Bad River Watershed Association

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Young Stewards

As a BRWA staff member, the most enjoyable and fulfilling work includes getting out in the watershed to do fieldwork, as well as education and outreach. It's hard to imagine a better way to spend the day than doing all of those things at once. This past month was rich with such opportunities. BRWA participated in a water quality workshop on the Potato River with 30 students from Red Cliff and Bad River as part of an Indigenous Arts and Sciences program on July 15th, and then hosted a similar workshop for nine members of Sparta's High School Earth Club on the Tyler Forks on July 18th.

Indigenous Arts and Sciences is a function of the UW Arboretum's Earth Partnership program. Staff from the UW Arboretum and Bad River Natural Resources Department (BRNRD) were among those that helped instruct at the event. Mariana, BRWA Volunteer Coordinator, teamed up with BRNRD to teach water chemistry monitoring techniques using the LaMotte water quality kits used by BRWA volunteers. Naomi Tillison of BRNRD showed the participants how to use a meter to gather a number of different water quality parameters. BRNRD also did a demonstration with a FlowTracker, and explained how streamflow information coupled with chemistry data can be useful by showing how much of a given substance or pollutant is being discharged from a waterbody over time.

Tony Janisch, BRWA Executive Director, helped lead the aquatic invertebrate section of the workshop. The participants collected bugs using D-nets, and then looked at the live specimens and practiced identifying them. The group engaged in discussions about the habitat and water quality requirements of the specific types of invertebrates, and how this information is used to guide decisions about our water resources.


The Earth Club of Sparta, WI High School is longtime member of the Bad River Watershed Association. Though Sparta may be hours away from the Bad River watershed, this group has made it a habit to treat the world the way they would their own backyard. They have spearheaded a successful recycling program in their community, and use the proceeds to support conservation efforts they care deeply about. This includes arctic conservation and solutions to climate change, the work of the Bad River Watershed Association, and more recently, Save the Boundary Waters. The leader of Earth Club is Joe Cook, who teaches German at Sparta High School. He has a social and sentimental connection to the Chequamegon Bay area. He passes on his stewardship ethic and care of the Great Lakes to his students by teaching them about issues facing the region and leading them on field trips to visit this special place. They always make a stop at Waverly Beach to visit Joe Rose, retired professor of Native American Studies at Northland College and Bad River Tribal Elder.

The Earth Club water quality monitoring workshop took place on the Tyler Forks at the end of Moore Park Road. The group was interested in this spot because of its proximity to the previously proposed GTac mine and the Lac Courte Oreilles Harvest Education Learning Project Camp. It is also a scenic and excellent place to get in the water and enjoy the natural beauty of this trout stream. To combat the bugs, a screen tent was set up for several hours to act as a temporary "field station" as the students looked at invertebrate samples and practiced chemistry monitoring. Following the workshop, the Sparta Earth Club presented BRWA with a donation, which will be used to fund our volunteer water quality monitoring program.

We'd like to thank everyone that participated in or helped organize these events. The future of our resources and the planet are in the capable hands of these truly optimistic and creative youth, and one can't help but feel inspired. Experiences like this are a big reason we do what we do!


Waterfalls of Iron County

BRWA members and friends went in search of some of the lesser known and harder-to-find waterfalls in the Iron County side of the watershed on Sunday, May 17th. Twenty-five adventurous souls split into groups of 4 to 6 and trekked through sometimes rugged, periodically muddy, but spectacularly lovely terrain.

Rain pounded down as we drove to our varied starting points but backed down to a light mist as we arrived.  Blue bead lilies, trout lilies, trillium and wild leeks carpet the forest floors. We had to step on a few as we wound into the woods to avoid deep puddles on some trails.

Foster Falls on the Potato River blasted over the rock face, and we pretended the mist in the air was spray from the waterfall.  There is no such thing as bad weather – only bad gear.  All came prepared wearing rain jackets and DEET.

The drive up the hill to Ren Falls on the Tyler Forks River has improved greatly in past years. Unfortunately, upgrades allow easier access for logging equipment, and the loggers moved in last week to cut a large swath of the forest along the trail.  Muddy rivulets ran into brown ponds on the downhill side of the road.  But the road held and took us safely to the trailhead.

