a sign in the News office stating that smoking is not allowed. 'Tobacco smoke is very offensive to those who are not habituated to the use of the weed.' In 1877, subscription rates were $1.50 a year, paid in advance.
The Taylor County News received competition in March 1876 when G. L. Loope started the Taylor County Star. On December 1, 1877, Singleton B. Hubbell bought both papers and combined them as the Taylor County Star and News. The early issues contained state, national and world news simply because there were no daily newspapers in the area at the time, because there wasn't all that much local news to print, and because the small staff didn't have the time needed to both gather the news and set it in type. In those days, type was set by hand, letter by letter.
For the next several years, due a number of factors: the lumbering industry, the opening of free homestead lands, immigration and colonization agencies, letters from friends and relatives, and the newly established Wisconsin Central Railroad, a steady stream of settlers put down their roots in Taylor County.
Two other German language newspapers were started in Medford during those years: the Duetsche Zeitung in 1887, which lasted four years, and Der Her Vetter in 1903, which failed after only one year. In 1887, the Medford Sentinel appeared, followed two years later by the Medford Republican. The two papers combined in 1901 and consolidated with the Star and News shortly thereafter. From 1904 until the 1930s, the paper was Progressive Republican in politics.
In 1929, The Star News absorbed the Taylor County Leader which had been operating since 1921. Two other Medford papers - the Northern Independent and the Weekly Record - were started up and existed for a brief period, but by the 1930s the Star News and the Rib Lake Herald were the only two papers in the county. By September 1973, when the Rib Lake Herald closed its doors, The Star News was the only newspaper in Taylor County. At the time, The Star News was one of the largest weeklies in the state, averaging 32 broadsheet pages week, with an average press run of 7,400 copies.
In April 1975, the 100th anniversary of the paper - The Star News began using the new photo-offset method of printing which, among other things, allowed extensive use of photos. Today, newpaper pages are printed on a high-speed laser printer, and photographs, negatives and prints, are scanned and stored in a computer, and then retrieved electronically and imported directly into the newspaper pages when they're made up. In 1997, the paper began using digital cameras to supplement more traditional cameras. Brian Wilson was named News Editor in spring 2005 and ushered in a new era of improved page layout and more focused coverage. The paper is now 135 years old.