Wisconsin’s Land --- remarkably diverse geography

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Parfrey's Glen State Natural Area. Parfrey's Glen is Wisconsin's first State Natural Area. It is within Devil's Lake State Park in Sauk County, although I entered from CH DL which heads westward off Hwy 78 near Caledonia. The DNR describes it as "a spectacular gorge deeply incised into the sandstone conglomerate of the south flank of the Baraboo Hills. The exposed Cambrian strata provide excellent opportunities for geological interpretation. The walls of the glen - a Scottish word for a narrow, rocky ravine - are sandstone with embedded pebbles and boulders of quartzite. The moss-covered walls are moist from seepage, cool and shaded. As a result, they support a flora more typical of northern Wisconsin." July 5, 2016.

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I'm high on Monroe County. Monroe County is between the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers, marked by craggy buttes and mesas along with rugged valleys and gently rolling hills, great streams, rivers and creeks. Its geography is diverse, with part of the county in the Central Plains Geographic Province and part in the Western Uplands. Most of the small towns and villages that grew from the logging and transportation expansions remain. The land is dotted by wonderful church steeples, with towns that have a well preserved historic look and feel. Farmers here have learned to deal with the diverse landscape, and its rolling and hills and bottomlands have led to a very productive dairy industry. July 5, 2015

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Two country rides through Buffalo County. I have driven through Buffalo County in the west, along the Mississippi River, a few times, usually returning to Wausau from Minnesota. I enjoyed two fantastic rides that I wish to show you here. One was from Fountain City after crossing the bridge from Winona, the other from Nelson after crossing from Wabasha to the north northwest, both Wisconsin towns on the Mississippi. No matter how you go through Buffalo County, it will be a beautiful ride. The entire county resides in what scientists call the Western Upland Geographic Province, also referred to as the Western Coulee and Ridges Ecological Landscape. The word “coulee” is often applied to different landforms which have valleys, deep ravines and drainage zones. It seemed to me these all apply to what I saw in Buffalo County. July 30, 2014.

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Blue Mound State Park, the highest point in southern Wisconsin. I happened on Blue Mound State Park quite by accident as I was traveling through Iowa County. I was lucky, because I had spectacular weather on a mid-October day and quickly learned I was about to get a spectacular view from this hilltop perch. This is one view of Blue Mound from a park road. She rises to about 450 ft above what is known as Military Ridge. Blue Mound State Park lies right on the eastern border of Iowa County and western border of Dane County. May 15, 2014.

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Niagara Escarpment --- all the way from New York to Wisconsin. In the eastern sector of Wisconsin, there are three major escarpments, the result of glacial sculpture and erosion. They are the Magenisan, Trenton and Niagara escarpments. The focus here is the Niagara Escarpment. An escarpment is a long, steep slope, especially at the edge of a plateau or separating acres of land at different heights. The Niagara Escarpment, marked in red, is a landform called a cuesta and it travels from Niagara Falls, New York in a semi circle westward through eastern Wisconsin. It runs predominantly east/west from New York State, through Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. The escarpment is most famous as the cliff over which the Niagara River plunges at Niagara Falls, for which it is named. Go to story. March 17, 2014

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The Source of the Wisconsin River, Lac Vieux Desert. If you have spent any time browsing this web site, you know I am a nut for rivers and streams. Living in Wausau, the Wisconsin River flows by just down the street a couple blocks. I have gone kayaking on this section. I have also visited Iowa’s and Wisconsin’s lookouts over where the Wisconsin River empties into the Mighty Mississippi. For this trip, in winter, I decided I wanted to go to Lac Vieux Desert in Vilas County up in the north woods to see the Wisconsin River’s source. January 23, 2012

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Frosty Hwy 29: what, an interesting ride on this boring road? I have driven Hwy 29 in Wisconsin many times out of Wausau, both east to Green Bay and west to Minneapolis. I have only one thing to say about it ---- Boring! I was recently in Minneapolis and on December 21, 2011, rode home. Massive boredom. It was pretty cold, in the 20s I would say, and overcast with a spritz of sun every now and then. When I crossed into Clark County, I noticed a change. The trees, weeds and fields were covered with a very thin layer of frost. No longer boring! It was really beautiful. Dodging in and out of traffic, I tried to capture some of it and thought I would share the images. Even though I have a great camera, I’m not sure I do the beauty justice, but hey, if I have a chance to show Hwy 29 in a non-boring form, believe me I will! December 22, 2011.

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Big Manitou Falls, the highest in the state. No, you are not out west, but you are in the northwest of Wisconsin, in Douglas County, a part of Pattison State park, just south of Superior, at Manitou Falls, the highest in the state and the fourth highest east of the Rockies. She drops 165 ft., a little over half a football field. The water comes from the Black River and it’s on its way to Lake Superior. July 10, 2011

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Strolling through Southwestern Wisconsin. Southwest Wisconsin is one of my favorite sections of the state, in the case of this story, Grant, Lafayette and Iowa Counties. To be honest, I am also very partial to Crawford, Vernon, Richland and Sauk Counties as well. This primarily is a photo gallery of vistas I enjoyed and wish to share. We traveled through the southern portion of the Western Uplands Geographic Province of Wisconsin. It was October, the weather was perfect, and turned out to be a terrific ride home. May 31, 2011

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Amnicom Falls State Park, a “must visit.” On our return to Wausau from Duluth, MN, we stopped off at Amnicom Falls State Park, really not knowing what to expect. We were startled by its beauty, its upkeep, and the visitor-friendly way it was laid out. About 500 million years ago, there was a tremendous fracturing and movement of the basalt bedrock. The crack, called the Douglas Fault, extends from east of Ashland, Wisconsin, to near the Minnesota Twin Cities. The park is a “must visit” in my book. May 13, 2011

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Cranberry farming, start to finish at Prehn Cranberry Co. Wisconsin is number one in the country in cranberries. My friend, and dentist, Dr. Fred Prehn owns a cranberry operation in Tomah. Fred permitted me to photograph his operation from spring through winter. I got everything except their putting the sand down on the frozen bogs. I certainly learned a lot. Growing, harvesting and shipping off the cranberries is a big operation. The harvest is arguably the most beautiful. Thanks to Fred and Linda Prehn, along with their super staff, for letting me have free rein of the place and get some education from the pros themselves. April 20, 2011.

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Brule River, she can trick you if you’re not careful. Back on 2007 I was traveling up north near Lake Superior and ran across the Brule River. When I got to what I thought was her source at Lake Superior, I discovered that I was actually at her mouth emptying into Lake Supreior. My map reading had let me down. I thought the Brule flowed south, hooked into the St. Croix River, and then into the Mississippi. I turned out to be wrong and was in total disbelief when I saw that the Brule was flowing into Lake Superior. So I returned to find the source of the Brule, figure out how its source could be so close to the source of the St. Croix River, and then track her as well as I could by car and foot to Lake Superior. April 6, 2010

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Central Wisconsin a Ginseng farming mecca. Ginseng farming in central Wisconsin is world renowned and produces among the largest crops in the world. It is a root crucial to Chinese and Korean culture, and they have been importing American ginseng since 1750. Wild ginseng once thrived along most of the nation's eastern seaboard, from Maine to Alabama and west to Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. It still grows wild, but it was over-harvested in the mid-1970s and was subsequently defined as an endangered species. Currently, 18 states issue licenses to export it. In Wisconsin and several other states where ginseng is cultivated, a permit is not required to export artificially propagated ginseng. We’ll visit two farms, one in Marathon, the other in Lincoln County. March 31, 2010

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The Glacial River Trail and its red covered bridge. A fellow named Craig "The Rooster" Roost introduced me to several of his delightful projects, one of which was a red covered bridge he and his colleagues built on the Glacial River Trail extending along Hwy 26 in Jefferson County from Ft. Atkinson to the Rock County line. He built the bridge using timber from a barn built in 1906. This story is about that bridge, and why it was named The Glacial River Trail bridge. There is some very interesting science involved. By Ed Marek, editor. October 6, 2009.

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Secluded bays on the Bayfield Peninsula. During August this year we returned to the Bayfield Peninsula, this time to stay for a couple days and explore. Our visit this time would be a little different. Instead of being enhcanted by wonderful buildings and towns, we wanted to see the Lake Superior shore, and decided a good way to do that was to explore the bays, like Buffalo Bay, Red Cliff Bay, Raspberry Bay, Eagle Bay, Little Sand Bay to name some. This was a "back roads" endeavor that proved to be a great delight, and wonderful education. September 16, 2007.

