Wisconsin's Henry S Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center: Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern Headquarters

by DerdriuMarriner

The Henry S. Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center has exhibits on Wisconsin's Ice Age Parks and Trail. It is the Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern Unit headquarters.

The Ice Age Visitor Center

The Ice Age Visitor Center has the welcoming look of glassy expanses, modern design, and stone exterior. It indeed invites inside all those curious or knowledgeable about the impact of 100,000 super-cold years upon the landscape. The center offers exhibits as well as the 20+/-minute info-film "The Night of the Sun" most excellently narrated by esteemed actor Eli Herschel Wallach (born December 7, 1915).

During peak season hours, from April through October, the center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on weekends. From November through March the center's hours are variable.

Located half a mile west of Dundee on Highway 67, the center's address is N1765 Hwy G Campbellsport, WI 53010. Its telephone number is (920) 533-8322.

Henry S Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center near Dundee: headquarters of northern unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest
Henry S Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center near Dundee: headquarters of northern unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest

 

The Exhibit Room in the Ice Age Visitor Center introduces visitors to four successively advancing and retreating 1-mile (1.61 kilometer) thick ice sheets which covered one-third of Planet Earth's surface. The sheets occurred when snow accumulation remained after warm-weather melts. They took place following worldwide cooling of 1+ million years ago.

 

Northern Hemisphere glaciation in last ice ages: Wisconsin Glacial Episode (central North America); Devensian (British Isles); Midlandian (Ireland); Würm (Alps); Weichselian (northern/north central Europe); Valdai (eastern Europe); Zyryanka (Siberia)
Note winter pack ice's extension further south than now
Note winter pack ice's extension further south than now

 

The last Ice Age began 110,000 years ago. It peaked 18,000 years ago. The final thaw took place 12,000 to 10,000 years ago.The last stage was named the Wisconsin Glacial Age. It was preceded by the Illinoian, Kansan and Nebraskan glaciations.

 

Horicon Marsh, migratory/nesting area for millions of waterfowls: 32,000 acres (130 km2); one of USA's largest freshwater wetlands, with 3 ecological zones (marsh and peat areas; small pothole wetlands; shallow lakes); national and state wildlife refuge
designated as Ramsar Site #511 on 4/12/90 for importance for nesting and international spring/fall flyway
designated as Ramsar Site #511 on 4/12/90 for importance for nesting and international spring/fall flyway

Each glaciation changed the landscape north of Cross Plains. The village is the glacier's stopping point. It therefore lacks such glaciated hallmarks as:

  • Glacial melt-water carving Interstate State Park's river gorge and potholes;
  • Stagnant glacier melt-water dropping debris throughout the Chippewa Moraine's cracked surface;
  • Horicon Marsh's glacially-created lake;
  • Glacial melt encouraging the growth of a young spruce forest, which was overturned, killed and buried under 12 to 15 feet (3.66 to 4.57 meters) of clay and rocks in Two Creeks Buried Forest;
  • Water, wind and winter ice eroding the insular remains from a glacial lake into Mill Bluff State Park's southwestern-style sandstone buttes;
  • Glaciers forming Devil's Lake State Park's 500-foot (152.4-meter) high bluffs and spectacular lake;
  • Ice on the move leaving large, long hills (drumlins) in the Campbellsport area around the center;
  • Rock debris of the Continental Ice Sheet's westward-moving Lake Michigan lobe mixing with the eastward-moving Green Bay lobe.

 

richly glaciated landforms in northwestern segment of Ice Age National Scenic Trail
Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area
Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area
spectacular autumnal panorama
Devil's Lake and its soaring bluffs
Devil's Lake and its soaring bluffs
thunderstorm over drumlin
7 Hills Road, Mount Calvary, east central Wisconsin, north of Henry S Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center
7 Hills Road, Mount Calvary, east central Wisconsin, north of Henry S Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center

Drumlins, Eskers, Kames, Kettles, Moraines, and Outwashes

 

The word drumlins comes from the ancient Irish Gaelic for the ridge of a hill. Drumlins form into long, narrow mounds of clay and rock. They have the teardrop shape of one rounded end and one tapered. The narrow end indicates the direction of ice flow.

The word eskers comes from the ancient Irish Gaelic for a ridge separating two plains. These long, winding gravelly ridges cross rolling landscapes. They identify places where water flowed through tunnels within the stagnant ice.The best known of Wisconsin's eskers is the Parnell Esker accessible by the Ice Age and Parnell Tower Trails.

