Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail lets visitors explore the border of the glacier invasion into North America during the last Ice Age. One of many pleasant points of interest on the trail in mid-Wisconsin is Indian Lake Park in Dane County.
Indian Lake lies at the very edge of the area of southwestern Wisconsin that the glaciers did not reach, known as the “driftless” area. They melted and quit here. You can see where glaciers did—and didn’t—press the land flat.
The steep slopes of exposed rock show that the valley was never completely covered with ice. But the large boulders found on the valley floor could only have been brought here by a finger of ice that fanned out from the main body of the glacier.
In honor of Ronald J. Ripp, a well-regarded Dane County Surveyor, the precise geodetic position is marked. The coordinates of the park are: Latitude N 43 degrees 11’ 23.2”; Longitude W 89 degrees 37’ 18.2”; Elevation 940 feet. But in pragmatic Midwestern philosophy, the sign concludes by asking the visitor:
“Now that you know where you are, do you know where you are going?”
Indian Lake is one of many shallow kettle lakes in the area that the glaciers left behind when they retreated. The plain by the lake formed when melting water from the glacier carried silt and sand into the valley.
Plant life in the park is diverse. Paper birch trees dominate the cool north-facing slope along the lake.
But on the hilltops ancient gnarled oaks are crowded by younger hardwoods. [Here you see a stretch of the Ice Age Trail.]
Indians camped at the southwest end of the lake for several hundred years. During that time there were no trees here at all. Frequent prairie fires took care of that. But once settlers arrived, and stopped the fires, trees started to fill in the open spaces. Now only a few small patches of prairie are left. You can see a lovely prairie bumping into the lake here: