Driftless Caves / Geological Wonders

The natural cave systems found in the Driftless area are hundreds of millions of years old. At one time this region was covered by a shallow sea and hold fossils of sea creatures common to this area in the distant past. The melting water escaping from the shrinking glaciers ran both above and below ground of this unglaciated region as it flowed to the Gulf of Mexico. 

Monument Rock, a Vernon County rock spire

On our travels last week, while driving on Hwy. 82 East in Franklin South of Viroqua, Wisconsin, we came across this rock feature that had a Hwy. sign labeled 'Monument Rock'. Catching our attention, we stopped and marveled at its stature wondering what made this feature that stands out among the plateau of farmland. In our initial research, we found very little about it.

Ho-Chunk Nation, the Original Driftless Region Inhabitants

The first group of people to occupy the region known as the Driftless area were the ancestors of what we know as the Ho-Chunk Nation. It is difficult to say just how far back their roots go in this region but, keepers of the nation’s history tell of their beginnings in the area around Green Bay called the Red Banks. Ultimately, they came to reside throughout Wisconsin and the Driftless region including Southwest Wisconsin and the northern portions of Illinois.

How did the “Driftless” area get its name?

What is drift and how does it fit into our understanding of this particular region of Wisconsin? The word “drift” has a number of meanings. The one we are interested in is the one that relates to the glacial periods that were experienced across the entire northern portions of North America, Europe, and Asia. Drift in this instance is defined as being material such as sand, gravel, rocks and debris of all sizes and shapes that was forcibly moved from one place to another. It was deposited randomly along the path of a growing, moving glacier and from the melting water from this glacier. This all happened as the shrinking glacier began to recede back toward the Arctic region above the Arctic Circle.