The borders for this watershed have been changed for management purposes; the watershed now includes streams that formerly were treated as part of the Fish Creek Watershed. Beartrap Creek, Wood Creek Slough and the Kakagon River sub-watersheds are hydrologically connected with the lower Bad River. Since the significant complex of the Kakagon Sloughs falls within the Bad River Indian Reservation and is linked to management of the lower Bad River, these management boundaries were shifted to improve ecosystem management.
The Lower Bad River Watershed extends south to its confluence with Tyler Forks. This is to more accurately reflect underlying geology. Much of the Lower Bad River Watershed falls within the Bad River Indian Reservation.
Many smaller streams originate outside the bounds of the Bad River Indian Reservation and flow into tribal lands; others flow entirely within the reservation bounds. We have no current data for many of these streams, but based on discussions in Water Resources of the Bad River Reservation (Institute for Environmental Studies), and assessments made by The Nature Conservancy staff working on a project to protect the Kakagon/Bad River Sloughs and Bad River Natural Resources Department, all these streams are potentially threatened by land use practices, primarily forestry, due to the unstable nature of the red clay soils, historic clear cutting that changed the hydrologic relationship between vegetation and soils, and the voluntary nature of best management practices for forestry. Another threat to this watershed is exotic species encroachment, most notably purple loosestrife, ruffe and sea lamprey.
Population, Land Use
Several communities exist in this watershed: the village of Odanah, new developments at New Odanah, Birch Hill, Frank's Field and Diaperville. These developments contain an estimated 300 to 350 homes (Institute for Environmental Studies). Wastewater treatment facilities on the reservation receive National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits from U.S. EPA and are required to meet federal standards for water quality, not the more stringent state standards. Surface water contamination by past discharge was seen in and around the Birch Hill lagoons, particularly the southwest corner during May, 1994 (Institute for Environmental Studies). Until recently, the New Odanah wastewater treatment facility was not be operating at its potential (Institute for Environmental Studies). In 1996, the New Odanah wastewater lagoons were replaced by a sequencing batch reactor facility; plans are to expand this facility, which treats wastewater from New Odanah and Frank's Field, to allow more housing connections (BRNRD2).
The Superior Coastal Plain is Wisconsin's northernmost Ecological Landscape, bordered on the north by southwestern Lake Superior and on the south by the Northwest Sands, the Northwest Lowlands, and the North Central Forest. The climate is strongly influenced by Lake Superior, resulting in cooler summers, warmer winters, and greater precipitation compared to more inland locations. Exposed coastal areas are subject to significant disturbance from windstorms, waves, ice, currents, and periodic water level fluctuations. These disturbance regimes play a significant role in determining both the landform and vegetation characteristics of the shoreline ecosystems. The major landform in this Ecological Landscape is a nearly level plain of lacustrine clays that slopes gently northward toward Lake Superior. The clay plain is separated into two disjunct segments by the comparatively rugged Bayfield Peninsula. An archipelago of sandstone-cored islands, the Apostles, occurs in Lake Superior just north and east of the Bayfield Peninsula. Wave carved sandstone cliffs bracket stretches of the Peninsula and also occur along the margins of several of the islands. Sand spits are a striking feature of the Lake Superior shoreline, typically separating the waters of the lake from inland lagoons and wetlands. The spits support rare and highly threatened natural communities such as beaches, dunes, interdunal wetlands, and pine barrens, and these in turn are inhabited by specially adapted plants and animals. The mouths of many of the streams entering Lake Superior are submerged, creating freshwater estuaries. A ridge of volcanic igneous rock, primarily basalt, forms the southern boundary of portions of this Ecological Landscape.
Historically the Superior Coastal Plain was almost entirely forested. A distinctive mixture of white pine, white spruce, balsam fir, paper birch, balsam poplar, trembling aspen, and white cedar occurred on the lacustrine clays. White pine was strongly dominant in some areas, according to mid-nineteenth century notes left by surveyors of the US General Land Office. Mesic to dry-mesic forests of northern hardwoods or hemlock hardwoods were more prevalent on the glacial tills of the Bayfield Peninsula and throughout the Apostle Islands. Large peatlands occurred along the Lake Superior shoreline, often associated with drowned river mouths and well-developed sand spits. The most extensive of these wetland complexes were on the Bad and St. Louis rivers. A few large peatlands also occurred at inland sites, such as Bibon Swamp, in the upper White River drainage, and Sultz Swamp on the northern Bayfield Peninsula. The present clay plain forest has been fragmented by agricultural use, and today approximately one-third of this landscape is non-forested. Most of the open land is in grass cover, having been cleared and then subsequently pastured or plowed. Aspen and birch forests occupy about 40% of the total land area, having increased in prominence over the boreal conifers. On the Bayfield Peninsula, second-growth northern hardwood forests are interspersed among extensive early successional aspen stands. Older forest successional stages are now rare throughout the Superior Clay Plain.
