Sediment deposition in the White River Reservoir, northwestern Wisconsin

Open-File Report 79-1330

Prepared in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources



The history of deposition in the White River Reservoir was reconstructed from a study of sediment in the reservoir. Suspended-sediment concentrations, particle size, and streamflow characteristics were measured at gaging stations upstream and downstream from the reservoir from November 1975 through September 1977- Characteristics of the sediments were determined from borings and samples taken while the reservoir was drained in September 1976. The sediment surface and the prereservoir topography were mapped. Sediment thickness ranged from less than 1 foot near the shore to more than 20 feet in the old stream channel.

The original reservoir capacity and volume of deposited sediment were calculated to be 815 acre-feet and 487 acre-feet, respectively.

Sediment size ranged from clay and silt in the pool area to large cobbles and boulders at the upstream end of the reservoir. Analyses of all samples averaged 43 percent sand, 40 percent silt, and 17 percent clay, and particle size typically increased upstream. Cobbles, boulders, and gravel deposits were not sampled. The average density of the deposited sediments was about 80 pounds per cubic foot for the entire reservoir.

The reservoir was able to trap about 80 percent of the sediment entering from upstream early in its history. This trap efficiency has declined as the reservoir filled with sediment. Today (1976) it traps only sand and silt-sized sediment, or only about 20 percent of the sediment entering from upstream. Data collected during this study indicate that essentially all of the clay-sized sediment (<0.062 mm) passes through the reservoir.

The gross rate of deposition was 7.0 acre-feet per year over the reservoir history, 1907-76. Rates during 1907-63 and 1963-76 were 7.4 and 5.7 acre-feet per year, respectively, determined by the Cesium-137 method.

Based on scant data, the average annual sediment yield of the total 279 square mile drainage area above the gaging station at the powerplant was about 50 tons per square mile. Analysis of the drainage-basin characteristics indicates that most of this sediment was derived from less than 10 percent of the total drainage area and from steep unvegetated streambanks.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Sediment deposition in the White River Reservoir, northwestern Wisconsin
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Wisconsin Water Science Center
Report: v, 34 p.; 1 Plate: 24.00 x 20.50 inches
United States
Ashland County
Other Geospatial:
White River
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