 

Irregular shape of kames was formed by sand and gravel left behind by retreating glaciers.
kame's distinctive conical shape
kame's distinctive conical shape
Kettle Moraine area, Fond du Lac County, east central Wisconsin: landscape in October
glacial kame hovering behind cornfield
glacial kame hovering behind cornfield

 

The Scots word kame designates cone-shaped, steep-sided hills. Kames form from water falling through vertically-fractured shafts in ice. The water moves debris from above to below ground. Gravel and sand remain when the long-stagnant glacier melts. Many kames stand
100+ feet (30.48+ meters) tall. They and kettles typify Kettle Moraine State Forest's landscape.

 

Scientists review satellite images of lakes, including glacial kettle lakes, to assess water clarity across the state of Wisconsin.
a kettle, or pothole, lake in Eagle Oak Opening State Natural Area (No.66), Waukesha County, Kettle Moraine State Forest-Southern Unit
a kettle, or pothole, lake in Eagle Oak Opening State Natural Area (No.66), Waukesha County, Kettle Moraine State Forest-Southe...

 

Kettles are depressions which pock the landscape. They form from the melting of ice blocks buried deep within rubbled surfaces. They measure 12 feet (3.66 meters) to 2+ miles 3218.69+-meters) in diameter. Some depressions remain dry. Others will accumulate water, to become lakes and ponds, such as Bear and Greenbush Kettle Lakes.

 

Formerly a gorge of the Wisconsin River, Devil's Lake was created by moraine damming of its southeastern and northern ends during the advance of the Wisconsinan ice sheet, about 85,000-11,000 years ago.
bouldered moraine along Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Devil's Lake
bouldered moraine along Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Devil's Lake

 

The word moraine comes from the Vulgate Latin murrum for "round object." Moraines jumble loose rocks and soil assumed and abandoned by active glaciers. End moraines look ridge-like, such as the Kettle Moraine. Ground moraines measure 2 inches (5.08 centimeters) to 100+ feet (30.48+ meters).

Outwashes are level plains. They form from the moving of gravel and ice by glacial melt. Melt-water moves in broad, shallow channels. It stops pushing boulders, clay, gravel, sand or silt once its momentum slows. One consequence will be built-up rich farmland, as in the Jersey Flats area of Lake Winnebago.

 

panorama of autumnal scenery in Kettle Moraine State Forest in southeastern Wisconsin
view from Lapham Peak Unit Lookout Tower
view from Lapham Peak Unit Lookout Tower

Kettle Moraine State Forest

Lapham Peak Unit; Loew Lake Unit

 

Kettle Moraine State Forest is in southeastern Wisconsin. It is known for glacial landforms and hilly terrain. It spreads 100 miles (160,934.4 meters) over five units.

The Lapham Peak Unit lies south of Delafield, in Washington County. It offers hiking trails and an observation tower.

The Loew Lake Unit of Washington County includes a small recreation area in the town of Erin on the Oconomowoc River. It offers hiking, horse riding, and hunting.

 

In Kettle Moraine State Forest's Northern Unit: an undisturbed shallow seepage bog lake similar to northern Wisconsin's sphagnum bogs
Spruce Lake Bog State Natural Area
Spruce Lake Bog State Natural Area
Northern Unit

 

The northern unit extends from near Glenbeulah in the north to near Kewaskum in the east. It goes into Fond du Lac, Sheboygan and Washington Counties. It includes: 

 

Kettle Moraine State Forest's Pike Lake Unit is named for its 522-acre kettle lake; Powder Hill, 1,350-foot (411.48 meter) kame, with 65–foot (19.8 meter) tower, overlooks heart-shaped Pike Lake.
Pike Lake
Pike Lake
Pike Lake Unit

 

The Pike Lake Unit is accessed by Highway 60 between the city of Hartford and the village of Slinger. It offers biking, camping, hiking, swimming, and observation-tower viewing.

