Dells of the Eau Claire River

One of my favorite spring time locations is the Eau Claire Dells in Marathon County, Wisconsin.

15,000 years ago, glaciers covered central Wisconsin from the northeast extending to just east of present day Wausau and Stevens Point. As the climate warmed, glaciers released torrents of melt water causing deep gorges in locations throughout Wisconsin.  One such area can be seen just north of Hatley, the Dells of the Eau Claire River. On this stretch the Eau Claire River cascades over outcrops of Precambrian-age rhyolite schist.  Rhyolite schist (a very hard rock) was formed through metamorphosis and later tilted to a nearly vertical position allowing the rock to split readily along the cleavage planes. In the dells, the river tumbles and spills across the rock’s cleavage planes while it runs smoothly in other areas where the river flows parallel to the planes.

The day before this image was captured, the water was high enough to cover the rocks in the foreground. You could really sense the power of the river and it was not hard to imagine what is was like when the glaciers were melting.  By the following day, the melt had slowed to the point where water flow was not exciting. You can still large chunks of ice on a few of the boulders.

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