Water-quality and aquatic-community characteristics of selected reaches of the St. Croix River, Minnesota and Wisconsin, 2000

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2002-4147

Prepared in cooperation with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
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Synoptic sampling was used to determine chemical and biological characteristics of the St. Croix River within a study reach that extended from near Danbury, Wisconsin to the confluence with the Mississippi River at Prescott, Wisconsin. The study was conducted August 7- September 25, 2000 during summer low flow.

Dissolved-residue concentrations were found to increase gradually as the river flows downstream, with an abrupt increase downstream of the confluence with the Sunrise River that was primarily attributed to an increase in calcium and magnesium. Dissolved residue concentrations were further augmented by increased yields of chloride and sulfate in the part of the St. Croix Basin between Nevers Dam near St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin and Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota.
Nearly all of the nitrogen in transport was in the form of nitrate and organic nitrogen. Organic nitrogen, mainly in particulate form, accounted for most of the gain in total nitrogen load within the study reach. Nitrogen loading to the mainstem indicated relatively uniform nitrogen inputs from the Clam River, Kettle River, and Snake River watersheds. The rate of nitrogen load accrual increased downstream of the confluence with the Sunrise River and in the subreach extending from Nevers Dam through St. Croix Falls to Franconia, Minnesota. Nitrogen load also increased, primarily because of nitrate input, in the part of Lake St. Croix downstream of the confluence with the Kinnickinnic River. Total phosphorus concentrations and loads reflected variations in the amount of particulate phosphorus in transport. Phosphorus loading increased in the part of the St. Croix River that includes Danbury and the confluences of the Yellow River and Clam River. Phosphorus loading also increased downstream of the confluence with the Sunrise River, but the greatest load increase occurred between Nevers Dam and Franconia. Phosphorus load decreased substantially as the river flowed through the pooled reach of Lake St. Croix downstream of Stillwater.

Suspended-sediment concentrations were low, ranging from 4.0 to 36 milligrams per liter. The small amount of sediment in transport was reflected in turbidity measurements that ranged from 0.5 to 3.6 Nephelometry Turbidity Units, and transparency tube measurements that were greater than 60 centimeters at all sites.

Biological measures of resource quality change in the St. Croix River along its course from Danbury to Prescott. Changes in the biological indicators of resource quality (fish and invertebrate community composition) are most notable just upstream and downstream of the dam at St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. Aquatic communities in the upper St. Croix River, from near Danbury to near Rush City, Minnesota, indicate minimal physical and chemical disturbance as evidenced by relatively high taxa richness and greater proportions of taxa intolerant to physical and chemical disturbance. In contrast, aquatic communities downstream of the Sunrise River to Marine on St. Croix indicate both physical and chemical disturbance.

Resource monitoring, consisting of short-term diagnostic studies, may be needed in parts of the St. Croix River mainstem and tributaries where results from this study indicate constituent loading is greatest and where the aquatic community composition indicates disturbance. Longer-term trend monitoring may be needed to detect physical, chemical and biological responses to natural processes and human activities in the St. Croix River Basin.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Water-quality and aquatic-community characteristics of selected reaches of the St. Croix River, Minnesota and Wisconsin, 2000
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Mounds View, MN
Contributing office(s):
Minnesota Water Science Center
iv, 43 p.
United States
Minnesota, Wisconsin
Other Geospatial:
St. Croix River Basin
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