Whittlesey Creek (Wisconsin)

River Basin Characteristics

Whittlesey Creek, 800 ft downstream from Cherryville Bridge (looking upstream)

Located in Bayfield County, Wisc., Whittlesey Creek is a tributary to Lake Superior. It drains roughly 38 square miles and empties into the lake near Ashland Harbor, which contains a federally maintained navigation channel. Whittlesey Creek’s major tributary is the North Fork.

Over 65 percent of the watershed is forested, with grasslands and pastures accounting for an additional 29 percent of the land in the watershed. The upper reach also contains steeply sloped gullies and channels as well as deeply incised valleys.

Landuse distribution of the Whittlesey Creek watershed

Sedimentation is a problem in Whittlesey Creek for many reasons. This watershed contains highly-erodible surfaces such a red clay, sand and gravel strata. As a result, the channel in the middle reach is entirely filled with sediment, forcing all flow of water underground. Major bank erosion events occur where the creek intersects with deeply incised valley walls and head-cuts in the upper reach are advancing and producing large amounts of sediment. The downstream reach of Whittlesey Creek is also aggrading with sand. This channel instability is likely linked with historical logging practices in the area.

Modeling Approach

Digitization of historic channel, shorelines and deltas (USGS, 2006)

The modeling team used an existing sediment budget and survey data to develop a Sediment Impact Analysis Method (SIAM) model for Whittlesey Creek. A baseline SIAM model was created that identifies sediment transport capacity within the watershed as well as sediment supply in order to determine capacity or supply limitations. Various restoration and management scenarios will in turn be used to assess the feasibility of restoring Coaster Brook Trout to this stream.

Modeling for the Whittlesey Creek project was completed in November 2010, along with a training workshop for state and local partners to learn to utilize the modeling tool for various planning scenarios.

Use and Applications

Whittlesey Creek erosion

The users of this model wish to gain a better understanding of the sediment transport capacity of Whittlesey Creek. This transport capacity will be tested under various scenarios in order to determine the feasibility of reintroducing Coaster Brook Trout to the creek. The model will also be used to determine if stabilizing stream banks and head-cuts will reduce downstream flooding and dredging requirements.

Project Partners

For More Information


James P. Selegean, P.E., Ph.D.
Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Detroit District
477 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, MI 48226
Office: (313) 226-6791
Fax: (313) 226-2398

Calvin T. Creech, PE, LEED AP, CFM
Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Detroit District
477 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, MI 48226
Office: (313) 226-3002