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Governor Dodge State Park Geology

Most of Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota once looked much the same until a series of four glaciers inched their way across the northern United States. Massive sheets of ice "peeled off" hilltops and filled in valleys from Canada to Kansas, leaving a vast, flat expanse in their wake.

Due to certain geological "quirks of fate," southwestern Wisconsin was bypassed and encircled by the four glaciers. The area, therefore, stands as an "island" of hills and valleys amid surrounding plains.

The term "Driftless Area" is given to this region because it is devoid of drift or the accumulated rock and soil left by retreating glaciers. More than 5,000 acres of this unique "island" make up Governor Dodge State Park. As you make your way through this magnificent park, you make your way through time itself.

The beautiful sandstone bluffs, such as the one pictured here, date back 450 million years, to a time when vast, warm seas covered the area. These seas deposited sand, layer upon layer and then retreated. Wind and water began to carve into the ancient, flat seabeds—century after century, carving ever-deeper valleys.

Today, you can stand within those valleys and view the park’s many bluffs, seeing for yourself the layers of ancient sand—pages of time locked within rock.

Last revised: Friday October 17 2014