 

Kettle Moraine's Southern Unit ~ Raspberry School House, Old World Wisconsin: namesake of Raspberry Bay in Lake Superior, 1-room school house built in 1896 by 3 Scandinavian families on remote northern tip of Bayfield County, northern Wisconsin
Old World Wisconsin, a popular historic attraction in Kettle Moraine State Forest's Southern Unit
Old World Wisconsin, a popular historic attraction in Kettle Moraine State Forest's Southern Unit
Southern Unit

 

The southern unit extends from near North Prairie southwestward to Whitewater Lake. It includes Old World Wisconsin's collection of model nineteenth-century homesteads. It offers boating and camping at Ottawa and Whitewater Lake Recreation Areas.

 

Oak Opening State Natural Area features rugged glacial landscape of kettle holes and kames, with mixture of oak opening, oak woodland, and small dry prairie openings.
Oak Opening State Natural Area (No. 229), Kettle Moraine State Forest-Southern Unit
Oak Opening State Natural Area (No. 229), Kettle Moraine State Forest-Southern Unit

Kettle Moraine State Forest and Ice Age National Scenic Trail

 

All units can be accessed through the Ice Age Trail of the glacier's furthest advance into Wisconsin during the last Ice Age. In 1980 and by the National Trails Systems Act (Public Law 90 543, 1968), Congress designated the trail a national scenic trail to be protected for its natural beauty. The designation reminds everyone of the efforts of: 

  • Milwaukee businessman Raymond T. Zillmer (1887-1960), Ice Age Park & Trail Foundation founder (1958) of the subsequent Ice Age Trail Alliance, Inc.;
  • Congressman Henry Schoellkopf Reuss (February 22, 1912- January 12, 2002), author of On the Trail of the Ice Age (1976);
  • James J. Staudacher (born 1958), Shorewood native and first backpacker to complete 1,000 trail miles (1,609.3 kilometers), summer 1979.

 

Henry Schoellkopf Reuss as 14-term Democratic U.S. Representative (January 3, 1955-January 3, 1983)
Congressman Henry S. Reuss wrote about trailing the ice age.
Congressman Henry S. Reuss wrote abou...
Deep basalt gorge, pockmarked with glacial potholes, demarcates adjacent same-named parks of Wisconsin and Minnesota; western terminus of Ice Age National Scenic Trail lies in Wisconsin side.
Dalles of the St. Croix River, Interstate State Park
Dalles of the St. Croix River, Interstate State Park
Parnell Tower affords highest point of elevation in Kettle Moraine State Forest's Northern Unit.
Parnell Observation Tower
Parnell Observation Tower

Parnell Tower

Parnell Tower can be accessed by vehicle or on foot. It is accessible by the county highway intersection with Kettle View Drive. It also may be accessed by biking, cross-country skiing, hiking, horseback riding, and snowmobiling trails. Additionally, its access overlaps with the Ice Age Trail near backpack camping shelter number 4.

Between the entrance and the tower is the parking area. Visitors may choose to access drinking water, facilities, grills, or picnic tables before heading to the tower. The hike will take no more than what the individual or group needs to walk about 1/4 mile (0.4 kilometer) if the route is taken strictly to make the round-trip of parking lot-tower-parking lot.

autumn's splendid vista from top of Parnell Tower: when walking the tower's trail, this dense canopy of red oaks (Quercus rubra) and maples (Acer rubrum) obscures the tower from view, despite its location on the Northern Unit's highest elevation.
spectacular bird's eye views from Parnell Tower
spectacular bird's eye views from Parnell Tower

The tower affords the highest point of elevation -- 1,311 feet (399.59 meters) -- within the forest's northern unit. It began its life as a fire lookout tower for early reporting and extinguishing of wildfires. But it now functions as a scenic observation tower for state forest visitors.The tower's wood structure measures a total of 60 feet (18.29 meters). It offers a 25-mile (40.23-kilometer) view from all sightseeing perspectives on clear days. The view will convey to visitors the general economic use which glaciated landscapes have for Wisconsinites:  development of farmland and growth of deciduous and pine forests.

The view from the tower often inspires visitors to take time out for the Parnell Tower hiking trail. The hiking trail loops 3.5 miles (5.63 kilometers) through woodlands characterized by abundantly and densely growing red maple (Acer rubrum) and red oak (Quercus rubra) trees. The tower trail provides views of the forest's pine (Pinus spp) plantation to the north and of the forest's marshes and swamps to the northwest. The trail supplies visitors with frequent sightings of red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris), turkeys (Mealeagris gallopavo), and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).

