“Although Wisconsin has no lofty Rocky Mountains today, it surely did in the past, in fact several times. Although today it has no white ocean beaches like Florida’s, it did have a tropical past with coral reefs and hurricanes. Although you cannot visit a blue ice glacier in Wisconsin today, you could have a mere 15,000 years ago.”
Cover of Roadside Geology of Wisconsin.
Write University of Wisconsin Professors Robert H. Dott, Jr. and John W. Attig in the preface to their Roadside Geology of Wisconsin, published this year by Mountain Press and available through the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey. Appreciation for these historic landscapes seems the heart of Dott and Attig’s message. The authors tell the reader: “We wanted to help you envision mastodons roaming in front of great glaciers 12,000 years ago, feel storm waves pounding sea cliffs 500 million years ago, and hear volcanoes exploding 1,900 million years ago.”
In Roadside Geology, Dott and Attig cultivate apprecation for Wisconsin’s landscapes one place at a time. They describe, in turn, the wonders of three distinct topographic regions and two popular tourist destinations: the Western Uplands, the Baraboo—Dells Central Plain, the Eastern Uplands, Door Peninsula, and the Northern Highlands. An overview, highlighting significant geologic features and describing their formation, opens each section. The narrative then gives way to road guides which encourage readers to see for themselves real-world examples of these features.
This dashboard approach enables the readers to learn about landscapes as they travel, making geology a more personal experience and a part of everyday life. In fact, Dott and Attig argue that Wisconsin icons such as the annual American Birkebeiner Ski Race, the House on the Rock, Hayward’s Fishing Hall of Fame and the Dairy Shrine at Fort Atkinson are all tied in some way to the geology of the state.
Demonstrating geology’s relevance is one of many measures the authors have taken to tailor their text for persons without specialized knowledge of the science. From an introduction devoted to the explanation of geologic concepts to the concluding glossary of terms, including the diagrams and photographs that accompany the text in between, Dott and Attig’s Roadside Geology appears an authoriative yet accessible guide to Wisconsin’s landscapes.