Geology of Ice Age National Scientific Reserve of Wisconsin
NPS Scientific Monograph No. 2
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IN OCTOBER 1964, the United States Congress passed legislation charging the National Park Service, through the Secretary of the Interior and in cooperation with state and local governmental authorities, with the responsibility of formulating within 2 years a "comprehensive plan for the protection, preservation, and interpretation of outstanding examples of continental glaciation in Wisconsin." (Public Law 88-655). Through a contract1 between the National Park Service and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, financial support was provided for a geological study of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve. This contract provided money for some aerial photographs, field expenses, and other photographic supplies and reproductions. The study was started in February 1966, and the completed manuscript was submitted in June 1966.2

1Contract number 14-10-0529-2872
2Between the time of writing and printing of this book the pertinent literature on the Pleistocene as related to the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve has doubled. However, the general story has not changed, and no rewriting has been attempted.

As expressed in the contract, the study areas include:

1. Eastern area (portions of the northern unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest and Campbellsport drumlin area);

2. Central area (portions of Devils Lake State Park);

3. Northwestern area (portions of Chippewa County near Bloomer; and

4. Related areas (other areas in the State of Wisconsin which the Secretary of the Interior and the Governor of Wisconsin agree upon as significant examples of continental glaciation).

Web Edition Note: Since the publication of this book, in 1971 the nine-unit Ice Age National Scientific Reserve was created, to be administered by the State of Wisconsin in cooperation with, and with assistance from, the National Park Service. In October 1980, Congress designated the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, which connects these units, and other areas of scientific interest. The National Park Service administers the trail in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation.

Fig. 1. County and road map of Wisconsin, showing nine areas recommended for inclusion in the Ice Age Scientific Reserve and their relation to substage glacial deposits. The nine areas are: 1) Two Creeks Forest Bed; 2) Sheboygan Marsh; 3) Northern Kettle Interlobate Moraine; 4) Campbellsport Drumlins; 5) Cross Plains Terminal Moraine; 6) Devils Lake Park; 7) Mill Bluff Pinnacles; 8) Bloomer Moraine; and 9) St. Croix Dalles Interstate Park.

The fundamental aim of the geological study of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve was to provide basic data necessary for the formulation of a comprehensive plan for that Reserve, including:

1. The selection of representative areas and features that best illustrate continental glaciation in Wisconsin as outlined above;

2. The description and evaluation of each area selected with emphasis on the geological importance as it relates to the project purpose; and

3. The relationship of the areas and features selected in the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve to the entire scope of continental glaciation in the United States.

In consultation with representatives of the National Park Service and the Conservation Department of Wisconsin, the nine areas shown in Fig. 1 and described in Chapters 2 through 10 are recommended for inclusion in the Reserve. In certain instances the precise areas recommended for inclusion were determined not on their geology but on the bounds of practicality—some are "almost as good" geologically as other areas that are less favorably located geographically or are not already in public ownership. Some features are too large to buy or are not needed in public ownership to be preserved or appreciated. With available funds, or those likely to be forthcoming in the near future, it is not possible to include all desirable areas. Therefore, it is considered more important to spend available funds in acquiring ownership of important lands on the margins of existing state parks, such as Devils Lake, in order to preserve features there, than to start an entirely new area elsewhere which duplicates features in or adjacent to lands now in public ownership. Some of the more important features that, for a variety of reasons, cannot now be included in the Reserve are mentioned with reference to areas recommended for inclusion. It is hoped that these too will ultimately find their place in the Reserve.

This report begins with a brief review of the Pleistocene of Wisconsin as it is now understood specifically in relation to adjoining states. Detailed descriptions and evaluations of the geology of the recommended areas follow. A discussion of the Pleistocene of Wisconsin is included to show its relationship to the Pleistocene of the United States. A list of features and areas in Wisconsin that are recommended for later acquisition terminates this report.

Inasmuch as earth history is always an interpretation, and interpretors differ in their evaluations of so-called facts, no one particular interpretation may necessarily be right. Furthermore, new data are constantly forcing us to revise our story. Consequently, although coloring the report with my own interpretations and beliefs, I have attempted to point out the works of others wherein different points of view have been presented. In some instances I evaluated or rejected those views outright; others are as viable as my own. Different points of view or interpretation of past history based on what is now available to us of those ancient events is not to be deplored. Without the possibility that anyone will come up with a new fact or interpretation that provides the key to an enigma, few tourists would truly savor the Reserve, and it is through tourists and landowners, as well as scientists, that new data on the geologic past come to light every day.

In a sense this book is only a status report of the general and specific geologic setting of the recommended areas as we now know them. Much remains to be learned. A complete discussion of the earlier literature or the infinite detail of a particular area are not warranted. Appropriate basic references are cited to lead the way to others. The general story for each area is made sufficiently complete for the uninitiated reader to fit each area into the broad framework of the state and region. The description of individual areas varies in detail from one to another depending in part on the complexity and importance of an area and in part on my acquaintance with them. Devils Lake Park is emphasized because of its importance and need of expansion.

Since 1956, I have received financial support for research on the Pleistocene of Wisconsin from the Research Committee of the Graduate School of the University of Wisconsin from funds supplied by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, from National Science Foundation Grant GP-2820, from the State Highway Commission, and from the State Geological and Natural History Survey. Without the research background provided by that support, this study would not have been possible in the time allotted. I was assisted unstintingly in some field studies and in the typing, compilation, and editing of this book by my wife, Hernelda L. Black.

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Last Updated: 1-Apr-2005