Upper Bad River Watershed (LS14)

Table of Streams of the Upper Bad River Watershed (LS14)

The management boundaries for this watershed were slightly altered from past plans to better manage the river based on the underlying geology of the watershed. The boundaries for this watershed include the Bad River from its confluence with Tyler Forks to its headwaters. The community of Mellen is the largest municipality in the watershed. Discharge permits exist for Louisiana Pacific Corp. Northern Division, the city of Mellen and Copper Falls State Park.

Extirpation of the wolf, combined with logging, led to a boom of white-tailed deer, which in turn has led to overgrazing of several species of tree and shrub: Canada yew, eastern hemlock and eastern white cedar (Spotts 1994). Wolves have begun to reestablish themselves in this watershed.

Copper Falls State Park protects the confluence of the Bad and Tyler Forks rivers. The park has three major waterfalls, a deep granite gorge, older growth pine, hemlock and hardwood forest.

The McCarthy Lake and Cedars Research Natural Area managed by the U.S Forest Service in the headwaters of the Iron River protects high quality old growth white cedar, hemlock and white pine forest, northern sedge meadow, headwater streams and a small undeveloped lake.

Table 30. WPDES-Permitted Discharges to the Upper Bad River Watershed
FACILITY NAME PERMIT # EXP. DATE RECEIVING WATER CLASS ACTIVITIES N/R
Louisiana-Pacific Corporation Northern Div. 0003735
12/31/99
Bad River COLD II Industrial N/R
Mellen 0020311
6/30/96
Bad River COLD II Municipal N/R
WDNR Copper Falls State Park 0030449
9/30/98
Bad River GL Municipal, park N/R

 

Resources of Concern (LS14)

WDNR's Natural Heritage Inventory Database indicates that the following water-dependent endangered, threatened or special concern species and/or communities have been sighted in this watershed within the last 20 years. In addition, a coastal wetlands evaluation conducted in 1995 and 1996 identified a number of species and habitats described in a comprehensive report, Wisconsin's Lake Superior Coastal Wetlands Evaluation / Including Other Selected Natural Features of the Lake Superior Basin (Epstein 1997). This report is largely excerpted here.

Note: The lack of rare elements listed here does not signify a lack of rare elements in the watershed. They have merely gone unreported in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database.

Common Name Latin Name Habitat

Birds

Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus Caroline Lake Wetlands
Blue-Winged Teal Anas discors Caroline Lake Wetlands
Common Loon Gavia immer Caroline Lake Wetlands
Gray Jay Perisoreus canadensis Caroline Lake Wetlands
Nashville Warbler Vermivora ruficapilla Caroline Lake Wetlands
Osprey Pandion haliaetus Caroline Lake Wetlands
Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher Empidonax flaviventris Caroline Lake Wetlands

Butterflies & Moths

Dorcas Copper Lycaena dorcas Caroline Lake Wetlands
Freija Fritillary Boloria freija Caroline Lake Wetlands
Jutta arctic Oeneis jutta ascerta Caroline Lake Wetlands

Rare Macroinvertebrates

Epehemeroptera; Family Ephemerellidae Drunella cornutella City Creek, Tafelski Creek
Odonata; Family Cordulegastridae Cordulegaster obliqua Tafelski Creek
Odonata; Family Gomphidae Ophiogomphus carolus Bad River, Minnie Creek (Ashland County), Montreal Creek
Trichoptera; Family Lepidostomatidae Lepidostoma libum Tafelski Creek
Trichoptera; Family Limnephilidae Onocosmoecus unicolor City Creek
Trichoptera; Family Philopotamidae Dolophilodes distinctus Tafelski Creek
Community* Location Description
Emergent Aquatic--shrub swamp, sedge meadow, emergent marsh, small ponds Caroline Lake Wetlands Emergent marshes are important to many nesting and migratory waterfowl, mammals, invertebrates and fish.
Lake--shallow, soft, drainage Caroline Lake A rare lake type in Wisconsin that is possibly in peril rangewide, but the status of the lake type is uncertain.
Open Bog Caroline Lake Wetlands This peatland type herbaceous wetland community is dominated by deep layers of Sphagnum mosses that isolate the other members of the community from the influence of nutrient-rich groundwater or runoff. Often a pronounced hummock-hollow micro-topography exists.

