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Northern Kettles team

Streambank Protection Program

Northern Kettle Streambank
The Northern Kettles Streams Team is close to heavily developed and highly populated communities.  Pressure on natural resources, including ground and surface waters, is high and unlikely to diminish in the short term. The amount of impervious surface is increasing in some watersheds, raising concerns about our ability to protect sensitive aquatic life and associated wetlands. Fragmentation is severe and isolation of native habitats is a major concern. Many invasive species are now widespread, well established, and have expanding populations here. Public ownership is limited and partnerships between public and private partners will be essential to accomplish long-term management goals and objectives for natural resources.

Fisheries and Wildlife Management field staff collaborated to select 11 subwatersheds located primarily in Sheboygan, Ozaukee, and Washington counties. Subwatershed selections were based on the geographic interests of our partners, spatial connectivity, Streambank Protection streams currently eligible, contemporary water quality/habitat conditions, fisheries potential, and threats of degradation of water quality caused by agricultural or urban runoff. The focus area represents 25% of the analysis area. Two primary opportunities for partnership in this focus area include: 1) Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District will be securing the protection of riparian corridors as they implement their Milwaukee River TMDL, and 2) The Sheboygan River Area of Concern (AOC) project where natural resource damage assessment funds may be used acquire riparian habitat protection and public access.


  • The Northern Kettles Focus Area has a variety of cold water, warm water, and anadromous resources. Anglers find a mix of brook trout, brown trout, smallmouth bass, or lake run fish depending on the water they choose.
  • A significant amount of restoration through cooperative efforts has been done to turn the Onion River into a premier brown trout fishery. It now sustains a quality, naturally reproducing population.
  • The headwaters of the North Branch Milwaukee River, locally known as Nichols Creek, have been recognized by the State as an Outstanding Resource of Water. Waters designated as such are surface waters that provide outstanding recreational opportunities, support valuable fisheries, and wildlife habitats, have good water quality, and are not significantly impacted by human activities. Nichols Creek supports naturally reproducing brook and brown trout populations.
  • The region has good to very good natural habitat potential for smallmouth bass but does see impacts from land-use stress. Stretches of the Sheboygan River, Mullet River, Milwaukee River, and Cedar Creek are big enough to have large bass populations and small enough for anglers to enjoy while wading, paddling a canoe, or walking the publicly-accessible shorelines.
  • The Pigeon River is a popular resource for area anglers seeking lake-run fish. Land use in the watershed is primarily agricultural, but urbanization is proceeding. Water quality in the watershed is considered good in the headwaters area, and fair to poor in the lower reaches. Factors causing these effects include agricultural and urban runoff, construction site erosion, stream channelization, and point source discharges. Many opportunities for restoration exist and large stretches of the lower stream reaches are already in public ownership.


Team Leader
Travis Motl, DNR

Real Estate Specialist
Jim Jackley, DNR

Highlighted streams

  • Sheboygan River
  • Pigeon River
  • North Branch Milwaukee River and tributaries
  • Onion River
  • Nichols Creek
  • Mink Creek
  • Mullet River
  • Cedar Creek


  • TU – Lakeshore Chapter
  • TU – Southeast Chapter
  • Southeast WI Land Conservation Departments
  • Sheboygan River Basin Partnership
  • Southeastern WI Regional Planning Commission
  • Glacial Lakes Conservancy
  • Ozaukee Washington Land Trust
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • The Nature Conservancy


The Northern Kettles Team and their conservation partners have worked to acquire stream bank easements directly from landowners within their region. These easements provide public access to high-quality trout streams and allow the DNR to manage these stream corridors to increase the health of the trout fishery for today and future generations.

From July 2014 to June 15, 2016, the Northern Kettles Team worked with property owners to purchase 2 easements in 2 subwatersheds. These transactions resulted in a total of 20.98 easement acres encompassing 6,050 stream feet (1.15 miles) at a cost of $99,382; an average of $4,737 per easement acre or $16.43 per stream foot.

Easement accomplishments