Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Trails explore Chippewa Valley geography

Chippewa River near Ella, Wis. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
The geography of Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley – defined loosely as Eau Claire, Chippewa, Dunn and Pepin counties – includes three distinct areas. A number of trails allows hikers to explore the landforms.

The Chippewa River runs about 183 miles from northern Wisconsin into the Mississippi River, where sediment helps back up the river and forms Lake Pepin. Only the Chippewa River’s lower 50 miles from the Mississippi River northward is navigable.

About half of Chippewa County – the northeast corner – sits in the Northern Highlands. The site of an ancient mountain range, it is now a hilly region will virtually no lakes or swamps. It mostly belongs to the North Central Forest ecological zone.

Most of Dunn County, the southwestern half of Chippewa County, and the northern and eastern portion of Eau Claire County are in the Central Plain. Half-a-billion years ago, much of this area was a coastal plain bordering a sea. It has since been uplifted hundreds of feet with erosion over the millennia and the most recent ice ages reducing the terrain to the fairly flat surface that once existed here. Ecologically, it’s part of the Western Coulee and Ridges area.

The western edges of Dunn County, much of Pepin County, and the southeastern portion of Eau Claire County is part of the Western Upland. A system of ridges and valleys make up the area around the Chippewa and Mississippi rivers. This region ecologically also is part of the Western Coulee and Ridges area.

Great trails to explore the area’s geography include:
Jean Brunet Nature Trail (Northern Highlands)
Tower Ridge Recreation Area trails (Central Plain)
Tiffany Bottoms SWA trails (Western Upland)

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.