Historical trends in streamflow, sedimentation, and sediment chemistry of the Wolf River were examined for a 6-mile reach that flows through the southern part of the Menominee Indian Reservation and the northern part of Shawano County, Wis. Trends were examined in the context of effects from dams, climate, and land-cover change. Annual flood peaks and mean monthly flow for the Wolf River were examined for 1907-96 and compared to mean annual and mean monthly precipitation. Analysis of trends in sedimentation (from before about 1850 through 1999) involved collection of cores and elevation data along nine valley transects spanning the Wolf River channel, flood plain, and backwater and impounded areas; radioisotope analyses of impounded sediment cores; and analysis of General Land Office Survey Notes (1853-91). Trends in sediment chemistry were examined by analyzing samples from an impoundment core for minor and trace elements. Annual flood peaks for the Wolf River decreased during 1907-49 but increased during 1950-96, most likely reflecting general changes in upper-atmospheric circulation patterns from more zonal before 1950 to more meridional after 1950. The decrease in flood peaks during 1907-49 may also, in part, be due to forest regrowth. Mean monthly streamflow during 1912-96 increased for the months of February and March but decreased for June and July, suggesting that spring snowmelt occurs earlier in the season than it did in the past. Decreases in early summer flows may be a reflection earlier spring snowmelt and large rainstorms in early spring rather than early summer. These trends also may reflect upper-atmospheric circulation patterns. The Balsam Row Dam impoundment contains up to 10 feet of organic-rich silty clay and has lost much of its storage capacity. Fine sediment has accumulated for 1.8 miles upstream from the Balsam Row Dam. Historical average linear and mass sedimentation rates in the Balsam Row impoundment were 0.09 feet per year and 1.15 pounds per square foot per year for 1927-62 and 0.10 feet per year and 1.04 pounds per square foot per year for 1963-99. Sedimentation in the impoundment was episodic and was associated with large floods, especially the flood-related failure of the Keshena Falls Dam in 1972 and a large flood in 1973. Sand deposition is common in the Wolf River upstream from the impounded reach for 2.5 miles and is caused by the base-level increase associated with the Balsam Row Dam. Some sand deposition also may have been associated with logging and log drives in the late 1800s and the failure of the Keshena Falls Dam. In the upstream 1.5-mile part of the studied reach, the substrate is mainly rocky; however, about 2,000 feet downstream from Keshena Falls, the channel has narrowed and incised since the 1890s, likely related to human alterations associated with logging, log drives, and (or) changes in hydraulics and sediment characteristics associated with completion of the Keshena Falls Dam and head race in 1908. Minor- and trace-element concentrations in sediment from Balsam Row impoundment and other depositional areas along the Wolf River generally reflect background conditions as affected by watershed geology and historical inputs from regional and local atmospheric deposition.
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USGS Numbered Series
Trends in streamflow, sedimentation, and sediment chemistry for the Wolf River, Menominee Indian Reservation, Wisconsin, 1850-1999