Ontario Welcome Center History Walk: Why Are We Driftless

© Photographed April 8, 2017
Erected 2015 by Forward Ontario
Ontario, Vernon County, Wisconsin
43.722751, -90.590023
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Why Are We Driftless
As you travel the area, you may notice a landscape far different than any other in the Midwest. Because they were untouched by the last glacier, which scoured and level the land, our hills and valleys lack the sediment or "drift" left behind more than 10,000 years ago. This particular terrain in far older than those in other Midwestern regions. Its steep ridges, narrow valleys and abundance of cold-water springs provide a habitat that attracts many rare and endangered species, several of which are described at left. An explorer can see forested hillsides, prairie remnants, wetlands, and grasslands.
     Although the Driftless Area sprawls into four states, all of which border the Mississippi River, the Kickapoo Valley watershed is unique. It remains secluded from the outside world. No town within the 2,000-square-mile watershed exceeds a population of 1,000. Low population and large tracts of undeveloped land, such as Wildcat Mountain State Park and the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, not only make the watershed an ideal home for rare and endangered species, but they also attract artists, craftsmen, organic farmers, and a growing Amish community. It's cool-water streams delight trout fishermen, and hunters are drawn to the abundant whitetail deer population.
     Bisecting the watershed is the 125-mile-long Kickapoo River, which stretches from Wilton to Wauzeka, where it joins the Wisconsin River. The river twists its way through steep sandstone cliffs covered by mosses, ferns, hemlocks, and wildflowers. Watch for pristine streams that join the Kickapoo. Bring your binoculars and stop on a sandbar and enjoy what is thought to be one of the oldest river systems in the world.
The marker is located along the Ontario Welcome Center History Walk at Palen Memorial Park and is accessible on the northeast corner of the intersection of State Street and Pleasant Street, Ontario, Wisconsin 54651.

Vernon Broadcaster (June 3, 2015): Ontario to celebrate opening of Palen Park on June 13

Click here to view all markers at the Ontario Welcome Center History Walk



Rare Species of the Valley

 Northern Monkshood usually
is found on shaded to partially
shaded cliffs, algific talus slopes,
or on cool, streamside sites.
Northern monkshood has only
been found in Iowa, Wisconsin,
Ohio and New York. It is believed
the Kickapoo Valley harbors 13
percent of all monkshood plants.

 Regal Fritallary is a striking
numphalid butterfly found
among some of the remaining
tallgrass and mixed-grass
prairies. It is considered one
of the elite butterflies of the
eastern United States, and it is
endangered in several states east
of the Mississippi River, including
Wisconsin and Illinois.

 A denizen of mature deciduous
forest and streamsides, the
Acadian Flycatcher is usually
first noticed by its explosive
"peet-sah" call. An uncommon
summer resident in southern
Wisconsin, the Flycatcher prefers
mature forests of sugar maples,
basswoods, hemlocks, and oaks.
It is an area-sensitive species that
is adversely affected by forest
fragmentation resulting from
urban and agricultural expansion.

The Wood Turtle is one of the most
ornate turtles in Wisconsin. They
prefer clean rivers and streams
with moderate to fast flows and
adjacent riparian wetlands and
upland deciduous forests. Now
threatened or endangered in most
of its range, it can be found only
in small, isolated pockets. It is still
found in western and northern Wisconsin.

The marker is located at the Ontario Welcome Center History Walk.

Looking west into town . . .

View coming into town from eastbound Wisconsin Highway 33.

The marker is located in Ontario, Wisconsin.

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