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Big Pine Watershed Past & Present. Presented to Warren County Natural Resources Community Forum, September 21, 2004 Brent Ladd Water Quality Specialist Purdue University. Big Pine Watershed Overview. Historical water quality and habitat references Recent water quality and stream flow data

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Big pine watershed past present

Big Pine WatershedPast & Present

Presented to Warren County Natural Resources Community Forum, September 21, 2004Brent LaddWater Quality SpecialistPurdue University

Big pine watershed overview
Big Pine Watershed Overview

  • Historical water quality and habitat references

  • Recent water quality and stream flow data

  • Permitted dischargers

  • Endangered species and habitats

  • Outstandingly remarkable values (ORV’s)

  • Land use and storm water runoff changes

  • Discussion: where from here?

Historical inferences
Historical Inferences

  • Written accounts of nearby river systems

  • Father Louis Hennepin, 1679, Kankakee River: “The [Kankakee] is navigable for canoes to within a hundred paces of its source…through vast marshes…as far as the eye could reach...After passing the marshes there was only great open plains of tall grasses which the Miami had burned while hunting buffalo…”

Historical inferences1
Historical Inferences

  • Caleb Lowens, (1815), Travel Accounts of Indiana in 1815: “The Wabash…is not subject to those sudden floods and rapid streams, so prevalent on the Western Waters. Its rising is slow and regular, taking several weeks to get to full beds – and as long and slow in falling – in common times it does not run more then 1 & ½ miles per hour and seldom if ever exceeds 2 1/2…

Historical inferences2
Historical Inferences

…It is a beautiful and valuable stream – the water generally perfectly clear & transparent – exhibiting a clean gravelly bottom – It abounds with Fish of various kinds – Bass Pickeral, Pike, Perch, Catfish.” Caleb Lownes, 1815.

Historical inferences3
Historical Inferences

  • “It was in the month of April (1825) when I first saw the Wabash River…Schools of fishes - - salmon, bass, redhorse, and pike – swam close along the shore, catching at the blossoms of the re-bud and plum that floated on the surface of the water, which was so clear that myriads of the finny tribe could be seen darting hither and thither amidst the lipid element, turning up their silvery sides as they sped out into deeper water.” (Cox, 1860)

  • Cox, S.C. 1860. Recollections of the Early Settlement of the Wabash Valley. Courier Steam Book & Job Print. House, Lafayette, Ind. 160 pp.

Historical inferences4
Historical Inferences

  • Maximilian, Prince of Wied over wintered from Oct. 19, 1832 to March 16, 1833 at New Harmony…On a trip with Le Sueur he commented that “The river is clear and dark green, and the bottom, which is plainly seen, is covered with bivalve shells (Unio), as well as with several kinds of snails.”

  • Maximilian, Prince of Wied. 1843. Travels in the interior of North America. Ackerman and Co., Strand. Pp. 74-92.

Historical inferences5
Historical Inferences

  • George Winter, recorded in 1841 at Logansport: “The sprightly Wabash was low (July) and its rocky bed was occasionally visible, yet it flowed wildly on. The river is a clear and rushing stream, dotted by small islands – which threw their images upon the glassy surface.”

  • Just four years later in 1845 he writes. “we witness the effects of the partial clearing up of the country…has had a striking effect upon the effluents of the Wabash – the islands and banks are beginning to wash away under the influence of the greater volume of water that fills the banks and increased rapidity of the current of the river.”

Historical inferences6
Historical Inferences

  • Elmore Barce referencing edition of The Oxfordite, Jan. 10, 1863: [during this time around Oxford some areas were said to be so marshy that passengers would wade out and keep the exhausted horses from drowning by holding up their heads.] “Some fears are entertained that Stonewall Jackson will make a descent on our town. Be not alarmed friends – the foresight of our commissioners has prevented that. He can’t cross Big Pine (Creek).”

Historical inferences7
Historical Inferences

  • Between 1875 and 1888 David Jordan and his students conducted studies on the Wabash (Jenkins, 1886, Evermann and Jenkins 1888). His assessment of the river appearance during this period includes the following statements:

  • “The Upper Wabash and most of its tributaries are clear streams….” And “Towards its junction with the Ohio R. the Wabash becomes a large river with moderate current, the water not very clear, and the bottom covered with gravel and sand in which grow many water plants. The tributary streams are mostly sluggish and yellow with clay and mud” Jordan (1890).

  • Jordan, D.S. 1890. Report of explorations made during the summer and autumn of 1888, in the Alleghany region of Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, and in Western Indiana, with an account of the fishes found in the river basins of those regions. Bull. U.S. Fish. Comm. 1888, 8:97-173.

Recent water quality
Recent Water Quality

  • USGS Big Pine Stream Flow 1956 - 1987:

    Peak stream flow was highest during the late 1950’s, came down during the late sixties and seventies, then increased up until 1984 and then again dropped through 1987.

