It’s not every day that you get a chance to see a 400 million-year-old geologic foundation, and even if you did, we bet none of them would be as impressive as the Niagara Escarpment. This amazing natural wonder deserves a spot on your travel itinerary just as much as any other tourist destination.
Sure, this geological feature doesn’t get as much buzz as, say, the Grand Canyon, but those who love and appreciate the outdoors put this natural wonder on their travel itinerary because of its unusual formation and cultural significance.
The Niagara Escarpment is most well-known for its namesake, the Niagara Falls, which you can find on the border between New York and Ontario. But this ridge also created so many other noteworthy sites throughout the midwest, including right here in Greater Green Bay!
How Was the Niagara Escarpment Formed?
Fonferek's Glen County Park, Photo Credit: @theorobia
Many people mistakenly believe that the Niagara Escarpment was formed by a fault line or by glaciers, but it’s actually just unequal erosion of rock layers over millions and millions of years. Layers of softer rock like limestone and shale erode away or get worn down by harder rocks like Silurian dolomite, creating unusual cliffs that actually have the power to influence weather patterns, even today.
Another cool thing about the Niagara Escarpment is the fact that it contains the oldest forest ecosystem and trees in eastern North America. In fact, the oldest known tree in Wisconsin is found in this ecosystem: a 1,300-year-old eastern white cedar located in Greenleaf, about 15 miles south of Green Bay.
Wisconsin contains around 230 miles of the Niagara Escarpment, extending from just above the Illinois border all the way up the eastern side of the state, through Green Bay and up the Door County peninsula.
What is its Cultural Significance?
If you’re a history buff, you’ll love learning about the many ways the Niagara Escarpment contributed to human life over the millions of years since its formation. Not only does it still influence weather patterns, as we mentioned above, it also contains evidence of a more significant human history.
For example, south of Green Bay, parts of the Niagara Escarpment ridge contain animal and geometric effigy mounds, and the remains of a 100-year-old limestone quarry and kiln were discovered as well. The limestone was used to build homes and churches, which resulted in the urban expansion of eastern Wisconsin. The ridges are also a perfect option for wind farms because of their height.
Nature-lovers will be delighted to learn that the escarpment contains hundreds of plant and animal species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. And, because of the unique air patterns coming off of Lake Michigan and the mineral-rich glacial soils, it’s an ideal location for vineyards. That’s why you can find so many great wineries producing delicious local selections in this part of the state!
Ready to Try Out Geotourism?
Photo Credit: Green Bay Press-Gazette (Monument located in Way-Morr Park)
Geotourism is experiencing a popularity surge because people are starting to become more interested in seeing things that are “off the beaten path” so to speak. They want to engage in more sustainable travel and experience the natural beauty of their world.
If you’re looking to try out geotourism, we highly recommend starting with a visit to the Niagara Escarpment right here in Greater Green Bay! Grab a copy of our latest destination guide and start planning your trip today!