At the top of the trail, we found Ren Falls gushing.  Lest you think the ‘W’ was left off in error, here is the story of ‘Ren Vought.’  According to his grandson, ‘Ren Vought came to northern Wisconsin in the 1800's.  Worked as a Timber Cruiser and various other jobs in the lumber camps.  Later on in life he became a camp cook and perhaps experimented with moonshine a little I was told...His son Clarence worked in the a youngster I can remember him working with horses in the woods...later on Clarence worked on the ore boats.  Ren Vought Falls and Vought Road...(the name has been spelled wrong on the sign as Vogues) were named after Ren as was Ren Vought's bluff on (County Road) GG.....Ren's real name was Lorenzo...but shortened by all who knew him to Ren... ‘

While the landscape is not pretty following a cutover, Iron County’s forested land is what provides free access to these falls for all. The sustainable harvest of timber is also the largest revenue source in Iron County, adding $1.5 million to the general fund each year and tens of l thousands in payments to each of the affected towns.  The waterfalls we visited are almost all in the Town of Anderson where the majority of the land is county forest.

At the end of the logging road is beautiful Rouse Falls on Rouse Creek which flows to Erickson Creek before feeding the Tyler Forks River on its journey to Copper Falls State Park in Mellen where it joins the Bad River in flowing to Lake Superior.















We moved on to Rouse Falls and a slightly (?)  muddy walk on another well-used logging road.


The muddy, buggy walk was well worth it to see this amazing waterfall.  Thanks Mike Mertes for this photo of Rouse Falls.

Rouse Falls provided a great opportunity to practice ‘the black fly wave.’  Thanks Sarah Boles!

At the end of Moore Park Road, a trail leads upstream to the cascading waters flowing through the Tyler Forks gorge.

The sun peeked out just long enough to highlight the water and elicit big smiles from these hikers.

Back at our meeting place in the Upson Town Park and Upson Falls, rain began again in earnest as we brushed off the mud, waved away the bugs and headed for home.  If looking the right direction, you would have seen the rainbow.

Some comments from those who attended:

Thanks for a great day. ~Jean

We loved the wonderful adventure you took us on. Thank you --Vivianne and Larry

Yes indeed! A fine day on the planet. Thank one and all who dreamed, planned, tramped, mapped, made signs, banged them in and then invited our fine community along for the fun!    --Andy

Beautiful day, wonderful company and great scenery.  Even getting stuck wasn't unpleasant. – Mike

Ditto on all the remarks. Next time an earlier hike with a pot luck would be fun to be able to visit with everyone. Cheers --Sarah & Adrian


BRWA Recognized by The Bottom Line News and Views

Bad River Watershed Association was featured in this year's Earth Day edition of Diane Daulton's "The Water Column" in The Bottom Line News and Views.


The Water Column

by Diane Daulton

Northwoods residents dub this time of year “mud season”, but staying put during mud season in the Lake Superior watershed can be worth its weight in gold, as nature puts on quite a show.  Some favorite spring suggestions … thrill in the catch and release of a brookie, witness the enduring power of area waterfalls, or drive to the boonies for a nighttime glimpse of the illusive northern lights. Even homebodies can enjoy the animated ups and downs of springtime weather, perhaps punctuated by an April shower or May flower.

From a water resource professional’s standpoint, mud season is an exciting time, often coinciding with spring runoff.  Like March, waters from melting snows or spring rains either roar downstream like lions, or not…sometimes simply dissipating more like the proverbial lamb.  The reason for all this excitement?  The increased speed and velocity of water as it moves over clay soils and open lands can exacerbate erosion, de-stabilizing streambanks and leading to failures in the form of slumps, or outright collapse of bluffs.

From a trout’s perspective, milk-chocolate colored streams, flooding, and transport of sediments from the upper reaches of the watershed can make it tough to earn a living.  The landscape and geology of our region predispose streams like the Marengo River, Bear Trap Creek, and Fish Creek to heavy sediment loads.  The good news…key to addressing this concern and is a better understanding of how water flows through a watershed and the how land use practices affect the quantity, quality, timing, and velocity of runoff events.

