Wisconsin's role in Niagara Falls - WFXS, MyFoxWausau - News and Weather for Wausau, WI

Wisconsin's role in Niagara Falls


The beauty of Niagara Falls is thanks to the geology of Wisconsin, according to Ray Reser, director of the Natural History Museum at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. 

"It's very cool" he said.

Reser says geologists attribute Niagara Falls to a massive escarpment, or ridge that runs through Wisconsin, notably at High Cliff State Park near Lake Winnebago. 

"The ledge is one of those amazing little outcrops in Wisconsin that really literally shapes the state" Reser said. 

The escarpment runs nearly 1,000 miles through eastern Wisconsin where it forms the Door County peninsula, Lake Winnebago and the bay of Green Bay.  It then moves through Upper Michigan, southern Ontario and enters western New York where is appears as Niagara Falls. 

Geologists say they can trace the escarpment because of the rocks and fossils found along it. 

"You can take a fossil, a piece of the Niagara Escarpment from here, go to Niagara Falls and look at it, it's absolutely identical and so are the fossils" Reser said. 

The escarpment today can be seen as a ridge through Wisconsin, but according to UW-Stevens Point Professor of Geology Kevin Hefferan at one point in its history it was a coral reef. 

"We have some of these great fossils" Hefferan said.  "The best coral reefs in the world were located actually from Milwaukee on north."

Beyond creating an interesting geologic history and one of the great waterfalls of the world, in Wisconsin the escarpment has become a prime habitat for unique plant and wildlife. 

The ridge's uniqueness among the eastern Wisconsin landscape creates several micro-climates, according to High Cliff State Park superintendent Carolyn Morgen. 

The park offers a series of trails that run along the top and bottom of the escarpment where it meets Lake Winnebago. 

"We have actually found several different land snails here that are very rare and are only found along the Niagara Escarpment" she said. 

"Birds of prey hit the wind currents along the escarpment, so there's all these different winds we get that the birds  just love to glide on" Morgen said. 

Footage of Wandering Wisconsin: Wisconsin's Role in Niagara Falls was taken along the Red Bird Trail at High Cliff State Park.  To get to the park, take I-39 southward to exit 158 toward Waupaca.  Follow Highway 10 to the Wisconsin 114 East exit, then take State Park Road.  The park is located at N7630 State Park Rd., Sherwood, Wis. 


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