Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Winter Trees at Johnson Hill Kame State Natural Area: Thomas Meyer

Johnson Hill Kame State Natural Area
Thomas Meyer

February 2015

Wisconsin, naturally

Johnson Hill Kame State Natural Area

Thomas A. Meyer, State Natural Areas Program

Notable: Winter is perhaps the best time to explore the glacially sculpted terrain of the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. When leaves are off the trees and the ground is cloaked in white, the rough and jumbled landscape stands in starker contrast. Revealed is a world–class illustration of the combined power of glacial ice and meltwater, and their ability to create and mold surficial landforms, some bearing whimsical names. Here you find sinuous, gravelly ridges called "eskers," deep potholes — often filled with water — called "kettles," teardrop–shaped hills named "drumlins" and "kames" — steep, conical hills of rocky glacial debris. Johnson Hill is an excellent example of one such kame,created near the wasting edge of the ice sheet by a meltwater stream that swirled downward through a cylindrical hole in the glacier. It carried not only water, but a load of unconsolidated sand, gravel and boulders that accumulated at the base of the cylinder. When the surrounding ice eventually melted away 10,000 years ago, a 150–foot high, dunce cap–shaped mound remained. Today, the kame is forested with red and white oaks, sugar maple, beech, hickory and basswood and provides habitat for a variety of songbirds and mammals.

How to get there: Located within the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. From the intersection of State Highway 67 and County Highway C in Plymouth, go south and west on 67 for 8.8 miles, then south on County Highway U for 50 yards. Then continue south and east on Woodside Road 0.75 miles, then south on Shamrock Road for another 0.4 miles. Park along the road and walk west 0.2 miles to the natural area. dnr.wi.gov and search "Johnson Hill Kame State Natural Area" for a map and more information.