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Big Falls County Park, a little known haven in Price County. Some friends told us to search out Big Falls County Park in Price County. Fortunately, they gave us some directions. We have a pretty darn good map of the state but it took us a long time to find it on the map, even with their directions. We're glad we hunted the place down, because it was an absolute delight. When you've had it with the world, ya gotta go here! August 4, 2007

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Timm's Hill, Wisconsin's highest. The impact of the Wisconsin Glaciation is mind-boggling, a life's pursuit to even grasp. Wisconsin hosted the most recent series of glacial advances and retreats in North America, and the glacial landscape is wonderful, from wherever viewed. That is most certainly true over at Timm's Hill in Price County, Wisconsin's highest point. Not only is there a lot to learn, a lot to see, but the area around Timm's Hill is fun. March 21, 2006, updated August 1, 2007

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The ballet of the "Central Sands" potato harvest. Portage County is the state's leader in potato production, Wisconsin is number three in the nation, and they owe that leadership to the "Central Sands" soil of the region and a lot of hard-working people. This is a big-time business with little room for amateurs. In early October, we observed the Dombrowski Farms potato harvest near Shantytown, just a stone's throw north of Portage County, and the Plover River Farms just outside Stevens Point. If you're a kid at heart, watching all these big machines do their ballet out in the fields is more exciting than a 62-year old six year old boy can handle! November 10, 2006.

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The "wilds" northeast of Merrill. About 10 miles northeast of Merrill, in Lincoln County, the landscape turns wild, and is largely uninhabited. We had been to the Prairie River Dells before, so we decided to return to that area and then explore an area marked by several small lakes and ponds. To do that, we had to travel some no-kiddin' back-roads. We had fun, we got lost, we got some nice photography, and following the trip, were able to match our photos with aerial photography of the area provided by terraserver-usa.com. We were also able to do a little research regarding the geography. August 11, 2006.

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Butte on Marston Plain. My initial visit to Juneau County was a lot of fun. While in the Central Plain Geographic Province, in the area of Mauston, I encountered fantastic buttes just jumping out from the flatlands. Wisconline.com talks to these buttes this way: "Isolated, rocky hills which resemble ruined castles, grotesque towers and crags of sandstone along a line of bold, irregular bluffs, and an unusually flat plain which stretches away beyond the northern and eastern horizons." July 31, 2006

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The Prairie Dells, a secret and a fantastic sight in the wilds near Merrill. Many maps of the Prairie River Dells show a dam and a Prairie River Pond. When you get there, you find the dam is gone and therefore so is the pond. But that's okay, because you are in for a real treat when you get to the Dells. It's very rustic and wild, and extraordinarily beautiful. Best of all, the likelihood that anyone else will be there when you visit is low. You get a real nice taste of Mother Nature at her best. July 26, 2006.

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The science of baling hay. We all see bales of hay strewn about farmland as we drive throughout Wisconsin, and we'll see it being fed to the animals, mostly to cattle. We happened across a field that was being harvested while in Pine River, Lincoln County, and took a bunch of photos. In trying to present these photos to you, we had to research what we were going to talk about and discovered, yet again, that nothing in life is simple, everything is complex, and there is a real science involved in baling hay. We'll introduce you to just a smidgen of that science. June 29, 2006.

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Grandfather Falls, it can be a wild stretch of river. We visited the Grandfather Falls Recreation Area and hydroelectric facilities north of Merrill in Lincoln County and found them fascinating. This was a typical "Wisconsin Central Get-Lost-Ride," which means we were not sure what we were seeing but it was most interesting, so we kept driving around until we obtained some sense of what the area was all about. Hwy 107 North out of Merrill is a good way to see it. May 7, 2006. NOTE BENE: I have added a new sub-section to this report which address these penstocks, how they are made, and why they leak. It is entitled, “A look at those leaking penstocks.” (030314)

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Dells of Eau Claire, a summer-winter contrast. "The Dells of the Eau Claire River protects a scenic, narrow rocky gorge and waterfalls where geologi processes have resulted in an unusual tilting of bedrock. On this picturesque stretch of the Eau Claire River, the river cascades over rock outcrops ... the river tumbles and spills across the rock's cleavage planes while it runs smoothly in other areas." We traveled to the Dells twice, once on a beautiful July 2005 day, again on an equally beautiful day in March 2006, just after the end of winter. This is a photo gallery to contrast the two times of year. April 5, 2006. We've also added a couple photos taken in 1900. Addendum: The roaring Dells of Eau Claire following 2010 floods, November 3, 2010. Wisconsin experienced persistent and heavy rains during mid-to-late September 2010, producing flooding conditions up and down the state. On September 26, 2010, as the rains subsided, I visited the Dells to see how the floods impacted. Impact they most certainly did. This will be a photo series for your viewing. It would be fun for you to compare these photos with the earlier ones taken during non-flood condition