The Past and Presnt Vegetation                                 of the 
                Brule River Watershed                               %   
           By JOHN W. THOMSON, JR. and N. C. FASSETAW 1O lCOpO 1 
                 Department of Botany, University of Wisconsin 
  (An abstract of two technical papers of 
the Brule River survey, a cooperative proj- 
ect of the Wisconsin Conservation Commis- 
sion and the University of Wisconsin.) 
  The Brule River has long been notable 
as a trout fishing stream, and as part of 
the recent survey initiated by the Depart- 
ment of Conservation, in cooperation with 
the University of Wisconsin, a study of 
the vegetation of the watershed has been 
carried on. This study had as its purpose 
the determination of the changes which 
might have taken place in the drainage 
basin, and which might be responsible for 
changes in the stream proper to alter the 
environment of the fish. 
  In the years 1852 to 1856,' government 
surveyors laid out the section lines for this 
region. By taking the notes made by these 
surveyors, and mapping the types of trees 
and other vegetation which they com- 
mented upon in their survey, it was pos- 
sible to reconstruct a very good idea of 
what the cover of the watershed was like 
before the extensive logging of the late 
nineteenth century. The work on these sur- 
vey notes was done by Professors N. C. 
Fassett and J. T. Curtis of the University 
of Wisconsin. A comparison of these notes 
and maps with the present day vegetation 
was carried on by these men and J. W. 
Thomson, Jr. 
  The Brule River basin may be divided 
conveniently into four general areas-the 
gorge of the upper Brule from Lake St. 
Croix to Winneboujou, the sand barrens 
which lie to both sides of the upper Brule, 
the watershed of Nebagamon Creek and 
Lake, and the lower Brule which runs 
from the Copper Range to Lake Superior. 
              The Brule Bog 
  The upper Brule is remarkable in that 
it flows north-eastward in the ancient 
channel of a much larger stream. This an- 
cient stream, which was the outlet of 
Glacial Lake Duluth, occupied what is now 
the west end of Lake Superior. During the 
time that the great ice sheets were melt- 
ing back from the state of Wisconsin, this 
outlet stream flowed south-westward to 
the present St. Croix River, and finally to 
th1e Mississippi. The channel of this stream 
was cut through the sandy deposits left 
by the glaciers, leaving a gorge which is 
now occupied by a continuous bog. When 
lower outlets to the east were opened, the 
Brule River took its present course flow- 
ing north-eastward. 
  On every section line crossing the river 
in this channel region, the surveyors of 
1852-56 recorded the fact that they en- 
countered a   bog, covered largely with 
white cedar, tamarack, and black spruce. 
The descriptions written by these survey- 
ors, of nearly one hundred years ago, 
are as applicable today as they were at 
that time. The bog is still dominated by 
an untouched and almost impenetrable 
In meandering central portion of Brule below Highway 2 bridge.