The Upper Bad River subwatershed is one of seven subwatersheds within the 700,000-acre Bad River Watershed (BRW). While the total area of the BRW rests over Ashland, Bayfield, and Iron counties, the Upper Bad River watershed is located primarily in Ashland and Iron counties. This watershed is approximately 86,208 acres in size, covering about 12% of the BRW’s total area. The confluence of Tyler Forks and the Upper Bad River at Copper Falls State Park marks the downstream end of the Upper Bad River basin. It passes through the communities of Anderson, Ashland, Gordon, Jacobs, Mellen and Morse.
Based on the Wisconsin Land Cover Data (WISCLAND) map from the Wisconsin DNR, the Upper Bad River sub-watershed consists of approximately 80% forest, 13% forested wetlands and 5% grasslands. There are several small communities and farm areas along Highway 13, which the river parallels.
Caroline Lake (pictured above) is a 129 acre drainage lake that serves as the headwaters for the Bad River. Caroline Lake is composed of open bog, shrub swamp, sedge meadow, emergent marsh and small pond habitat. These wetlands are important to many nesting and migratory waterfowl, mammals, invertebrates and fish. The land in this area has been purchased for conservation by The Nature Conservancy.
Wastewater discharge permits exist in the Upper Bad River subwatershed for Louisiana Pacific Corp. Northern Division, the city of Mellen and Copper Falls State Park.
BRWA volunteers sample two sites on the Bad River above Copper Falls: at Gilman Park in Mellen, and near the Village of Morse.