A Watershed Connects Its People
A watershed describes a landscape where all water flows to a central point and joins together, regardless of its beginnings, on its journey towards a common place. A watershed is also a powerful symbol for the energetic connection that brings together people from a wide range of backgrounds and ideals towards a common purpose. This connection to the water and by the water brings about a powerful sense of ownership and responsibility to care for the watershed which provides so many services to us and unites us as a community.
A group of dedicated people began meeting in 2001 to discuss the need for a watershed council in the Chequamegon Bay area. We thought the water quality of our rivers was generally pretty good, but we didn’t really know. The rivers were known to be flashy – often flooding during spring run-off. Some rivers, like the Marengo and Bear Trap Creek, were known to carry heavy sediment loads. Lots of anecdotal evidence existed, but data on the quality of the rivers of the region were sorely lacking.
The group decided that a citizen-based watershed organization would be a valuable addition to the area. But how large of an area could a new organization tackle? The Chequamegon Bay area? Too many rivers and too large of an area for such a young, small group. The Marengo River? That was an option, but it flows directly into the Bad River and everything happening to the Marengo River affects the Bad. So, how about the Bad River watershed? The Bad River Band’s Natural Resource Department was already collecting water quality data on the Reservation. We decided our new organization could complement the tribe’s program by collecting data in the same watershed, but off-reservation. That way, a large and important watershed on the shores of Lake Superior would begin to receive the attention it deserves.
This was the Goldilocks solution – not too big (Chequamegon Bay), not too small (Marengo River), but just right! We began by appointing an interim board of directors who chose a name, developed a mission statement, wrote by-laws, and finally elected our first real board of directors. The then-named Bad River Watershed Association (renamed Superior Rivers Watershed Association in 2017) began officially in 2002.
Thanks to our dedicated members and volunteers, and the support from partnerships and grants, our capacity as an organization grew steadily. In response to a need for water quality monitoring in watersheds adjacent to the Bad River watershed, and to bring our programs to a wider area (where many of our volunteers and members live), we expanded our service area in 2015 to include the Fish Creek watershed, parts of the Bayfield Peninsula and Madeline Island, and east to the Michigan state line. See our Expanded Vision Statement to learn more.
In 2017, we officially changed our name to Superior Rivers Watershed Association to better represent the work we do and the area we serve.
We extend heartfelt thanks to the following people, who played crucial roles in the founding of the organization:
Karen Danielson (deceased)
Rae Ann Maday