North Fish Creek bluff stabilization monitoring

Science Center Objects

North Fish Creek, Wisconsin, has accelerated erosion and sedimentation that negatively affects aquatic habitat. This project monitored three rehabilitation projects (including submerged flow-deflecting vanes) to determine their effect on bluff erosion rates and sediment volumes, and to describe the upland land cover and soils. This data will help guide runoff management and bluff restoration efforts.

Photograph of a submerged flow-deflecting vane in North Fish Creek, Wis.

Submerged flow-deflecting vane installed at North Fish Creek, Wis.


North Fish Creek has accelerated erosion and sedimentation problems that negatively affect aquatic habitat. Previous USGS studies identified bluff erosion along the upper main stem as the major source of sediment to downstream reaches. Along with ongoing wider efforts to "slow the flow" from uplands, three eroding bluffs were selected for stabilization using river training techniques. Due to the steep and remote terrain, the bluffs were difficult to access and re-directive (flow-deflecting) vanes were installed by hand at three sites by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department from 2000-2006. The USGS monitored channel and sediment changes at the three sites with the submerged vanes by conducting repeated channel cross-sections and bluff-top erosion surveys. Stream-flow and stage were monitored before, during, and following installation to provide the hydrologic context.



The overall objective of this project is to monitor three sets of rehabilitation projects and determine their effect on the bluff erosion rate and overall volumes. These data help guide the designs of future bluff rehabilitation. An additional objective for 2006 is to identify/describe the upland ditch network in North Fish Creek in terms of land cover and soils to help guide future management decisions on control of runoff from uplands.


Photograph of an eroding bluff on North Fish Creek

Photographs of the channel and bluff at site 16.4, 1993–2004, North Fish Creek, Wis. Flow direction is from lower left to upper left.


This project will continue to monitor channel morphology and bluff erosion at three sites in North Fish Creek with bluff stabilization techniques through 2010. Upland ditch networks were identified in a GIS (using aerial photographs, soils maps, land ownership records, and on-site inspection). A USGS streamgage will continue operation. Channel cross sections along the main stem of North Fish Creek established in 1995-96 were resurveyed to describe stream-wide geomorphic responses to two extreme floods in 2005 and put changes at the bluff stabilization sites in perspective with stream-wide conditions.



Publications and Reports

See Publications tab above for official USGS publications.

Peppler, M.C., 2006, Effects of magnitude and Duration of Large Floods on Channel Morphology: A Case Study of North Fish Creek, Bayfield County, Wisconsin, 2000-2005, M.S. Thesis, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Fitzpatrick, F. A., 1998, Geomorphic and hydrologic responses to vegetation, Climate, and Base Level Changes, North Fish Creek, Wisconsin, Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin. Madison.