The Upper Buffalo River Watershed is approximately 124,389 acres in size and consists of 439 miles of streams and rivers, 85 acres of lakes and 6,108 acres of wetlands. The watershed is dominated by forests and agriculture but is ranked high for nonpoint source issues affecting streams and groundwater.
The streams in this watershed are kept from achieving their full potential by agricultural nonpoint source pollution. Improvements in some protected areas show the ability of the streams to recover and reach their potential.
This watershed is located in the Western Coulee and Ridges Ecological Landscape in southwestern and west central Wisconsin and is characterized by its highly eroded, driftless topography and relatively extensive forested landscape. Soils are silt loams (loess) and sandy loams over sandstone residuum over dolomite. Several large rivers including the Wisconsin, Mississippi, Chippewa, Kickapoo and Black flow through or border the Ecological Landscape.
Historical vegetation consisted of southern hardwood forests, oak savanna, scattered prairies, and floodplain forests and marshes along the major rivers. With Euro-American settlement, most of the land on ridgetops and valley bottoms was cleared of oak savanna, prairie, and level forest for agriculture. The steep slopes between valley bottom and ridgetop, unsuitable for raising crops, grew into oak-dominated forests after the ubiquitous presettlement wildfires were suppressed. Current vegetation is a mix of forest (40%), agriculture, and grassland with some wetlands in the river valleys. The primary forest cover is oak-hickory (51%) dominated by oak species and shagbark hickory. Maple-basswood forests (28%), dominated by sugar maple, basswood and red maple, are common in areas that were not subjected to repeated presettlement wildfires. Bottomland hardwoods (10%) are common in the valley bottoms of major rivers and are dominated by silver maple, ashes, elms, cottonwood, and red maple. Relict conifer forests including white pine, hemlock and yellow birch are a rarer natural community in the cooler, steep, north slope microclimates.
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: 1829300
Conduct biological (mIBI or fIBI) monitoring on Unnamed, WBIC: 1829300, AU:1440398
WDNR staff should continue to encourage communities to develop wellhead protection plans in the Watershed and the whole basin.
The City of Osseo should complete the upgrade to their WWTP.
Watershed History Note
The Upper Buffalo River Watershed includes the Norwegian Village of Strum in the Town of Unity in Trempealeau County. The story of the 1914 fires in Strum comes from "A History of Strum & the Town of Unity", by Roy Matson, and published and put on-line by his sons Eric and Fred Matson.
It is often admitted that any major change in appearance of a small town business district occurs only after a major fire. Strum underwent two such happenings in December, 1914.
The first instance removed the Pederson store and the old central lean-to located on the corner of the present Immanuel Church lot. The fire department crew used the opportunity to become acquainted with their newly acquired hand pumper. Both buildings, however, burned to the ground.
The second fire took place on the evening of December 25, a night long remembered by village residents. Six frame buildings on the east side of Main Street went up in smoke leaving scars that remained for a decade. The blaze started in J. C. Call's living quarters on the second floor of his business building north of the depot. With a south wind aiding the fire, it consumed everything in its path, finally being stopped by T. M. Olson's two story brick building. Besides Call's large place of business, gone were the hotel and Olson's two story heavy hardware shop and three smaller buildings.
According to Clarence Knutson, then 15 years old and manning a position on the new pumper, a fire was under control at Call's second floor when the cistern went dry. The fire got a good headway while a second source of water was obtained and when some ambitious fireman cut the nozzle off the hose, hope of control was gone. Willing hands removed furniture from the hotel and stock from a couple of the buildings. Flames were high above the tallest building and visible for several miles.