Butternut Creek flows through Butternut Lake and enters the North Fork of the Flambeau River. Butternut Lake, a eutrophic lake, is part of the statewide Long-Term Trend Monitoring program.
A portion of Butternut Creek upstream of the lake is listed as Class III trout water in the Wisconsin Trout Stream Book. This segment is marginal as a trout water (Lealos 1993). The stream where it exits the lake is listed as Class II trout water.
Data from the 1970s indicate some impact from the village of Butternut Wastewater Treatment Plant, which discharges to the Creek above Butternut Lake. The treatment plant has since gone to a groundwater discharge. There are two veneer mills in the village of Butternut that have had spills which could affect Butternut Creek or the lake. Town and country roads, and other nonpoint sources may contribute excess sediment to the stream.
The North Central Forest Ecological Landscape occupies much of the northern third of Wisconsin. Its landforms are characterized by end and ground moraines with some pitted outwash and bedrock controlled areas. Kettle depressions and steep ridges are found in the northern portion. Two prominent areas in this Ecological Landscape are the Penokee-Gogebic Iron Range in the north extending into Michigan, and Timm's Hill, the highest point in Wisconsin (1,951 feet) in the south. Soils consist of sandy loam, sand, and silts. The vegetation is mainly forest, with many wetlands and some agriculture, though the growing season is not as favorable as it is in southern Wisconsin. Lake Superior greatly influences the northern portion of the Ecological Landscape especially during the winter season, producing greater snowfall than in most areas in Wisconsin.
The historic vegetation was primarily hemlock-hardwood forest dominated by hemlock, sugar maple, and yellow birch. There were some smaller areas of white and red pine forest scattered throughout the Ecological Landscape, and individual white pines trees were a component of the hemlock-hardwood forest. Harvesting hemlock to support the tanneries was common at the turn of the century, and the species soon became a minor component of forests due to over-harvesting and lack of regeneration. Currently, forests cover approximately 80% of this Ecological Landscape. The northern hardwood forest is dominant, made up of sugar maple, basswood, and red maple, and also including some scattered hemlock and white pine pockets within stands. The aspen-birch forest type group is also relatively abundant, followed by spruce-fir. A variety of wetland community types also are present, both forested and non-forested.
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.
Triennial Standards Review Process - review 1976 data to determine designated use.
Watershed History Note
The Butternut Creek Watershed, located in Ashland and Price counties, was once home to small bands of Chippewa Indians who lived along the streams and lakes. The Chippewa were nomadic people, moving from place to place in search of food. In order to replenish the land, they did not hunt and fish in the same place they had hunted the season before. They made birch bark canoes and floated along the lake shallows for wild rice. In the spring, syrup would be tapped from maple trees. Wigwams, made of birch bark, were easy to pack and move to their next site. The skeleton of the wigwam would be left intact to be reused when they returned. The Indians would frequently visit the town of Butternut and its people.
Butternut received its name during the construction of the Wisconsin Central Railroad in the 1870's. Near the head of Butternut Lake in the north, butternut trees were found. The butternut or 'oil nut', resembles an oversize black walnut tree. Pioneers made a delectable relish from the fruit of the butternut by a pickling process with spices and vinegar. This was usually served with wild game, fish, or fowl.
Matthew J. Hart erected the Butternut House in the fall of 1876. The Butternut House was the only hotel between Highway 101 and Ashland. Hart also supplied the Wisconsin Central Railway personnel with their construction needs. The Butternut House was used as a stopping place for the wannagans. A wannagan is a large boat used by the lumberjacks to carry food, sleeping equipment, and clothing. Meals were prepared on the boats, but served on shore. The men slept in tents. Later, this term was applied to any camp store carrying supplies for lumberjacks.