Karcher Springs (322/693)

*experimenting with post format; bear with me* Karcher Springs contains wetland and upland natural communities in southern Kenosha County. Located within Karcher State Wildlife Area, the SNA can be easily accessed from a Wildlife Area parking lot on the north side of CTH JB/31st St just west of STH 83.

The west side of the property is bounded by a low, wooded esker. I have always found eskers to be fascinating for the manner in which they are believed to have formed. Ice-walled tunnels near the base of the glacier are fed by streams or meltwater from above. As the streams flow, sediments accumulate in the tunnel. Fast-forward a millennium or two, the ice has melted and a gravelly ridge is left behind.

Image: Payne355, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In my geologically uneducated opinion, the portion of esker here in the SNA does not fit my classical expectation. My experience has shown them to be long, skinny ridges, often quite obvious from the topographic map of the area. That is not really the case here, as this esker seems to be a relatively short and stubby remnant of a, perhaps formerly, substantial esker that has since been somewhat eroded. Occasionally, these can be the easiest routes through an otherwise wet or tangled landscape; that is not the case with this esker. It is an overgrown shrubby morass and I do not recommend it for the faint of heart. That said, it is the most direct route to the springs area.

Note the short stubby esker at bottom left.

The remainder of my time was spent in one of the fen areas south of the stream and west of the parking area. The calcareous conditions often found in this natural community provide conditions ripe for the growth of a variety of interesting and beautiful plant species. Interesting finds on this trip were Swamp Lousewort (Pedicularis lanceolata) and Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia glauca) along with the vibrant Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum), and the delicate Kalm’s Lobelia (Lobelia kalmii).

On my personal revisit scale, I would place this one at a 3 of 5. I don’t feel I need to revisit for ‘completeness’, but I wouldn’t mind visiting the fen areas once again.

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