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Point of Rocks outcrop added to Wisconsin's list of historic sitesPoint of Rocks outcrop along Highway 12 near Baraboo, Wisconsin

On February 19, 2010, the Wisconsin State Historical Society's Board for Historic Sites approved the nomination of the Point of Rocks outcrop on U.S. Highway 12 in the South Baraboo Range for addition to the state's list of historic sites. The nomination with the board's approval will be forwarded to the National Park Service for consideration for the national list. Such designation would protect the road cut from destruction for highway alterations and would recognize its historic significance.

The Point of Rocks is a prominent outcrop of the upper part of the Baraboo Quartzite on the east side of the highway about 4 miles south of Baraboo at the south end of a tight curve. It is very important to geologists because it has the best exposure known of sedimentary features in the quartzite, including cross-bedding, reactivation surfaces, soft-sediment deformation, and ripple marks. It also has a zone of a complexly deformed and metamorphosed fine-grained sediments within the quartzite. There are multiple cleavages, whose relationships to one another are challenging for structural geologists. This deformed interval also has fine examples of boudinage and it is characterized by the layered silicate pyrophyllite (metamorphic equivalent of kaolinite).

Together with Van Hise Rock, exposures at Devils Lake, and elsewhere in the Baraboo District, the Point of Rocks was key to inferring the large synclinal structure of the district around 1900. Thenceforth, the accessibility of the Baraboo exposures has made the area a mecca for geologists from all over the United States and even from abroad to study these features. In spring and fall, countless buses and vans from dozens of colleges visit the Baraboo Hills. Many stop at Point of Rocks.

In 2007, thanks to the collective efforts of Basil Tikoff, Laurel Goodwin, Gordon Medaris, State Geologist Jamie Robertson, John Attig of the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, and Robert H. Dott, Jr., the Department of Transportation was persuaded to not only redesign their new four-lane highway to save this treasured road cut, but also to provide a cul du sac for safe parking.


If approved for the National Historic List, the Point of Rocks will join an elite group of geologic sites on the list. To date, only three geologic sites in Wisconsin have been declared National Historic Landmarks: Schoonmaker Reef, Soldiers' Home Reef, and Van Hise Rock.


Articles about saving the Point of Rocks

UW-Madison News, June 8, 2010, Jill Sakai: Saving the Point of Rocks
—Wisconsin State Journal,
June 12, 2010, Alicia Yager: Baraboo roadside geologic landmark is saved from the bulldozer

 

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