All streams in the Beaver Creek Watershed, located in Juneau, Monroe, and Jackson Counties, ultimately drain to the Lemonweir River. Numerous impoundments are found throughout the watershed, some of which are used for cranberry production and others are managed for wildlife production or fishing. Land adjacent to many flowages is county, state or federally owned.
The Beaver Creek Watershed is located in the driftless region of the state, which was covered at one time by glacial melt water, also known as Glacial Lake Wisconsin. Evidence of the ancient lakebed in this watershed is found in the extensive acreage of wetlands (122 square miles). Forests also account for a large portion of land cover in the watershed.
Since over three-fourths of the Beaver Creek Watershed is either forested, wetland, or open water, nonpoint sources of pollution are not as pervasive as in other watersheds where agriculture prevails. The nonpoint source ranking of the watershed for lakes and groundwater is low.
Population, Land Use
Population in the watershed for the year 2000 was estimated at 3,956. Population pressure in the watershed is low and the two incorporated municipalities have seen negative population growth over the last decade. There are also three unincorporated municipalities, Mather, Norway Ridge, and Valley Junction in the Beaver Creek Watershed.
County, state or federal agencies manage much of the land in the watershed. More cranberry bogs are found in the Beaver Creek Watershed than throughout the entire Lower Wisconsin River Basin. As a result, the main nonpoint source concern in this watershed is the result of the diversion of water from trout streams and the flooding of high quality wetlands for cranberry production. Poor forest harvesting practices in the watershed also have an impact on surface waters.
Nonpoint and Point Sources
Elevated levels of atrazine, a herbicide used on corn, has been found in some tested private water wells in the town of La Grange along Mill Creek. Soils are permeable, which allows atrazine to reach groundwater in some locations.
Warrens is the only permitted municipal wastewater treatment plant in the Beaver Creek Watershed. Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. is the only permitted industrial discharge. Both facilities discharge treated wastewater to groundwater.
The Beaver Creek Watershed is primarily located in the Central Sand Plains Ecological Landscape which is 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.
The Beaver Creek Watershed has a variety of good quality habitats and rare plant communities that are listed on the state's Natural Heritage Inventory, (NHI), kept by the Bureau of Endangered Resources. These communities include: central sands pine-oak forest, floodplain forest, dry prairie, hardwood swamp, northern dry forest, northern sedge meadow, northern dry-mesic forest, northern wet forest, pine barrens, open bog, southern dry forest, southern sedge meadow, southern dry-mesic forest, stream-slow, soft, cold, central poor fen, tamarack swamp, emergent aquatic, and white pine-red maple.
The 44,000-acre Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, located in northwestern Juneau County, consists of woodlands, prairie and wetlands. Information regarding hiking, hunting, fishing and cross-county skiing in the refuge is found at the visitors center located just west of the Village of Necedah on Highway 21. The 90 square mile Meadow Valley State Wildlife Area is another large tract of land in this watershed that is leased to the state by the federal government for public use. This wildlife area is located along both sides of Highway 173 from Babcock to Valley Junction, with small plots of private land scattered throughout. Wetlands with several open water flowages and forest are the predominant land cover in the wildlife area. Several flowages are fully or partially set aside as waterfowl refuges used for nesting and feeding. The Meadow Valley State Wildlife Area can be used for hiking, fishing, hunting, and canoeing.
Wildlife and Habitat
The watershed is also home for a variety of rare plant and animal species including; 3 species of beetle, 15 species of birds, 10 species of dragonflies, 2 species of fish, 1 species of mussel, 22 plant species, 2 species of mammal, 6 species of butterflies, 1 species of lizard, 2 species of moth, 1 species of snake, 1 species of bug and 2 species of rasshoppers. These plants and animals are also listed on the state's Natural Heritage Inventory.
The Lemonweir River should be assessed to determine if rare aquatic elements previously found are still present.
Watershed History Note
The Beaver Creek-Juneau Watershed is home to hundreds of acres of cranberry bogs. As one of the few fruits native to North America, Native Americans used the cranberries as a staple as early as 1550. They ate cranberries fresh, ground, or mashed with cornmeal and baked it into bread. They also mixed berries with wild game and melted fat to form pemmican, a survival ration for the winter months. Maple sugar or honey was used to sweeten the berry's tangy flavor.
By 1620, Pilgrims learned how to use cranberries from the Native Americans. There are several theories of how the berry was named. Germany and Dutch settlers named the berry "crane-berry" because it appeared to be the favorite food of cranes or the blossom resembles the head and neck of an English crane. Eventually craneberry was shortened to cranberry. By 1683, cranberry juice was made by the settlers.
The uses of cranberries are extensive American whalers and mariners carried cranberries on-board to prevent scurvy while Indians brewed cranberry poultices to draw poison from arrow wounds and in tea to calm nerves as well as using the juice as a dye.
Today commercial cranberry growers use a system of wetlands, uplands, ditches, flumes, ponds and other water bodies that provide a natural habitat for a variety of plant and animal life. Cranberry growers preserve almost 40,000 acres of open space which provide refuge for many plant and wildlife species. Cranberry wetlands filter groundwater, recharge aquifers and control flooding by retaining water runoff.
Cranberries grow on low lying vines (not underwater) in impermeable beds layered with sand, peat, gravel and clay. These beds are known as "bogs" or "marshes" and were originally created by glacial deposits. Wisconsin grows almost 57% of the cranberries in the US.