Lower Rock River basin
The Rock River basin covers over 3,700 square miles and is located in the south-central part of Wisconsin. The basin's natural resources are the legacy of the last period of Wisconsin glaciation. Many Native American tribal peoples lived here because of the outstanding land, water and wildlife resources in the basin. European settlers described the basin as a paradise of fertile soils, large forests and many clear sparkling rivers and lakes. Much has changed over the last 150 years.
Today, most of the prairies and oak savannas are gone, the wetlands are diminished by 50% and most forests have been cut down to make way for agriculture. Currently, agriculture dominates the land use; however, urbanization in the basin is growing rapidly.
Overall, some of the Rock River basin's natural resources are slightly improved compared to 20 years ago. Land management and forestry law changes have supported a small increase in forests in the basin. Better treatment at wastewater treatment plants has improved water quality in some stretches of streams. Yet today, most water bodies in the basin remain significantly impacted by soil and nutrients washing into the streams and lakes from urban and rural stormwater runoff. Wildlife habitat continues to be lost and fragmentation of habitat accelerates.
Today, the most serious challenges facing the basin include:
- Water quality impacts and increased runoff quantity from agriculture and urban land uses, such that many of the rivers and streams are not meeting water quality standards.
- Loss of agricultural lands, with its effect on wildlife habitat, recreational usages, the rural landowners and economy.
- Loss of critical sensitive habitat and connection between habitats.
- Lower urban groundwater levels due to increased use and decreased groundwater infiltration due to more acres of impervious land.
- Significant groundwater contamination in areas of the basin.
Water resource information for specific watersheds
|Watershed name/view details||Watershed size||Lists (streams, lakes, bays & harbors)||Counties||Water management unit (WMU)||Major drainage system|
|Badfish Creek||84.21 mi 2||LR07 Water lists||Dane, Green, Rock||Lower Rock||Mississippi River|
|Bark River||185.84 mi 2||LR13 Water lists||Jefferson, Washington, Waukesha||Lower Rock||Mississippi River|
|Bass Creek||113.1 mi 2||LR03 Water lists||Rock||Lower Rock||Mississippi River|
|Blackhawk Creek||108.11 mi 2||LR02 Water lists||Rock, Walworth||Lower Rock||Mississippi River|
|Lower Koshkonong Creek||265.61 mi 2||LR11 Water lists||Dane, Jefferson, Rock, Walworth||Lower Rock||Mississippi River|
|Marsh Creek||43.73 mi 2||LR05 Water lists||Rock||Lower Rock||Mississippi River|
|Rock River - Milton||48.76 mi 2||LR04 Water lists||Rock||Lower Rock||Mississippi River|
|Scuppernong River||87.43 mi 2||LR15 Water lists||Jefferson, Walworth, Waukesha||Lower Rock||Mississippi River|
|Six Mile and Pheasant branch Creeks||119.45 mi 2||LR10 Water lists||Dane||Lower Rock||Mississippi River|
|Turtle Creek||288.47 mi 2||LR01 Water lists||Rock, Walworth||Lower Rock||Mississippi River|
|Upper Koshkonong Creek||104.25 mi 2||LR12 Water lists||Dane, Jefferson||Lower Rock||Mississippi River|
|Whitewater Creek||75.3 mi 2||LR14 Water lists||Jefferson, Rock, Walworth||Lower Rock||Mississippi River|
|Yahara River and Lake Kegonsa||126.33 mi 2||LR06 Water lists||Dane, Rock||Lower Rock||Mississippi River|
|Yahara River and Lake Mendota||112.56 mi 2||LR09 Water lists||Columbia, Dane||Lower Rock||Mississippi River|
|Yahara River and Lake Monona||93.73 mi 2||LR08 Water lists||Dane||Lower Rock||Mississippi River|