* For more detailed descriptions of community types, see page 26.

Priority Wetland Sites

Caroline Lake Wetlands

This site lies near the southern edge of the Lake Superior Basin in the Winegar Moraines subsection. The location of the site is strategic, as it occupies the headwaters region of the Bad River. Major features include a large undeveloped lake and several hundred acres of undisturbed wetlands. Most surrounding land is forested with second-growth northern hardwoods, though some stands have retained a significant component of conifers. Human population density is low, but development is increasing rapidly, especially around other lakes in the area. Caroline Lake covers 129 acres, has a maximum depth of eight feet and has soft, slightly acid water. Bottom materials include muck, sand and gravel. The lake is fed by several small streams that originate in the extensive peatlands to the east. The outlet is the Bad River. Based on these physical and chemical attributes, the lake is classified as a soft, shallow, drainage lake, a relatively rare lake type in Wisconsin.

A narrow zone of emergent aquatic plants between one and 15 meters wide borders much of the shoreline. Dominant are water horsetail, hard-stemmed bulrush and Small's spike rush. Shallow portions of the lake basin support dense beds of submerged and floating-leaved aquatic vegetation such as water shield, coontail, yellow water lily and pondweeds. Small stands of tamarack swamp, sedge meadow and shrub swamp adjoin the lake.

The acid peatlands to the east consist of extensive muskeg/open bog, with small pools bordered by a poor fen (sphagnum lawn) community. The muskeg is characterized by scattered, stunted black spruce and tamarack; heathy shrubs such as leatherleaf, bog laurel and small cranberry; and sedges. Deep accumulations of sphagnum peat create a pronounced hummock-hollow microtopography across the surface. In some areas the trees are larger and denser, creating a near-forest condition. Labrador tea and three-seeded sedge are abundant in the understory of such stands.

Around the margins of the small pools within the peatland interior, the flora differs markedly. Here the sphagnum mat is level and quaking. The common sedges are white beak-rush and mud sedge; schuechzeria and grass pink orchid are more abundant.

Animals noted on or near the lake during the summer of 1996 include bald eagle, osprey (fishing), broad-winged hawk, common loon (pair on lake), blue-winged teal and hooded merganser. Fresh water sponges were common on submerged woody debris near the shore. A diverse complement of boreal lepidoptera and birds reside here. Lincoln's sparrow, palm warbler, magnolia warbler, olive-sided flycatcher and yellow-bellied flycatcher are representative birds. Caroline Lake and Wetlands has high intrinsic values, but is also worthy of protection for its important role in the Bad River Watershed. Protection work will have to proceed quickly as the rate of lake development has accelerated in recent years. A boat landing exists near the outlet and consideration should be given to moving it to protect river headwaters (Piikkila).

Recommendations

  1. Regional fish management staff should conduct fish sampling for mercury in the Bad River below Mellen (Type B).
  2. Regional fish management staff should conduct fish sampling for PCBs in the reach of the Bad River below Mellen if water quality evaluations of the outfalls in Mellen determine toxicants have been discharged (Type B).
  3. Regional basin management team staff should conduct a site visit at the Louisiana Pacific discharge to the Bad River to characterize the effluent path and to locate the discharge with a GPS unit (Type B).
  4. Regional basin management team staff should conduct stream condition monitoring of Krause and Tafelski creeks to determine if watershed activities are having any impact on the stream (Type B).

Bad River

About 31 miles of the Bad River are within this watershed. Above Copper Falls, the Bad River no longer supports migratory trout and salmon species from Lake Superior. It is considered Class II and Class III trout waters, up to the confluence with Minnie Creek. From Minnie Creek upstream to the headwaters is generally considered a forage fishery, supporting white suckers, common shiners and redhorse and the occasional longnose sucker, creek chub, blacknose dace, brook stickleback, mudminnow, longnose dace, stone roller and johnny darter. Beaver and muskrat use the river and waterfowl use is high. River flow fluctuates widely and other than portions with bedrock bottom, the upper reaches are primarily shifting sand.

Effluent discharges to the Bad River in the Mellen area historically have exceeded water quality standards for fecal coliform and five-day biochemical oxygen demand, but we have no recent data on the impacts to the water quality in this reach of the river. In the past, a veneer mill in Mellen discharged boiler and log-soaking wastes. Louisiana Pacific Corporation, Northern Division, discharges to the Bad River at Mellen. We have no current information about the nature of the effluent ditch or its exact location. The ditch currently handles only storm water runoff and no log spraying. An active permit would allow future log spraying to occur.

Parts of the watershed have been cleared for agricultural purposes.

The stretch of river around Mellen tends to be bedrock and boulder-bottomed with rapids and waterfalls including Copper and Brownstone Falls in Copper Falls State Park. The portion of the stream from the headwaters in Caroline Lake to Cayuga has a moderate gradient.

During survey work conducted as part of the coastal wetlands evaluation one rare species of macroinvertebrate was found and overall taxa richness was moderate (5-24 species) (Epstein 1997).

Ballou Creek

This stream is considered a Class I trout fishery in the portions of the stream flowing in Sections 11 and 12. The stream, which originates at McCarthy Lake in Iron County, is joined by several spring feeders before reaching Devils Creek, another Class I trout stream. The Class I trout portions of Ballou Creek are classified as exceptional resource waters. The stream has a high gradient and mostly hard sand, gravel and rocky bottom. Good natural reproduction is evident. Much of the upper portion of the stream has a dense tag alder swamp bordering it while the lower section is hardwood and conifer upland. Beaver are present and there is some migratory waterfowl use of the stream.

During survey work conducted as part of the coastal wetlands evaluation no rare species of macroinvertebrate were found and overall taxa richness was moderate (5-24 species) (Epstein 1997). Impoundment was a significant factor affecting habitat quality.

City Creek

This small, cold water brook trout stream provides a good spawning area for Devil's Creek, into which City Creek flows. The stream is considered Class II trout waters. A high gradient stream, it lacks sufficient in-stream cover for suitable trout habitat. A small impoundment near the headwaters once provided the city of Mellen with its water supply.

During survey work conducted as part of the coastal wetlands evaluation two rare species of macroinvertebrate were found and overall taxa richness was moderate (5-24 species) (Epstein 1997).

Devils Creek

This high quality stream supports a Class I trout fishery of brook, brown and rainbow trout and is classified as an exceptional resource water. The stream's feeders are also trout waters. In the past, reports stated that water quality in the headwaters portion had suffered some siltation and cover loss due to beaver activity. The stream also supports muskrat and nesting ducks. The state manages some reaches of the stream bank as a fishery area.

Happy Creek

This small, medium-quality brook trout stream flowing into the Bad River has good vegetative cover of various types and rather high gradient. During surveys in the 1960s, the headwaters region was shown to be partly pastured. A number of minnow species were common in the stream, with creek chubs and white suckers the most abundant, and common shiners, blacknose dace, mudminnows and sculpin present.

During survey work conducted as part of the coastal wetlands evaluation no rare species of macroinvertebrate were found and overall taxa richness was low (0-4 species) (Epstein 1997).

Knab Creek

Originating as a small outlet stream from Summit Lake, this stream flows through Knab Lake and into the Bad River. The portion between Summit Lake and Knab Lake is considered a forage fishery, while the reach from the outlet of Knab Lake to the river is considered trout water. Bottom conditions of the stream tend to be unstable muck and sand. Streambank vegetation cover is conifer swamp and fresh meadow.

During survey work conducted as part of the coastal wetlands evaluation no rare species of macroinvertebrate were found and overall taxa richness was low (0-4 species) (Epstein 1997).