Wildlife and Habitat
American Bittern - Botaurus lentiginosus
Kakagon Sloughs, Bad River
American Black Duck - Anas rubripes
Bald Eagle - Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Bad River/Kakagon Sloughs, Honest John Lake, Long Island
Blue-Winged Teal - Anas discors
Kakagon Sloughs, Bad River
Cape May Warbler - Dendroica tigrina
Caspian Tern - Sterna caspia
Common Loon - Gavia immer
Honest John Lake, Kakagon Sloughs
Common Merganse - Mergus merganser
Evening Grosbeak - Coccothraustes vespertinus
Odanah Swamp, Bad River
Golden-Winged Warbler - Vermivora chrysoptera
Bad River, Kakagon Sloughs
LeConte's Sparrow - Ammodramus leconteii
Lesser Scaup - Aythya affinis
Long-Eared Owl Asio otus
Merlin - Falco Columbarius
Nashville Warbler - Vermivora ruficapilla
Odanah Swamp, Bad River, Honest John Lake, Kakagon Sloughs
Northern Harrier - Circus cyaneus
Red-Breasted Merganser - Mergus serrator
Trumpeter Swan - Cygnus buccinator
Honest John Lake, Kakagon Sloughs
Veery - Catharus fuscescens
Kakagon Sloughs, Bad River, Honest John Lake
Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher - Empidonax flaviventris
Lake Sturgeon - Acipenser fulvescens
Honest John Lake
MISCELLANEOUS RARE INVERTEBRATES
Beach-Dune Tiger Beetle - Cicindela hirticollis rhodensis
Long Island-Chequamegon Point
Blue-Legged Grasshopper - Melanoplus flavidus
Long Island-Chequamegon Point
Pelycypoda; Family Unionidae - Elliptio complanata
Odonata; Family Gomphidae - Ophiogomphus carolus
River and Stream QualityAll Waters in Watershed
The Bad River Natural Resources Department (BRNRD) began monitoring 24 sites within the exterior boundaries of the reservation in 1997. Preliminary data show areas of elevated fecal coliform due to wastewater treatment both on and off the reservation. The BRNRD monitoring program collected fecal coliform, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, temperature, phosphate, nitrate, alkalinity, suspended and dissolved solids data once a month for a year. BRNRD found that waters, in general, met healthy water criteria; the findings, however, indicated point and nonpoint source pollution impacts, primarily from municipal wastewater lagoon discharges, failing septic systems, forestry practices and poor agricultural practices. In several places, the Wisconsin water quality standard for fecal coliform bacteria was exceeded during the monitoring period. There are known areas of the watershed where cattle are allowed in streams, manure is plowed into streams, loggers clear cut shorelines and steep slopes and small communities in which the only wastewater treatment now available is failing private septic systems (BRNRD1).
BRNRD has also conducted a biosentinel study using otters as ecosystem health indicators; the study found dioxin/furans, DDE (a metabolite of DDT), lindane and heptachlor epoxide in otter tissue. Funding has been procured to sample surface waters, sediments and groundwater for metals, PCBs, pesticides and dioxin/furans (BRNRD1).
The tribe's only source of drinking water is groundwater; several landfills and salvage yards, especially in the Beartrap/Kakagon subwatershed, have caused concern over the quality of the groundwater on the reservation. Two papermill sludge sites on the reservation are under investigation through the Superfund process (BRNRD1).
Date 1999 Watershed Trout StreamsWatershed Outstanding & Exceptional Resources
Aquatic Invasive Species
The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission recently released a survey report on purple loosestrife in the Bad River watershed (Spotts 1994, 1995). The report documents significant loosestrife infestations along rivers in the watershed. The worst occur along the Marengo River and near High Bridge. The seeds float on the river and can colonize any disturbed soil. There are smaller infestations along other waterways, including the Bad River as it passes through the reservation. Common buckthorn and spotted knapweed are other exotic plant species documented along waterways in the watershed. These species stress native species. The sea lamprey is an accidently introduced species that parasitizes Lake Superior fish and is partly responsible for decline in lake trout. The sea lamprey makes use of the Bad River for spawning and rearing purposes. Historically, the Brule and Bad Rivers produced about 85 percent of the sea lampreys captured at weirs in state waters. A lamprey barrier was constructed on the Brule in 1986 which effectively eliminated future lamprey spawning above the barrier. The Bad River and some of its tributaries continue to support sea lamprey reproduction.
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.
Groundwater problems on reservation lands are typically the result of naturally high mineralization and hardness, as well as excessive iron and manganese concentrations, many above state standards for drinking water. A groundwater sampling program was initiated in 1994 as a result of private well contamination. This may be the result of de-inking sludge disposed of on reservation lands. Consultants to the reservation sampled 43 private water wells, two community water supply wells, one surface water pond and one spring (Institute for Environmental Studies). Sample analysis revealed lead levels above the federal maximum contamination level in five wells and the surface pond. One of these wells is the Diaperville community well. Results of the 1994 sampling program also showed organic constituent concentrations exceeding NR 140 groundwater quality standards in two private water supply wells, and volatile organic compounds were detected in four wells (Institute for Environmental Studies). Cadmium and chromium were detected in excess as well. The consultant recommended discontinuing human consumption of water from three wells on the basis of health concerns (Institute of Environmental Studies). Further sampling by the consultant for the potentially responsible parties and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Geological Survey has taken place to determine the need for sludge removal (BRNRD2).
Hydrological Atlas of Bayfield County
Bayfield County is sponsoring a project to develop an online and interactive Hydrogeologic Atlas, including funding an expert to assist in developing this tool.
This project will prioritize management actions based on threats posed to culturally significant resources by invasive plants. GLIFWC has documented over 8,000 non-native invasive plant sites in the Lake Superior counties of Wisconsin and Michigan. This data is being used to develop species distribution models for invasive plants. GLIFWC will develop similar models for culturally significant native species. Comparing these models will identify which invasives pose the greatest risk, and help prioritize areas for early detection/rapid response efforts.
GLIFWC will determine mercury levels in walleye, lake trout, whitefish, cisco, and siscowet from Lake Superior and walleye from inland lakes. Test results for selected fish species and areas in Lake Superior will be compared with data from previous testing. Results from inland waters will be used to update tribal and lake specific GIS maps and consumption advice aimed at reducing health risks associated with consuming mercury contaminated walleye.