Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wisconsin’s Horicon Marsh: The glacier’s gift to the wild geese

The most recent North America glacier invasion's final gasp scoured a marsh out of Wisconsin limestone. The area would later be called Horicon (pure). This is where the Green Bay lobe of the massive Wisconsin glacier stopped and relinquished the load of boulders that it had relentlessly carried down from the north.

CLICK photo to enlarge

That deposit became the Niagara escarpment: the point on our continent that separates the waters that flow eastward into Lake Michigan from those that flow into the Mississippi River.

The latter formed a lake here ten thousand years ago. But, fortunately for the wild geese, as silt and sediment built up, the lake transformed into a marsh. 

Horicon is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States, covering over 32,000 acres. It's a critical rest stop for thousands of migrating ducks and Canada geese, recognized as a Wetland of International Importance. It is also a gem among the points of interest that lie on Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail

A fall visit to Horicon provides a front row seat to the phenomenon of migration.

The sky is filled with "V" formations. The geese's honking is ever so much louder than the uninitiated would imagine-- filling the marsh, ringing out across the wetlands. As wetlands disappear across the continent, and up to 90% or more of it has, the geese congregate at this queen of the sites that remain.

Horicon is the source of the Rock River, where three small branches conjoin to form the river that empties into the Mississippi only a mile or two from my Iowa home. We followed the route of the river on our journey to Horicon, tracing it from end to beginning.

There are both a federal and a state-governed area of the marsh, and it's large enough to support both agencies with room to spare. We limited our visit to the federal recreational areas and visitor center (pictured above).

Mounted goose appears to watch as visitor signs the register at the Visitors Center at Horicon Marsh.


Big Mark 243 said...

Awesome! Another reason to visit Wisconsin!!

okjimm said...

boy you get around! The marsh isx less than an hour drive....I used to go there in the fall just to see the geese. I guess I am over due.

Border Explorer said...

Big Mark, thanks for your visit to Border Explorer. Yes, Wisconsin is imminently visitable! :-)

Jim, I was thinking about you when I was there earlier this month, on our way to Green Bay. We just did a quick visit with no time to stop by Obilios for a beer. You're lucky to live close to this place!

an average patriot said...

That is gorgeous thanks Billie! I absolutely love listening to the geese as they come and go with the seasons. You can't help but stop and look up. Knowing the natural progression of a body of water from lake to marsh to land you have me wondering where they will be migrating to when that marsh naturally shrinks and then disappears?

susan said...

The pictures are beautiful. I grew up in Ontario on the Oak Ridges Moraine so the history of the glacial periods has always fascinated me. The idea that most of North America was covered in a miles thick ice sheet up to 10,000 years ago when people just like us were wandering the world has always fascinated me.

Another thing that's very interesting is that when all that ice covered much of the world the sea levels were far lower which makes it quite likely civilizations were wiped out in the ensuing floods.

Border Explorer said...

Jim, migration is an amazing natural phenomenon. Our draining of wetlands is one more example of human folly as we try to squeeze money out of Planet Earth and wreck it in the process.

Thanks for that info, Susan. How fascinating to learn about how things were so different not all that long ago (comparatively speaking, that is). Or maybe not so different with global warming threatening to wipe out island nations in the near future.

Liberality said...

I second okjimm, you do get around.

I can't imagine the ice age--burr! :)

an average patriot said...

Billie it is beautiful to watch and distressing at the amount of wetland we lose every year. The largest swath lost at once I suspect is because of BP and it is never discussed.