Lake Winnebago Watershed

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Hydrologic Unit Code: 04030203

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Watershed Overview

The Lake Winnebago Watershed covers over 581 square miles with over 200 square miles of the watershed being lakes, the largest of which is Lake Winnebago. The watershed is located between Upper and Lower Fox Rivers in Wisconsin, and includes the cities of Menasha, Oshkosh, and Fond du Lac, Wisconsin as the primary urbanized areas. The watershed also includes the High Cliff State Park, a 1,145 acre state park, located in Calumet County.

The watershed is above a sandstone aquifer and is primarily a glacial plain. The Niagra Escarpment, a bedrock ridge, forms the eastern boundary of the Lake Winnebago Watershed.

A Glacial Habitat Restoration Area (GHRA) is located in the watershed in Winnebago and Fond du Lac counties. The GHRA is an area where the state is restoring a patchwork of grasslands and wetlands over a large rural landscape enabling wildlife to coexist side-by-side with agriculture. The basin also hosts resident and migratory neo-tropical songbirds in its open grassland/agricultural habitat.

Between 1996 and 2001, there has been a slight increase in developed land, grassland, and wetlands, and a slight decrease in farmland and forest.

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Watershed Activities

There is several water quality issues associated with the watershed for numerous sources ranging from urban runoff to agriculture. Several studies have been completed to identify these sources.

Several urban stormwater outfalls discharge to Lake Winnebago from portions of the Cities of Oshkosh, Neenah, and Menasha. Runoff from peak storm events from commercial, industrial, and residential construction sites, and from plat developments in rapidly developing sections of these cities have been identified as sources of nonpoint source pollution problems.

Water quality modeling done by Northeast Wisconsin Waters of Tomorrow (NEWWT) have indicated this watershed to be a major contributor of phosphorus and suspended solids to Lake Winnebago. Critical animal waste and soil erosion problems have been intensified by the steep slopes along the Niagra Escarpment.

Average soil loss in Calumet County is estimated to be 2.7 tons per acre. These factors accelerate nutrient and sediment delivery to Lake Winnebago. Based on this data, both the Winnebago Comprehensive Management Plan and the Lower Green Bay Remedial Action Plan has identified this watershed as a high priority for the control of non point sources of pollution.

The eastern portion of the watershed was selected as a nonpoint source priority watershed project in 1989. The primary goals of this watershed project was to reduce phosphorus and sediment loading to Lake Winnebago and decrease the loading of heavy metals from urban nonpoint sources.

Lake Winnebago specific fisheries priorities include:

  • Continue the Lake Winnebago Fisheries Community Assessment through trawling, seining, shocking, and netting to characterize the Lake Winnebago fish community and assess year-class strength.
  • Continue lake sturgeon management in the Winnebago-Fox-Wolf System.
  • Conduct population and harvest assessments
  • Continue public involvement and education
  • Work closely with the Winnebago Citizens Sturgeon Advisory Committee
  • Pursue Upper Fox River long term sturgeon spawning stock rehabilitation, spawning, and nursery habitat protection and enhancement
  • Cooperate with other regional, statewide, national, and international sturgeon management and research programs
  • Prepare the annual Winnebago System Sturgeon Management Report, direct sturgeon registration, and determine harvest cap for the annual sturgeon spearing season

Watershed Contacts

For more information, see the USEPA “Surf Your Watershed” website at

The Wisconsin DNR manages the Lake Winnebago watershed as part of the Upper Fox River basin management area. For more information, see the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ “Wisconsin’s Basins” website at

Additional information is available at Michigan State University's Institute for Water Research's Digital Watershed Tool at: This site has interactive watershed-based information on industrial facilities discharge sites, toxic release inventory, permit compliance system, water quality stations, bacteria stations, national sediment inventory stations, best management practices, water quality observation stations, weather data stations, impaired waters (reach and area), landcover change (1992-2001), landuse 2001, soil, and elevation.

Watershed Data and Information

USGS Water Resources Links for: 04030203 - Lake Winnebago

USGS State Information and Contacts:

Current Water Data:

All Water Data (Current and Historic Sites):

Other Data Links:

Current Regional/National Conditions:

Search USGS for Links, Publications and Web Sites Associated with:

EPA Links for the Lake Winnebago - HUC 04030203:

Impaired (303d) Waters

A listing of impaired waters can be found on the U.S. EPA website at:


Subwatersheds for the Lake Winnebago Watershed

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Information on other Lake Michigan subwatersheds can be found at:
HUC Watershed Name
04030203 0101 City of Oshkosh-Lake Winnebago
04030203 0102 Willow Harbor-Lake Winnebago
04030203 0103 Van Dyne Creek-Lake Winnebago
04030203 0201 Village of Rosendale-Fond Du Lac River
04030203 0202 Sevenmile Creek-East Branch of the Fond Du Lac River
04030203 0203 Parsons Creek-East Branch of the Fond Du Lac River
04030203 0204 Eldorado Marsh-Fond Du Lac River
04030203 0301 De Neveu Creek
04030203 0302 Taycheedah Creek
04030203 0303 Pipe Creek-Lake Winnebago
04030203 0304 City of Utowana Beach-Lake Winnebago
04030203 0401 Lake Winnebago