Friends Field Trips Spring and Summer 2020
Because of COVID-19 concerns,
all field trips are canceled through AUGUST
During the Pandemic, we offer Self-Guided Walks each month with the same topics as the regular Naturalist-led Bird and Nature Outings. They can be taken at your convenience on any day. UW Whitewater Professor Marjorie Rhine has been on sabbatical this year to write her book on the natural and cultural history of Lake Mendota. In the following self-guided tour of Picnic Point, Marjorie Rhine included some details to help people imagine past conditions, especially if they are with kids. Questions? Please contact Doris Dubielzig.
Marjorie Rhine's Self-guided Tour for August
Discover the Drama of a Long-Ago Landscape!
Begin at the entrance to Picnic Point, across from UW Parking Lot 130. Notice how the land you are standing on is not far above the level of the lake. Now, consider how geologists have determined that long ago this peninsula, Picnic Point, was a 500-foot bluff made of sandstone and dolomite that towered high above two rivers. What do you think happened to change the landscape? You might think (correctly): the glacier flattened this area. But now ponder: did the glacier shave off the bluffs, or did it fill deep river valleys with rocks and other glacial debris?
Now take a look at the rock wall to the left of the entrance. When Picnic Point was private property and farmed, the owners created this rock wall in 1923 out of field rocks that were collected in the Cross Plains, Wisconsin area. Most of these rocks are glacial erratics, rocks that do not match the bedrock of this area and arrived via the glacier. Why do you think Cross Plains in particular would be a good place to find a lot of glacial erratics? (Hint: Cross Plains marks the beginning of what special area in Wisconsin?). If you want to have more fun with this rock wall, you can use a key available online that identifies all of the rocks: https://www.friendslakeshorepreserve.com/rockwall.html
Now, start walking along the path toward the end of the point with University Bay on your right. Native Americans called this spit of land "Strawberry Point" for the wild strawberries once covering it. At Fire Circle #2, look across the lake at Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus. It's the tallest building you see that looks like a tan rectangle. Van Hise is 243 feet tall (19 stories). When the most recent glacier (the Green Bay Lobe of the Laurentide Ice Sheet) was scouring this area thousands of years ago, the massive ice blanket covering the area was 600 to 800 feet high. Try to imagine ice as high as three Van Hise Buildings stacked on top of each other! Try to picture how the glacier pulled huge boulders and other rocks along beneath its crushing weight, filling what was once a deep river valley with debris. See also Prof. David Mickelson's "Introduction to the Geology of the Preserve" at https://www.friendslakeshorepreserve.com/geology1.html.
Continue your walk to Fire Circle #3. Read the sign on the rock on the right noting that people have gathered on Picnic Point for 12,000 years, from about the time the most recent glacier retreated and the land opened up for habitation. This area’s first inhabitants were descendants of people who migrated across the Bering Land bridge (or, some scholars now argue, used boats to move down the coast of North America before heading into the interior). These people, whom archeologists call the Paleoindians, hunted huge animals like mastodons, beavers as big as bears, and giant sloths as big as our elephants today! Close your eyes and imagine a loud trumpeting call of a mastodon coming from the woods! (You can learn more about these extinct animals, known as Pleistocene megafauna, by doing some research later: look for a book at the library! Or visit the Geology Museum on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus when it is open!). Much later, after Wisconsin became a state, but before 1920, dairy cows would amble to the narrowest part of the peninsula, "the Narrows," and drink from the lake.
As you continue exploring, remember that the land all around us has an interesting story to tell. If you get a chance, other places on the Lakeshore Preserve to explore geological history are the sandstone bluffs visible at Raymer’s Cove and the dolomite outcropping in the woods on the top of Eagle Heights Hill. These areas help you imagine the bluffs that were once part of this dramatic landscape! Learn more about the fascinating, and still evolving, history of the Preserve online at https://lakeshorepreserve.wisc.edu/cultural-and-natural-history-of-the-lakeshore-nature-preserve/.
Free public field trips are one of the most valuable contributions the Friends make to the Preserve. They have been organized every spring and fall for over 10 years on various topics and are all led by Friends volunteers. Many are professional naturalists and emeritus faculty and staff. The Friends also partner with other environmental organizations for field trips.
Field trip coordinator: Doris Dubielzig
Bird and Nature Outings
Free, family-friendly walks on the 4thSunday of the month. Bring your binoculars and camera. Meet at the Picnic Point entrance next to the kiosk (2004 University Bay Drive). Sponsored by the Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, Friends of Urban Nature, and Madison Audubon Society. Meet at the Picnic Point Kiosk, across from UW Lot 130. Contact Paul Noeldner (608-698‑0104).
Spring/Summer 2020 Field Trips