Bad River Watershed Association

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Welcome to the Bad River Watershed Association

Started in 2002 by a group of local dedicated citizens, the Bad River Watershed Association was formed as a non-profit to promote a healthy relationship between the people and natural communities of the Bad River watershed by involving all citizens in assessing, maintaining and improving watershed integrity for future generations.

The Bad River Watershed (BRW) drains over 1,000 square miles along Wisconsin’s north shore. The headwaters are found in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. The lower one-third of the watershed is land of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribes of Chippewa Indians Reservation. Small, rural communities including Mellen, Odanah, Gurney, Mason, Grand View, Delta and Marengo are scattered throughout the watershed. The Kakagon Slough/Bad River Slough, located at the mouth of the watershed on Lake Superior, is the largest and possibly most pristine freshwater estuary remaining on Lake Superior and is the only remaining extensive coastal wild rice wetland in the Great Lakes Basin. The Bad River watershed is home to sturgeon spawning grounds, pristine coldwater trout streams, prime wolf habitat, and many more outstanding plant, fish and wildlife communities.

The Bad River Watershed Association is pleased to announce our new vision for 2016 and beyond - including the expansion of our reach from Red Cliff to Michigan

As we consider the future of the BRWA, we realize the time for growth has arrived. Lake Superior and the Chequamegon Bay region in particular are precious to many. People count on clean water and healthy natural resources for their employment, recreation and daily life. The rivers and streams that empty into the Bay and Lake have an impact on these waters and the resources within, like fish and wild rice.

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Connecting People, Land, and Water

Four Ways to Give to BRWA this Holiday Season

As the year draws to an end, and with the approaching season of merriment and holiday festivities, please consider an extra gift to BRWA.  Your support will ensure that we have the necessary resources to continue citizen engagement, stream restoration and water quality outreach.

There are four ways to give to BRWA this holiday season.

1. Respond to our end of the year appeal letter.  You should be seeing one in your mailbox in a few weeks.

2. As you’re shopping on Cyber Monday, find our Wish List at to help BRWA fulfill field equipment and office supply needs.

3. While completing your Amazon holiday shopping, use their AmazonSmile program.  By purchasing through AmazonSmile, a portion of your purchase (0.5%) will be donated to BRWA. You can find us here:

4. After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, remember us on Giving Tuesday.  The first Tuesday after Thanksgiving is dedicated to giving to your favorite non-profit.  I hope that’s us.  You can make online donations here on our website.

Thanks for remembering your favorite non-profit. Here’s to making 2016 a Happy New Year!


Upcoming Macroinvertebrate ID Sessions - Everyone Welcome!

BRWA will hold Macroinvertebrate ID sessions on December 2 and 9 in Room 125 of the Northland College CSE (science building) in Ashland. Swing by any time between 5:30 and 8:00 PM.

We encourage anyone who is curious about the many interesting types of macroinvertebrates that inhabit our waters to attend our ID sessions. Everyone is welcome to come learn, and help out if they wish. We could use some extra people to sort the samples our volunteers have collected and even try their hand at identification.


2015 Karen Danielsen Stewardship Award

By Valerie Damstra

In 2009 the Karen Danielsen Award was created to honor the memory of one of our founding members. Karen was a strong voice for the Association, and aside from serving as Board President, she was a field volunteer, committee member, and helped with event planning.  She showed a passion for the Bad River Watershed Association and her time and commitment is not forgotten.  Each year the Karen Danielsen Award is given to a dedicated volunteer who shows the same energy and passion for the Bad River Watershed Association.

For the first time the Board has selected a volunteer team as the recipient of this award.  Water quality volunteers Bruce Prentice and Steve Baumgardner.

I can remember when Steve and Bruce first started to volunteer.  They got their start by coming to the spring macro training in 2011. When we pair people up for the sampling sites, we try to match new people with experienced volunteers.  But for Steve and Bruce, we didn't have anyone to pair them with, so we put them together, not knowing if they’d work well together or even get along.  It seemed to work out. They did their first season together, and continued to voluntarily be paired up and even became good friends. 

Bruce Prentice and Steve Baumgardner have continued monitoring together as a team.  Throughout the years, they’ve monitored Trout Brook, 20 Mile Creek, and 18 Mile Creek for macroinvertebrates, and they’ve helped with temperature monitoring on Spring Creek for the Culvert Program.

These guys have given extra, too. Bruce was a huge help with the office move in 2013 and is one of our consistent volunteers for the Adopt a Hwy cleanups.  After each season’s macro event was done, Steve would hand me a donation check to give another contribution. After giving those hours of time, he'd want to give just a little extra. "I just love the BRWA" is what he'd tell me.

From my time at BRWA as staff and now on the Board, I have always thought of the two together, "Steve and Bruce."   I am pleased and impressed the BRWA’s volunteerism has not only fostered service to conservation efforts but also new friendship.