Recent water quality1
Recent Water Quality

  • USGS Big Pine Stream Flow 1956-1987:

    Daily mean stream flow appears “flashy” and with erratic differences between seasons.

Recent water quality2
Recent Water Quality

  • IDEM 1998 Big Pine Listed as Impaired Stream.

    Sections of Big Pine listed as impaired due to Mercury and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) leading to fish* consumption advisory.

    One section near Pine Village (Brown ditch section) is listed with high pathogens and not supporting safe human contact.

    *For 2004 IDNR lists Smallmouth Bass size 11 in. + due to PCB toxicity level for human consumption. In 1999 ISDH listed Black Redhorse (mercury), Channel Catfish (PCB), and Smallmouth Bass (PCB).

Recent water quality3
Recent Water Quality

  • IDEM 2000

    Some sections of Big Pine have been found to fully support aquatic life and full contact recreation.

  • One Hoosier Riverwatch biological sampling point (October 3, 2002) near Pine Creek camp show high quality aquatic macro-invertebrates present (PTS score of 31, 23 or more is considered excellent).

Recent water quality4
Recent Water Quality

  • USGS sampling at Big Pine Creek

    Temperature: no change between 1970 and 1981

    Nitrates: 1970 – 1976 around 25-35 ppm with spikes up to 60 ppm in early summer. High counts in winter months, too. Samples taken until 1981 show early summer counts remain around 30 ppm, but other months much lower than before.

Recent water quality5
Recent Water Quality

  • USGS sampling

    Sediment, suspended, load in tons per day from 3 to 250 between 1979 and 1981. sampling for sediment then ended.

Recent water quality6
Recent Water Quality

  • IDEM sampling

    E. Coli (Indiana surface water standard is less than 125 cfu/100ml average for 10 grab samples) August, 1999 SR 55 at Attica. Range from 17 coliforms up to 43. At CR 200N/100E (near Fall Creek) range from 36 up to 270.

    Habitat Score (QHEI) at Twin Bridges September 1991 was 67. At Mudlavia Springs in 1991 was 60, then in 1999 was 73. In headwaters (White County, Roudebush Ditch) the habitat score in 1999 was 41. (Fully supporting score is 64 +, not supporting is below 51).

Permitted dischargers in big pine watershed
Permitted Dischargers in Big Pine Watershed

  • IDEM lists permits per county.

  • For Warren (9) and Benton (14), all listed permitted dischargers are for municipal and public schools discharging waste water.

  • For White County (40) most are as above, but a few gas stations and several manufacturing businesses listed.

Species habitats
Species & Habitats

  • Endangered, Threatened, and Rare Species listed for Warren County include 17 vascular plants, 15 Mussels several of which are listed as both state and globally endangered, 3 fish species, 5 birds, 3 mammals.

  • There are six different habitats shown as significant habitats that are rare.

Species habitats1
Species & Habitats

  • A very rare natural community known to occur in Indiana only in the Entrenched Valley Section is the gravel hill prairie. Remnants of this habitat community do occur in the Big Pine watershed.

Outstanding recreational value
Outstanding Recreational Value

  • National Park Service, Rivers & Trails Program

  • Listed Big Pine Creek in 1982 on the National Rivers Inventory with Outstandingly Remarkable Values (ORV’s) for Scenery, Recreation, Geology.

  • State has proposed a 10 mile section in Natural and Scenic River System.

  • IDNR lists it as one of the top white water rivers of Indiana. Rocky Ford often listed as the top spot for white water in the State.

  • Prairie State (IL) Canoeists Records. Big Pine Trip reports from 1975-1995.

Land use and storm water
Land Use and Storm Water

  • Pre-settlement vegetation estimates show Big Pine watershed being comprised of approximately 40% tall grass prairie systems, 50% wetlands, 10% forested.

  • Pre-settlement storm water runoff estimates are 5,234 acre feet per year for the watershed.

Land use and storm water1
Land Use and Storm Water

  • Agriculture row crops dominant land use today

  • Relatively low human population

  • Relatively low impervious area (about 2%)

  • Wetlands comprise about 1.5% of land use

  • Tall grass prairie only remnants remain.

  • Current storm water runoff estimates are 42, 779 acre-feet per year.


  • Historical accounts and data infer that the Big Pine was a full and slow moving stream, with clarity of water, surrounded by wetlands and tall grass prairie that allowed scant storm water runoff.

  • Recent water quality data show mercury, PCB, pathogen, and sediment loading problems, yet some sampling showing good riparian and stream habitat and excellent aquatic macro-invertebrate numbers.

  • Storm water runoff estimates are eight times higher than during pre-settlement.

  • Despite some water quality problems, scenic and recreational value are very high, with rare and endangered species and habitats.