 

Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive: 115 miles (185.07 kilometers) through six Wisconsin counties
Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive, LaGrange, Walworth County, southeastern Wisconsin
Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive, LaGrange, Walworth County, southeastern Wisconsin

Dundee, Wisconsin

The Ice Age Center can be accessed from Wisconsin Highway 67. It is in Campbellsport, near the
unincorporated community of Dundee. Dundee is located within the town of Osceola. Osceola is named after Florida Seminole Chief Osceola (Creek Asi-yahola [English: "yaupon holly ceremonial black drink" + "shouter"]), who was born Billy Powell (1804-January 30, 1838) in Talisi (Tallassee), Alabama to English trader William Powell and Polly Coppinger of Creek Native American and Scots-Irish parentage.

Osceola's first permanent European settlers probably arrived in 1845. In February 1854, E.M. McIntosh platted, recorded and named Dundee (Celtic: Dùn Dè; English: "fort" + "fire"), in honor of the city in Scotland. In 1855, he and Stephen Palmer put the finishing touches on Dundee's first dam and sawmill. By 1858, a flouring mill was functional thanks to William and Leroy Palmer. By 1880, there were Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed churches; a post office; and the business opportunities of the Brokmeyer cattle fair and Dundee Hotel.

Seminole Chief Osceola: namesake of 2 towns in Wisconsin, Osceola in Polk County, northwestern Wisconsin, and Osceola in Fond du Lac County, southeastern Wisconsin
1838 oil on canvas by George Catlin (July 26, 1796-December 23, 1872)
1838 oil on canvas by George Catlin (...

Dundee and Osceola are known for scenery and wildlife. Both give excellent views of Dundee Mountain, to the northeast. Additionally, Dundee is located within Kettle Moraine State Forest-Northern Unit, which includes the Ice Age Center. Through Dundee also passes the 115-mile (185.07-kilometer) Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive.

The drive begins in the Whitewater area of Jefferson and Walworth Counties and ends northwest of Elkhart Lake in Sheboygan County's Broughton Marsh Park. It mainly consists of county and local roads. It is intended to link the state forest's northern and southern units. In order to do so, it passes through the Wisconsin counties of:

  • Fond du Lac;
  • Jefferson;
  • Sheboygan;
  • Walworth;
  • Washington;
  • Waukesha.

The visit to Dundee therefore can be the charmed starting-point and the picturesque ending-point to adventures into Wisconsin's super-cold past through forays into Ice Age-related centers, drives, natural areas, and trails.

 

Milwaukee River Tamarack Lowlands and Dundee Kame State Natural Area, a large wetland complex, includes Dundee Kame, or Mountain, a moulin kame with height of 250 feet (76.2 meters), in Fond du Lac County, in Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern Unit.
stand of paper birch (Betula papyreus), Milwaukee River Tamarack Lowlands and Dundee Kame State Natural Area (no. 256)
stand of paper birch (Betula papyreus), Milwaukee River Tamarack Lowlands and Dundee Kame State Natural Area (no. 256)

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

kame in Kettle Moraine State Forest
kame in Kettle Moraine State Forest

Sources Consulted

"Mill Bluff State Park: Geology." Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources>Topics>Wisconsin State Park System. Last revised: Wednesday October 3, 2012.

  • Available at:  http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/millbluff/geology.html

Staudacher, James. "Ice Age summer: my 1,000 mile hike on the Ice Age Trail." Wisconsin Magazine Of History. Volume 90, Issue 3 (2006-2007).

 

Butler Lake, spring-fed, 7-acre, hard-bottom kettle lake, lies between two eskers, of which Parnell Esker is 4 miles (6.4 km) long with heights of 5 to 35 feet (1.5-10.6 meter); Flynn's Spring, a spring brook, flows into lake's southern end.
Butler Lake and Flynn's Spring State Natural Area (No. 257), Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern Unit
Butler Lake and Flynn's Spring State Natural Area (No. 257), Kettle Moraine State Forest Northern Unit
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Geology of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail by David M. Mickelson, Louis J. Maher Jr., and Susan L. Simpson

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail meanders across the state of Wisconsin through scenic glacial terrain dotted with lakes, steep hills, and long, narrow ridges.
Ice Age Scenic Trail-themed books

Wisconsin Watercolor Map: black t-shirt

Wisconsin Watercolor Map
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Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 08/20/2014, DerdriuMarriner
 
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