The Maple River flows into Burt Lake at Maple Bay, and is part of the Cheboygan River Watershed. The West Branch of the Maple River is 16 miles long and drains 93 square miles of land. The West Branch is a receiving water of Brush Creek, which originates at Larks Lake. Another tributary that contributes to the flow of the West Branch is Cold Creek. These creeks run through Pleasantview Swamp. The West Branch originates in the southern area of the swamp. The upstream portion of the river is low-gradient with minimal groundwater influence, less flow than downstream, organic and sandy substrate, and warmer temperatures than downstream. In the middle and downstream reaches of the river, the gradient becomes higher, the flow becomes stronger, and there is increased groundwater influence. Substrate conditions change from sandy organic to cobble and gravel and temperatures decrease. The West Branch is considered an exceptional brook trout stream based on surveys conducted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (Godby, 2009).
There are two monitoring sites on the West Branch of the Maple River. The upstream monitoring location, BCMR2, located on Ely Bridge Road, and the downstream monitoring location, BCMR1, located adjacent to US 31 North below the Emmet County snowmobile bridge.