In keeping with Earth Day’s adage, “Think Globally, Act Locally”, citizens can learn more and help “slow the flow” to protect area streams through activities offered by the Bad River Watershed Association (BRWA).  Their association is working to help people better understand how issues like erosion and sedimentation affect our watershed and Lake Superior…“Connecting People, Land, and Water”.

BRWA supports a monitoring program to enlist citizens in supplementing data collected by agencies and Tribal staff.   Folks who want to get involved can get start small and decide how much training and commitment they prefer.  The first step for many is learning to collect and identify aquatic insects called macroinvertebrates.  By identifying what types of aquatic life streams can support, more is known about habitat health and water quality. This year’s “macro” training is being offered on May 9th in Mellen [from 9:00am-1:00pm, and May 10th in Mason from 1:00pm-5:00pm].  For a fun look at the watershed, a waterfall tour is also being offered on May 17th.  To sign up, contact Mariana at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

BRWA also has a fish passage program to support native brook trout.  By working with towns to identify and upgrade problematic culverts, they have completed restoration of more than 18 miles of trout habitat and have funding for three new projects in 2015.   In the Penokees, BRWA still has monitoring plans.  Executive Director Tony Janisch stated, “We plan to collect data in the Penokee region, since there is still potential for a mine in the future”.  Their strategy is to continue working to establish baseline data, while broadening efforts to cover more of the mineral deposit area.  Currently, over a dozen “baseline” sites are established in the Tyler Forks and Upper Bad River sub-watersheds, where sampling for macroinvertebrates is ongoing and submerged data loggers monitor water temperatures hourly, all summer long.

If getting your feet wet monitoring isn’t your thing, BRWA hosts the “Watershed Words Lecture Series” to provide a closer look at the watershed.  For more information on upcoming programs, check out their website at or contact Tony at 715.682.2003.

Knowing that some of our Northwoods streams still support brookies is exhilarating, whether you experience their multicoloured splendour from the babbling brook or simply explore the world they inhabit as a visitor.  As a tribute to trout everywhere, inspiration comes from 7th grade student Joshua’s poem written as part of an interdisciplinary “trout in the classroom” project at Nichols Middle School in Buffalo, NY.   “Gliding ninjas of the sea.  You are biracial, I can see. A shadowy top, a radiant belly…Swift as a cheetah, smooth as jelly. You’re initially pretty, then you become something grand. Up to eighteen inches long, you’re now longer than my hand.” excerpted from

Diane is an independent natural resource consultant and can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



Thank You, Norcross Wildlife Foundation!

Earlier this year, we were awarded a $2000 grant from Norcross Wildlife Foundation. Thanks to their generosity, we were able to purchase some much-needed computer hardware and software, including these three laptops and a new office server. We made our purchases through TechSoup, an organization that sells refurbished computers and discounted software to nonprofit organizations.

This new equipment has already had a profoundly positive impact on our computing, data storage, and network capabilities. Thank you, Norcross Wildlife Foundation!


Water Chemistry Volunteers Attend Quality Control Session

BRWA Water Chemisty volunteers gathered at Northland College on the evening on April 1st to test the accuracy of their sampling techniques and equipment. Dr. Sharon Anthony hosted the event in her lab in the Northland College CSE, and helped by preparing standards to test and assisting with oversight. The volunteers did very well - their techniques were sound and their results were accurate. We host at least one water chemistry quality control session each year to help volunteers with any questions or difficulties they may be having, to restock their LaMotte sampling kits, and to ensure that we continue to collect high-quality data. Our thanks to Sharon Anthony and Northland College for hosting this event, and to the volunteers for attending.



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Threats To Water Poll

Please rank the questions below based on what you believe is the greater threat to water quality in the region. (5 being the highest, 1 being the lowest - use the "+" selector to vote. 5 votes for highest rank, 4 votes for second highest, etc.)

Large-scale agriculture
Failing septic/waste treatment systems
Stream sedimentation, washouts and erosion
Forest management practices
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15 Votes left
BRWAs Priorities Poll

Please rank the questions below based on how you believe BRWA should prioritize emerging water quality issues in the region. (5 being the highest, 1 being the lowest - use the "+" selector to vote. 5 votes for highest rank, 4 votes for second highest, etc.)

Establish baseline water quality conditions
Outreach and education
Restore problem erosional areas
Work with local authorities to address water quality issues
Protective waterway designations
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15 Votes left

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