Types of springs in Wisconsin
The photos below show examples of the four most common types of springs found in Wisconsin.
In 2017, the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey completed an inventory of springs in Wisconsin. The map shows the locations of the more than 400 springs that we surveyed.
Detailed descriptions of each spring are available on an interactive map application hosted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources:
The inventory includes all known springs in Wisconsin that discharge approximately 110 gallons per minute and higher. These are large springs, capable of filling roughly two bathtubs in under a minute.
For each spring, we documented:
- spring type
- flow rate
- basic water quality (pH, temperature, electrical conductivity)
- ecological integrity (noting presence of invasive plants, recreation, roads, livestock, agriculture, and other disturbances)
- geomorphic and geologic descriptions (spring dimensions, surface type, substrate composition, and bedrock type)
This comprehensive database will strengthen our understanding of spring hydrology and the vulnerability of Wisconsin’s springs to changes in land use and climate.
Why do we care about springs?
Springs are a critical natural resource, supplying water for streams and wetlands. In addition to lending scenic beauty to state and county parks, the habitats created by springs often harbor endangered and threatened species, such as the Hine’s emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora hineana), which are dependent on the flow of spring water for survival. Springs provide the cool, oxygen-rich water necessary for trout survival. For researchers, springs also provide windows to the groundwater: they are important points of groundwater discharge, sources for chemical analysis, and places to directly measure groundwater elevation.
Human activities often threaten springs. Lowering of groundwater levels through high-capacity well pumping has dried up many springs in Wisconsin. Springs are also being lost during the construction of new roads, quarries, and housing developments.