Black River (Mississippi River)
Black River dam in Black River Falls
|Mouth||Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin|
|Length||190 miles (310 km)|
|Mouth elevation||630 ft (190 m)|
|River system||Mississippi River|
The Black River is a river in west-central Wisconsin and tributary of the Mississippi River. The river is approximately 190 miles (310 km) long. During the 1800s pine logs were rafted down the Black, heading for sawmills at La Crosse and points beyond.
The river begins in central Wisconsin, rising in Taylor County at approximately 2.5 miles (4.0 km) west of the village of Rib Lake. It flows south-southwest through Medford, Greenwood, Neillsville and Black River Falls. The Black River first mingles with the Mississippi River in Lake Onalaska in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. The lower 10 miles (16 km) of the river channel have been absorbed by Lake Onalaska, an impoundment of the Mississippi River formed by Lock and Dam No. 7 at Onalaska. The river exits Lake Onalaska through a channel between French Island and the city of Onalaska and rejoins the Mississippi River at , northwest of La Crosse.
The Black River can be divided into two sections by the dam at Black River Falls. The upstream section averages 6.6 feet/mile gradient, while the lower section through the Driftless Area only averages 1.7 feet/mile gradient. An additional distinction is that the upper section has a substrate predominantly rocky and soil that contributes tannin, while the lower section has a predominantly sandy substrate. The tannin content of the water is the source of the river's name.
The Little Black River is formed by the confluence of the East and West Branches at  The West Branch Little Black River rises at , south of Rib Lake and less than 2 miles (3.2 km) from the source of the main branch of the Black River. The East Branch Little Black River rises at south of Rib Lake.and flows into the Black River at south of Medford.
The earliest mention of the Black River may be in 1661, when a French Jesuit priest reported that a band of Huron Indians had taken refuge near the headwaters of the Black River, where they were starving. The priest tried to reach them by canoe, but disappeared somewhere in the wilderness.
At the time of the 1837 Treaty of St. Peters, the Ojibwe dominated the upper Black. The lower Black generally formed the border between the Lakota to the west and the Ho-Chunk to the east. That treaty opened up northern Wisconsin for logging. At that time, the lower Black flowed through a mosaic of oak and other hardwood. But the upper Black flowed through prime pinelands, particularly in parts of Clark County.
The river has been used to transport lumber, coal, and petroleum products. Sawmills for the lumber contributed to the growth of Neillsville, Black River Falls, and La Crosse.
- "Black River". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey.
- U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed October 5, 2012
- Black River - WDNR
- "East Fork Black River". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey.
- "Little Black River". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey.
- "West Branch Little Black River". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey.
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: East Branch Little Black River
- Schmirler, A. A. A., "Wisconsin's Lost Missionary: The Mystery of Father Rene Menard", The Wisconsin Magazine of History, Volume 45, number 2, winter, 1961-1962.
- Grossman, Zoltan; Marily B. Crews-Nelson, Laura Exner, Michael Gallagher, Amelia R. Janes, Jeffry Maas (1998). Wisconsin's Past and Present - A Historical Atlas. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 9–11. ISBN 029915940X.
- Finley, Robert W.,"Finley's Presettlement Vegetation", 1976, University of Wisconsin.
- blackriverfalls.com - Home