Rivers and Streams
The Chippewa River in autumn.The Lower Chippewa River Basin has abundant, diversified and unique river and stream resources. Streams in the basin range from high-gradient “coulee” type streams in the western-most portion of the basin to low-gradient sand-dominated streams in the central and eastern parts of the basin. These small streams support some of the state’s finest coldwater trout fisheries and excellent yet under-appreciated warmwater sport fisheries.
In addition to the abundant and diversified small streams, there are several major rivers in the basin. “Big rivers,” including the Chippewa, Red Cedar, Hay and Eau Claire Rivers, are complex and dynamic. They provide habitat for several of the state’s endangered and threatened aquatic species as well as unique and fragile plant and animal communities.
Lakes and Flowages
The Lower Chippewa River basin has approximately 300 lakes larger than 10 acres. There are also 79 named lakes and numerous unnamed lakes less than 10 acres. Lakes between 10 and 50 acres in size comprise over 80% of the 378 named lakes. Many of these lakes are a result of the glacial history of the basin. Lake Eau ClaireMore than 80% of the natural lakes in the basin result from glaciers that pushed down from the north into Barron, Washburn and Chippewa Counties. The Lower Chippewa River basin has 69 flowages, which provide approximately 71% of the total acres of lake resources in the basin. Approximately 46% of these are larger than 100 acres, and 28% are larger than 500 acres.Barron and Chippewa Counties contain over 50% of the number and total acres of flowages in the basin. In Clark and Pierce County, flowages are the only lake resources present.Flowages also provide a majority of the lake resources in Dunn and Eau Claire Counties.Many of the smaller flowages (less than 50 acres) were created as shallow water impoundments for waterfowl production. Six flowages on the Chippewa River within the Lower Chippewa Basin are the result of hydropower dams. One of these, Lake Wissota, is the largest water body in the basin. Numerous other flowages on basin streams and tributaries were created when dams were constructed for millponds, logging, and smaller sources of hydropower. Many of these dams remain in place, although they are no longer being used for their original purpose.
Biological Communities and Ecological Landscapes
Biological communities are defined and described based on a variety of factors including geographic location, species composition, topography, moisture, temperature, soils and climate. The Lower Chippewa Basin contains components of seven biological communities: northern forests, southern forests, oak savannas, oak and pine barrens, grasslands, wetlands, and aquatic systems.
An ecological landscape is a geographic area that has similar land uses and ecological themes throughout. There are fifteen Ecological Landscape areas within Wisconsin, and five of these are found in the Lower Chippewa basin: Farm and Forest Transition, Central Sand Plains, Western Coulees and Ridges, North Central Forest, and Western Prairie.