The Upper Big Eau Pleine River Watershed is located in Marathon, Clark and Taylor Counties. The streams in this watershed are all classified as warm water game fish, warm water forage and marginal variance streams. Because the watershed is "flashy," nutrients, sedimentation, bacteria and turbidity affect the majority of the streams, resulting in fish habitat destruction, algae blooms and diurnal shifts in dissolved oxygen levels. The major concern with this watershed and the surrounding watersheds is the nonpoint pollution that is occurring from poor agriculture and development practices.
The Upper Big Eau Pleine River Watershed was ranked per the Nonpoint Source Priority Watershed Selection Criteria. Based on surface and ground water data, the overall ranking was high. In 1987, a nonpoint source control plan was approved for the Upper Big Eau Pleine River Watershed. It was completed in December 1997 (Lewis and Jaeger, 1987).
Nonpoint and Point Sources
The major concern with this watershed and the surrounding watersheds is the nonpoint pollution that is occurring from poor agriculture and development practices. The Upper Big Eau Pleine River Watershed was ranked per the Nonpoint Source Priority Watershed Selection Criteria. Based on surface and ground water data, the overall ranking was high. In 1987, a nonpoint source control plan was approved for the Upper Big Eau Pleine River Watershed. It was completed in December 1997 (Lewis and Jaeger, 1987).
The Upper Big Eau Pleine River Watershed is 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.
River and Stream QualityAll Waters in Watershed
Land use is primarily dairy agriculture. Tight soils, shallow bedrock and steep surface gradients create the "flashy" stream flow pattern with destructively high flows during wet periods and stagnation when the weather is dry. During wet periods, large amounts of sediment, and phosphorus from animal waste run-off enter the streams. This phosphorus ultimately ends up in the Big Eau Pleine Reservoir that has a history of massive algae blooms and fish kills. Reduction of phosphorus to the streams in the Upper Eau Pleine Reservoir is the main goal of the priority watershed project.
Date 2002 Watershed Trout StreamsWatershed Outstanding & Exceptional Resources
Lakes and Impoundments
Impaired WatersList of Impaired Waters
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: 1431500
Conduct biological (mIBI or fIBI) monitoring on Elm Brook, WBIC: 1431500, AU:12405
Watershed History Note
The City of Colby, located in Clark County, in the Upper Big Eau Pleine River watershed, was named after Gardner Colby, whose company built the Wisconsin Central Railroad through the area. In 1882, Ambrose Steinwand opened a cheese factory in the vicinity of present day Colby. In 1885, his son, Joseph Steinwand, modified the traditional cheese making process by incorporating the whey back into the cheese making to create a new, moister cheese, which he called Colby. This new concept put Colby on the map in the cheese making world and the surrounding area became a great cheese producing center in the United States.