During survey work conducted as part of the coastal wetlands evaluation no rare species of macroinvertebrate were found and overall taxa richness was low (0-4 species) (Epstein 1997).

Krause Creek

This small Class I brook trout stream tributary to the Bad River is classified as an exceptional resource water. The stream has a generally stable bottom of sand and gravel, but suffers from variable flow rates. Data from the 1960s suggested that extensive pasturing in the headwaters and midsection threatened water quality. Most of the streambank is in upland hardwood with occasional hardwood swamp. The Mellen Country Club exists along the shores of Krause Creek.

Minnie Creek

A medium-quality trout stream with brook trout the most common and brown trout present, this stream's water temperatures tend to be marginal for trout. Occasionally, extreme water temperature fluctuations are a problem. Most of the streambank cover is dense tag alder swamp, with confider-hardwood upland, fresh meadow and conifer swamp. Historic surveys report muskrat common along with nesting mallards, black ducks and teal, as well as some migratory waterfowl usage. Practically all of the streambank is in Ashland County Forest and Chequamegon National Forest ownership.

During survey work conducted as part of the coastal wetlands evaluation one rare species of macroinvertebrate was found and overall taxa richness was moderate (5-24 species) in the Ashland County portion of the stream; in the Iron County portion of the stream, taxa richness was low (0-4 species) (Epstein 1997). Impoundment was a significant factor potentially affecting habitat quality at the Ashland County survey site; while a aquatic plants and filamentous algae were significant at the Iron County survey site.

Minnow Creek

This stream is primarily a warm water forage stream with a middle segment that is considered Class II trout waters. The stream begins at the outlet of Twin Lakes, flows through Eureka and Gallilee lakes and then into a bog and swamp region where flow dissipates. The stream reemerges from the bog as the outlet from Beaver Lake, then receives the drainage from Snowshoe, Meader and Long lakes before reaching the Bad River. Flow varies considerably and the watershed is used extensively by muskrat, beaver and nesting ducks. About half of the streambank falls in public ownership. The watershed appears to absorb storm runoff in its lakes and wetlands, reducing the likelihood of flooding.

During survey work conducted as part of the coastal wetlands evaluation no rare species of macroinvertebrate were found and overall taxa richness was low (0-4 species) (Epstein 1997).

Aquatic plants were significant at the survey site.

Montreal Creek

Flowing from Iron County into Devils Creek near its outlet to the Bad River, this medium-quality trout water demonstrated a good population of brook trout during 1960s surveys. Extreme water level fluctuations and beaver use have been historic management problems. Muskrat and nesting ducks are common. One of its feeders, Opergard (Gully) Creek, is also a trout stream.

During survey work conducted as part of the coastal wetlands evaluation one rare species of macroinvertebrate was found and overall taxa richness was moderate (5-24 species) (Epstein 1997). Urban runoff is a potential pollutant source at one survey site and filamentous algae was present at a second survey site.

Squaw Creek

This medium- to low-quality trout stream flows mostly through about 200 acres of tag alder and willow swamp into the Iron River. Although the stream has some good spring water sources, bottom conditions are unstable sand and silt. Historic beaver flooding deteriorated the fish habitat; spawning areas for brook trout are scarce. Muskrat are present along with nesting ducks. Most of the stream flows through public lands.

During survey work conducted as part of the coastal wetlands evaluation no rare species of macroinvertebrate were found and overall taxa richness was low (0-4 species) (Epstein 1997). Impoundment is a potential factor affecting habitat quality.

Tafelski Creek

This Bad River tributary flows from the base of a rock outcrop southwest of Mellen. The stream has historically had good water quality and demonstrated the presence of brook trout, but production appeared limited. The stream provides a spawning area for the Bad River. The upper part of the watershed in hardwood upland, while the lower portion is shrub swamp and fresh meadow.

During survey work conducted as part of the coastal wetlands evaluation four rare species of macroinvertebrate were found and overall taxa richness was moderate (5-24 species) (Epstein 1997). Cropland is a potential pollutant source at the survey site.

Last Revised: Friday August 11 2006