Wolf Lake Watershed
Hydrologic Unit Code: 04030202
The Wolf River Watershed is approximately 3,727 square miles and is primarily covered by farmland and forest. The Wolf River originates with a discharge from Pine Lake located in Forest County. The river flows south for about 203 miles until it reached Lake Poygan, at which point it becomes part of the Lake Winnebago system. From there, Lake Winnebago discharges into the Lower Fox River where it eventually discharges into the Green Bay.
Menominee, Stockbridege-Munsee Band of Mohicans, the Forest County Potawatomi Community, the Sokaogon Chippewa, and Mole Lake all participate in the Wisconsin NRCS Tribal Conservation Advisory Council.
Development within the basin is predominately along the Wolf River or its major tributaries. Communities like Shawano, Clintonville, New London, Waupaca, and Weyauwega were primarily founded near the river and served as focal points for the logging industry.
The basin’s general topography can be characterized by rolling hills, plain meadows, lush and forested wetlands, numerous lakes and small tributaries. Vegetation consists primarily of hardwood forests mixed with large amounts of hemlock, northern white-cedar swamp, and hardwood-conifer swamp.
Surface waters within the basin are a mix of cold and warm water streams with smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike, panfish, trout and salmon. Groundwater is generally abundant, clean, and used for drinking water in many of the basin’s communities.
Over 143 rare animal species live in the Wolf River Basin including the Northern Goshawk, Red headed Woodpecker, Great Gray Owl, Barn Owl, Red –shouldered Hawk, Bald Eagle, Osprey, various butterflies, beetles, dragonflies, fish, grasshoppers, mayflies, mussels, mammals, snails, snakes, and turtles.
The basin supports 57 rare plants (known accounts), including 8 state endangered, 11 state threatened, 38 special concern and two federally list plant species. The majority of these plants are associated with wetlands.
The basin includes the Northern Hills and Northeast Plains Ecological Landscapes with small portions in the Central Sand Hills, Southeast Glacial Plains and North Central Forest. The Nature Conservancy has identified Midwest Mixed Emergent Marsh, Silver Maple – Elm – (Cottonwood) Forest, and Tussock Sedge Wet Meadow as important ecosystems in the watershed. In addition, the Wolf Lake Chain, the Lower Embarrass River’s large tributaries to the Lower Wolf River, Oxbow Lakes, cool headwaters, and rapids reach of the mainstream Wolf River have been identified as critical ecological systems. The Wolf River Watershed is also a critical migratory waterfowl stop-over site.
Critical species found in the Wolf River Watershed include:
- Lake Sturgeon
- American Bittern
- Black Tern
- Sedge Wren
- Cerulean Warbler
- Wood Thrush
- Red-headed Woodpecker
- Black and white Warbler
- Round Pigtoe
- Prothonotary Warbler
- Golden-winged Warbler
- Blue Winged Warbler
The following species have been identified in the Lower Embarras River, a tributary to the Lower Wolf River:
- Lake Sturgeon
- Round Pigtoe
- Pygmy Snaketail
- Salamander Mussel
- Western Sand Darter
Between the years of 1996 and 2001, there has been a slight increase in developed land, farmland, and forest, and a slight decrease in grassland and wetlands.
There are several issues within the watershed that have been identified which include, loss of aquatic habitat and open land to development, pollution threats to surface and groundwater, simplification of diverse habitats and loss of specialty habitats that support rare species. Dams, urban and agricultural runoff and other sources of in place pollutants have posted a threat to water quality. In addition, invasive, exotic species such as purple loostrife, gypsy moths, zebra mussels, Eurasian water milfoil, and garlic mustard have been identified as a problem throughout the watershed.
In response to the watershed’s challenges, the following is a list of priorities/initiatives that have been identified:
- Preserve biodiversity and protect endangered and threatened species
- Protect large contiguous blocks of forests, grassland and wetlands that serve as habitat for mammals, birds, and amphibians, and provide a large self sustaining ecosystem
- Monitor wildlife populations, water quality, and ecosystem function to determine the status and trends of the resources in the basin
The Wolf Basin Partners have identified the following areas as highest basin priorities:
- Water pollution
- Loss of shoreline habitat
- Hunting/fishing/trapping and recreational uses
- Inventory of resources
The Wisconsin DNR’s Wolf Team has also identified areas on which to focus:
- Preservation and protection of wetlands
- The presence and spread of invasive species
- Pressures on natural resources from development
- Promoting sound land use and “smart growth” or comprehensive planning
- The University of Wisconsin-Extension
- Fox Wolf Watershed Alliance
- Lake Michigan Forum
- Wolf River Basin
- Dan Helf, Wolf River Basin Water Team Leader — Daniel.Helf@dnr.state.wi.us
Additional information is available at Michigan State University's Institute for Water Research's Digital Watershed Tool. 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: 04030202 - Wolf
USGS State Information and Contacts:
Current Water Data:
- NWIS Real-time Streamflow Stations Grouped by County in Wolf - HUC 04030202
- NWIS Real-time Water Quality Samples Grouped by County in Wolf - HUC 04030202
- NWIS Real-time Groundwater Sites Grouped by County in Wolf - HUC 04030202
All Water Data (Current and Historic Sites):
- National Water Information System: Mapper
- NWIS Site Inventory Grouped by County in Wolf - HUC 04030202
- NWIS Water Quality Samples Grouped by County in Wolf - HUC 04030202
- NWIS Groundwater Inventory Levels Grouped by County in Wolf - HUC 04030202
Other Data Links:
- Western Lake Michigan Drainages Study Unit, NAWQA
- USGS GIS Spatial Data Sets Available on the WRD NSDI Node
- Water Use In The United States
- Nonindigenous Aquatic Species (NAS Data) for the Wolf - HUC 04030202
Current Regional/National Conditions:
- USGS Drought Watch - U.S Map of Drought and Low Flow Conditions
- USGS WaterWatch - Real-time Streamflow Map for the Great Lakes Region- HUC 04
- USGS WaterWatch - Real-time Floods and High Flow Conditions Map for the Great Lakes Region - HUC 04
Search USGS for Links, Publications and Web Sites Associated with:
EPA Links for the Wolf - HUC 04030202:
- EPA - Impaired Waters for the Wolf - HUC 04030202
- EPA - Storet Watershed Station Summary for the Wolf - HUC 04030202
- EPA - Surf Your Watershed for the Wolf for HUC 04030202
- EPA - Adopt Your Watershed for the Wolf HUC 04030202
- EPA - EnviroMapper for the Wolf HUC 04030202
To report invasive species, you can send an alert via e-mail or call 1-877-STOP-ANS.
Impaired (303d) Waters
A listing of impaired waters can be found on the U.S. EPA website for the Wolf River watershed
Subwatersheds for the Wolf River Watershed
Information on other Lake Michigan subwatersheds can be found at Lake Michigan Subwatershed Information