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Rivers, Lakes, & Streams

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Purpose:

The extensive lakes, rivers, and streams of the Great Lakes area have long influenced local and regional ecological and social systems. Historically, Native Americans and European explorers used waterways as travel corridors, and relied upon fish, mussels, and waterfowl as important food sources. Following settlement by Europeans, rivers and streams were used to transport logs to the newly developing cities. Dams on rivers and larger streams also provided power for sawmills and grain milling, and later provided energy for generating electricity as technology advanced. Much of Lake States lore and cultural history has centered around these waterways.  Today, the lakes, rivers, and streams are prized as recreational settings, and continue to be used for power generation, industry, and commercial and recreational fisheries.

The enormous water resources of the Lake States are globally significant. The Great Lakes contain 18 percent of the world's fresh water; Lake Superior alone contains more than 9 percent. Streams and rivers in Michigan, northern Wisconsin, and northeast Minnesota drain into the Great Lakes basin, and the remainder of Wisconsin and Minnesota drain into the Mississippi River basin.  The density of inland lakes, rivers, and streams is very high compared with the rest of the United States, and with most of the world. The health of these systems is inextricably linked to the current and future well-being of the ecological and dependent socioeconomic systems of the Lake States.

Although water resources are immensely important, many water bodies are degraded from past uses and continue to be threatened by pollution, shoreline development, overfishing, the invasion of exotic species, and recreational impacts. Stream downcutting and bank damage that occurred during the early logging era has not completely healed, and adverse hydrologic effects are still observable in many streams and small rivers. Fish advisories warn of mercury and chemical contamination affecting safe limits of human consumption, and pollutants have also affected wildlife, most notably the American Eagle, as well as less prominent aquatic species such as mussel populations. Industrial pollution has been reduced in the past few decades, but residues remain and may have long-term impacts through bio-accumulation in the food chain. Non-native species of fish and plants continue to displace native species. Considerable shoreline development, affecting human access and aesthetics as well as biodiversity, has already occurred, and river and stream shoreline development is accelerating as well. These conditions and trends, and the importance of the water resources of the Lake States, make it imperative that we carefully assess, plan, and manage them for current and future generations.

The maps of Lake States water bodies displayed on this website represent a first step in developing spatial information necessary for better understanding our water resources and their association with human activities and the surrounding earth. These data layers will be useful in examining the size and pattern of lakes, rivers, and streams relative to ownership, development, and features of the terrestrial environment that collectively impact them. As additional databases become linked to this layer, we will be able to display and analyze water quality, and develop models of species and population interactions, including human populations. Such capabilities will help policy makers and citizens in maintaining and restoring the health of aquatic ecosystems in the Lake States.

Analysis Team:

USDA Forest Service--Region 9, Milwaukee, WI
dot.gif (71 bytes)Harry Parrott, Hydrologist
USDA Forest Service--Southern Research Station, Rhinelander, WI
dot.gif (71 bytes)David Cleland, Ecologist

Available GIS Maps:

dot.gif (71 bytes)Priority Areas for Conservation of Aquatic Biodiversity in the Western Great Lakes Basin
dot.gif (71 bytes)Wisconsin Fish and Wildlife Dams
dot.gif (71 bytes)Hydrography of Michigan's Upper Peninsula
dot.gif (71 bytes)Wisconsin Hydropower Projects Licensed by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
dot.gif (71 bytes)Wisconsin Dam storage capacity
dot.gif (71 bytes)Proportion of Lakes by Landtype Association
dot.gif (71 bytes)River and Stream Density by Landtype Association
dot.gif (71 bytes)Marshes and Wetlands of Northern Michigan
dot.gif (71 bytes)Marshes and Wetlands of Northern Minnesota
dot.gif (71 bytes)Marshes and Wetlands of Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes)Lakes and Open Water of Northern Michigan
dot.gif (71 bytes)Lakes and Open Water of Northern Minnesota
dot.gif (71 bytes)Lakes and Open Water of Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes)Rivers and Streams of Northern Michigan
dot.gif (71 bytes)Rivers and Streams of Northern Minnesota
dot.gif (71 bytes)Rivers and Streams of Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes)Overlay of 4th Order Watersheds Boundaries with Current Vegetation from AVHRR Classified Satellite Imagery
dot.gif (71 bytes)Overlay of 4th Order Watersheds Boundaries with Current Vegetation from Thematic Mapper Classified Satellite Imagery in Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes)Overlay of 5th Order Watersheds Boundaries with Current Vegetation from Thematic Mapper Classified Satellite Imagery in Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes)Overlay of 4th Order Watersheds Boundaries with Current Vegetation from Thematic Mapper Classified Satellite Imagery in Northern Minnesota
dot.gif (71 bytes)Overlay of 4th Order Watersheds Boundaries with Province 212 Original Vegetation
dot.gif (71 bytes)Overlay of 4th Order Watershed Boundaries with rivers, streams and canals in Northern Minnesota
dot.gif (71 bytes)Overlay of 4th Order Watershed Boundaries with rivers, streams and canals in Northern Michigan
dot.gif (71 bytes)Overlay of 4th Order Watershed Boundaries with rivers, streams and canals in Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes)Overlay of 4th Order Watershed Boundaries with lakes and open waters in Northern Minnesota
dot.gif (71 bytes)Overlay of 4th order watershed boundaries on surficial geology in Northern Minnesota
dot.gif (71 bytes)Overlay of 4th order watershed boundaries on surficial geology in Northern Michigan
dot.gif (71 bytes)Overlay of 4th order watershed boundaries on surficial geology in Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes)Lake area as a percent of total area for the 5th order watershed for Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes)Stream density by area for the 5th level watersheds for Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes)4th level watersheds for Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes)Road length (mi/sq. mi.) for the 5th order watershed for Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes)Road - stream crossings (number of crossings per sq. mi.) for the 5th order watershed for Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes)Stream length (stream length mi/sq. mi.) for the 5th order watershed for Northern Wisconsin
dot.gif (71 bytes)Wetlands for the 5th order watershed for Northern Wisconsin




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