Protectors of the Bad River Watershed Honored with Statewide Wetlands Award

Madison, WI – On Thursday, November 5, wetland enthusiasts from around Wisconsin will gather to recognize individuals whose work advances the protection, restoration, and enjoyment of Wisconsin’s wetlands at Wisconsin Wetlands Association’s (WWA) 2015 Annual Wetlands Awards Celebration.

A collective of individuals and organizations working for the wetlands of the Bad River Watershed are being recognized for their work promoting the importance of wetlands in protecting the Bad River Watershed, a watershed that includes the Bad River/Kakaogon Sloughs Estuary, and the Penokee Hills, an area recently considered for a controversial iron mine development. The efforts of the 2015 awards winners show how high quality wetland protection and care can happen in a working landscape. The Wetland Leaders in the Bad River Watershed include William Heart, the Bad River Tribal Environmental Program, the Bad River Watershed Association, John Coleman and Dawn White of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission Environmental Section, and Jim Meeker (posthumously) and Joan Elias.

William Heart, an active fly fisherman and Trout Unlimited leader, has advocated for the importance of this area as a trout fishery, has been involved in years of field work in the wetlands of this watershed, and has been instrumental in organizing and helping others protect and care for the wetland resources of the Bad River Watershed.

The Bad River Tribal Natural Resources Program provides the science-based support needed to protect and care for the cultural and ecological resources of the region’s wetlands. Their work in the Bad River Watershed includes the development of a written water code to ensure the quality and quantity of Reservation waters, a wetland assessment and monitoring program, and extensive studies and management actions maintaining the health of the wild rice, fish, wildlife, and cultural resources in the Bad River/Kakagon Sloughs Estuary. Their efforts resulted in the sloughs’ designation as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

John Colemen and Dawn White of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission Environmental Section – GLIFWC staff have been instrumental in extensively refining wetland and water resources mapping capabilities in the Upper Bad River Watershed. Their detailed work has identified and called attention to a large amount of wetlands and streams in the watershed that had previously been unmapped or unknown.

The Bad River Watershed Association has developed a citizen-science based water monitoring program documenting the baseline conditions of the water resources throughout the watershed. They have conducted tours and presentations to hundreds of individuals explaining the importance of the region’s wetlands to the health of the entire watershed.

Jim Meeker and Joan Elias – For decades, Jim and Joan have been involved in the monitoring, assessment, protection, and management of the wetlands of the Bad River Watershed in partnership with the Bad River Tribe. As a wetland scientist at Northland College, Jim published peer-reviewed hydrologic and wild rice studies conducted in the Bad River/Kakogon Sloughs Estuary, contributing greatly to the proper management of this area. In partnership with GLIFWC, Jim and Joan published a guide to the plants used by the Great Lakes Ojibwa, including many wetland plants. Jim passed away suddenly in December of 2014.

“We know there are many wetland crusaders whose good deeds have not been adequately recognized,” said Tracy Hames, WWA’s Executive Director. “Our Wetlands Awards are intended to help us thank a few of them and bring recognition to the wetland resources they promote as well.”

The Wetlands Awards Celebration will be held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum Visitor Center, November 5, from 6:30pm to 9:30pm. Tickets are available for this event and can be purchased by visiting WWA’s website or calling 608-250-9971. The evening will also include a silent auction, buffet, desserts, and a cash bar.

The other winner of the 2015 Wetlands Awards is Travis Olson of the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program.

“Wetlands play an important role in both the ecology and economy of Wisconsin. We hope that our Awards will help Wisconsinites appreciate and understand the value of our state’s wetland heritage, an important step toward ensuring protection for all of our wetlands,” Hames said.

Wisconsin Wetlands Association (WWA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection, restoration and enjoyment of wetlands and associated ecosystems through science-based programs, education and advocacy. Its more than 1,700 members include wetland experts, natural resource professionals, conservationists, hunters and anglers, educators, concerned citizens, and local and regional organizations. Visit WWA online at


Soils, Landforms & Water

BRWA hosted Soils, Landforms & Water, the latest in our Watershed Walk series, on Saturday, September 12.  Ten people attended this fantastic hike led by Ulf Gafvert.

Great weather made for a great morning to tramp through the woods with Ulf and learn how soil, landforms and water are connected.  Ulf provided a history/geography/physical science lesson in the course of a short walk on a Bayfield County hillside.  He described soil permeability and how differing types of soils handle substances applied naturally (rain) or otherwise (manure) to their surface.

Walking down the hillside, Ulf dug cores a few feet below the topsoil.  Trip participants were able to see how the soils differed at various locations going down the hillside.  As water flows and seeps through the ground and downhill, it changes the characteristics of the soil.  The bottom of the hill, the flatland, was made up of heavy clay where drainage becomes much more challenging.  It is more difficult for water to seep through clay soil, and there is generally more surface run-off.

Ulf currently works for the National Park Service Great Lakes Monitoring Network.  He has also worked as a Soil Scientist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.


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