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Roadside Geology of Wisconsin

Robert H. Dott, Jr., and John W. Attig

thumbnail image of Roadside Geology of Wisconsin cover

Date: 2004

$20.00 (346 p., 6 x 9 inches), OC45

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When you’re driving on a Wisconsin highway, do you ever wonder what kind of rock, exactly, is in that roadcut you’re passing? Why the central part of the state is so flat? And what those small, elongated hills in southeastern Wisconsin are? Wouldn’t it be nice to have geologists in the car to explain it all?

Although that might not always be easy to arrange, now you can have the next best thing: a guide entitled Roadside Geology of Wisconsin to carry in your glove compartment. Robert H. Dott, Jr., emeritus professor of geology for the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and John W. Attig, professor at the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, have a long history of leading field trips around the state. They realized that, although technical publications about Wisconsin geology abound, little material easily understandable to the nongeologist was available. This inspired them to develop a guidebook in which they could recount the geologic evolution of places that people can see from their cars or can access readily from state highways.

drawing showing development of a riftThe tale they tell has taken 2,800 million years to unfold and is still ongoing. Among the fascinating episodes of geologic history vividly depicted in the book are the ancient volcanoes that spewed forth 1,900 million years ago, the vast sea that submerged the state 500 million years ago, and the glacial ice that sculpted the landscape recently—a mere 15,000 years ago.

Dott and Attig have divided the state into several regions; they describe the general geology of each region and use 35 road guides to fill in the details of the geologic processes that are chronicled in the rock, sediment, and landforms along the roadside. For example, the authors delve into the geologic underpinnings of the Wisconsin Dells, the Baraboo Hills, and more than 25 state parks.

The 346-page book is heavily illustrated with more than 200 maps, figures, and photographs. The book’s cover features a small version of a map of Wisconsin landscapes that was published previously by the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey.