Niagara Escarpment --- NY to Wisconsin

It is not a fault line, but instead the outer edge of a circular basin exposed by the glacier

Part II

Brown County - Wequiock Falls

Wequiock Falls is about six miles northeast of Green Bay City. It is part of the Niagara Escarpment, as small as it is.

Wequiock Creek is a relatively small watershed. The creek meanders through flatlands prior to feeding the falls. It then goes on to contribute nutrients and sediment to the Green Bay .

The falls is Niagara Dolomite with Maquoketa Shale underneath. The water drips under the cap and erodes the soft shale. It has cut a little glen.

Let’s walk around.

Brown County - Green Bay Region

The escarpment skirts to the east of Green Bay city .  The escarpment travels to the northeast side of the city and is then covered with glacial till for several miles, reappearing in the region between Ledgeview (red dot) and Morrison (green dot), marked roughly by the white arrows, after which it is again covered by glacial till.

This is a more scientific map taken from “An inventory and assessment of the resources of theNiagara Escarpment in Wisconsin,” by Candice Kasprzak and Mark Walter. I’ll draw your attention to the yellow polygon very roughly marking the city of Green Bay. The red line at the top, marked by the orange arrow, is the escarpment on the southeast side of the Green Bay.. The violet arrows point to the escarpment in Brown County, marked in red.  IF you strain your eyes a bit or go directly to Google Earth, you can see the Google Earth image with white arrows pointed to the escarpment is roughly the same as shown on the graphic.

I find this very interesting as I have driven through this area many times and did not notice any of this. So I am looking forward to exploring this area next trip.

Brown County - Ledgestone Vineyards area

This may surprise you,; it surprised me.  I’ll introduce you to LedgeStone Vineyards and the near area. First the vineyard. It is a bit more than a mile north of Greenleaf, WI on Hwy 32-57. and about 12 miles south-southwest of Green Bay City.

LedgeStone is at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment. This is a look at part of the escarpment nearby.

Here you can see the grape vines with the escarpment in the background. I took this photo in April Here are a few photos  taken in July.

Once again, you can see the vines with the escarpment in the background.

look at these grapes!

Let’s talk about these grapes for a moment.

One of the real blessings of the escarpment is that it offers a great growing area. It is the main fruit growing area of Ontario, Canada. It is a conservation area and home to many species of animals.

In that regard, the Escarpment is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in New York and Wisconsin established its portion of the Escarpment as an AVA in 2012. 

“Viticulture” means the study of wine. There is a vast wine region along the landform sections of the escarpment.

Wineries abound. Wines range from traditional varietals such as Merlot, Cabernets, Chardonnays and Rieslings to fruit wines.

The area’s temperate climate rivals that of some of the best grape-growing regions on earth. Wisconsin has three AVAs, one of which is along the escarpment known as the Wisconsin Ledge AVA. The glacial soils are made up of gravel, sand and clay over limestone bedrock. The soils are well drained, excellent for growing grapes. Oddly, the lack of water results in lower yields which in turn results in high-quality grapes! Furthermore, the weather patterns here are also perfect, with hot days and cool nights.

The LedgeStone Vineyards describes the advantages of the Escarpment this way:

“The escarpment can be compared to a large cereal bowl where the edge of the bowl is the escarpment.  It is a pre-glacial formation that existed when this area was covered with ocean water.

“The glaciers etched back the edges of the escarpment in Northeastern Wisconsin exposing the beautiful formations that can be observed here in Greenleaf and in other areas such as High Cliff State Park just southwest of here. “

My visit to Ledgestone was quite by chance, and it was the first time I learned of the Niagara Escarpment. Therefore, I decided to explore the near environs. The vineyard is marked by the yellow tack in the lower left of this Google Earth image. Off to the far right you can see the escarpment.

This is a photo of the escarpment  from the vineyard.

I ended up driving north from the vineyard up to the next road, and I hung a right. This is School Road.  I took School Road climbing up the ridge to the first road to the right, Ledgetop Road. I stayed on Ledgetop Road until it took a sharp right. Instead I went straight on what is Ledgetop Court.

It was a spectacular Wisconsin day. There were a few houses up here and I saw a man working outside one of them. I asked him if I could go on his property to take a few pictures of the scene. He not only agreed but walked with me to show me the best view.

The man then pointed out and said that was Green Bay way out there! What fun!

High Cliff State Park - Calumet County

High Cliff State Park is on the northeastern edge of Lake Winnebago  in Calumet County and about 12 miles the way the crow flies southwest of LedgeStone Vineyard. It is near Sherwood, Wisconsin. It gets its name from the limestone cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment.

This park is the only state park on Lake Winnebago, and is about 1,187 acres. It is a wonderful park, lots of trails, camp grounds, Indian mounds, a general store, even a marina, and of course plenty of limestone rock.

It’s not the easiest park to find. I was surprised to have driven through several residential areas on my way into the park.

This is what I saw as soon as I drove into the park area. The bottom photo gives you a closer look at the rock.

There are trails in the rock formations. I chose not to take those because of time limits but I did look in there, and I saw lots of people on the trails below. Here are a few photos of what I saw,

If you look carefully, you can see a trail down there.

I loved “sneaking a peek” in there. Next time I’ll take a trail.

The way the limestone is layered is incredible, almost like setting down long pieces of stone one on top the other.

Here you can see how pieces of the limestone have broken off, probably due to a shifting of the escarpment as the earth below it shifts. erosion is bound to cause some of this as well.

Oakfield Ledge State Natural Area - Fond du Lac County

The Niagara Escarpment hugs the eastern edge of the Horicon Marsh. about 16 miles southwest of Fond du Lac. It has been formally recognized as a Wetland of International  It is one of the largest intact freshwater wetlands in the US. 

Both the Niagara Escarpment and Horicon Marsh were formed by the Green Bay Lobe of the Wisconsin glacier. This lobe also carved out the Green bay, the Lake Winnebago Basin as well Lake Michigan.

the escarpment is well -exposed in this section Fond du Lac County and at places such as High Cliff Park in Calumet County discussed earlier.  This is a remarkable geologic region of the state.

Oakfield Ledge State Natural Area is divided into two parts, north and south. I visited the south. It was not easy to find. I first went to the town of Oakfield, about 8-10 miles southwest of Fond du Lac. Once in the town, head south on Main St., take a right on to CH B. Bear left on CH B where it meets CH D.

Now keep your eyes open to the left looking for a small gravel parking area that is marked Oakfield State Natural Area.

Park there and take the trail for a short bit into the tree line! You are there. Now explore.

I have to say I had a lot of fun here. I do wish to caution you to be careful when you visit. You will be lured to get as close to some of these formations as possible, and even climb in!

I’m going to show you some of what I saw, as I saw it. Use the right-left arrows to page through the gallery.

Ledge County Park - Dodge County

Ledge Park is located in the north central part of Dodge County, between Horicon and Mayville, just off of Hwy TW.  You can see the southern part of the marsh in the upper left.

I worked pretty hard with Google Earth to get this image of the escarpment, pretending I am in an airplane flying over.

While walking along the edge of the ledge, you need to be careful. It’s pretty steep. ON a clear day you can see Horicon Marsh from here.  I visited in April so the trees had not yet bloomed. And it was drizzling rain. You have to stare a little to see the ledge.

This photo is quite interesting. First, it appeared to me to be almost round, cylindrical. If so, one wonders how that happened. Second, it stood alone on the slope of the ledge. So one wonders how it got there and from where it came. One climber said he rock was of poor quality and falling apart.

I took this last photo from the edge. You get an idea of how high the ledge is. One report I saw said it rises about 250 ft.s