Valley of the Ice Grotto

A cache by Trekkin' and Birdin' Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 03/13/2008
In Wisconsin, United States
1.5 out of 5
4 out of 5

Size: Size: not chosen (not chosen)

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Geocache Description:

Within the valleys of the Kickapoo Reserve are tucked many caves and ledge shelters, by one count forty-two in all. This Earthcache will take you into one of them after a mile long hike along the Kickapoo River from the listed parking coordinates.

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The Kickapoo Valley Reserve shows the Driftless Region in all its glory; steep cliffs rising above the twisting valley of the Kickapoo River, quiet trails through varied vegetation, and sheltered valleys that one must hike to discover. Occurring within these valleys, sheltered from much direct sunlight, are numerous caves and ledge shelters. Many of these revealed rich signs of ancient human habitation and are held sacred by the Ho-Chunk, keepers of these lands today in conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Kickapoo Valley Reserve.

The Kickapoo River, prone to seasonal flooding, was slated to be dammed as part of a flood control project by the Army Corps of Engineers. After many long-time families were removed from this floodplain in anticipation of the creation of LaFarge Lake, the project was scrapped. Instead, the area was allowed to return to its natural state, and in 2001, 8569 acres were designated as the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. The Reserve is a destination for low-impact ecotourism, bringing paddlers, hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers into the hills and valleys.

The Ice Cave you will visit shows a cross section of the area’s geologic history. For reasons geologists have yet to answer, this area of the state escaped the glacial scouring of the huge ice lobes that advanced across the rest of the state. Thus, the landscape you see here is probably typical of Wisconsin in the pre-Glacial Period, with steep cliffs of sandstone and limestone overlying the Lower Magnesian limestone that is exposed in many of the glaciated areas of Wisconsin. In the mile hike from the parking area to the Ice Cave, you will follow along the ancient stream bed that was once the Kickapoo River. Watch for some breathtaking vistas along the river to your south as you make your way to the cave.

The geologic formation that created the cave is Ordovician sandstone atop the Cambrian layer that is largely under the surface. One of the middle layers seen here is “greensand,” or glauconite, which was “formed in shallow marine environments that are mildly reducing when little or no sedimentation is taking place, hence found in shallow marine sedimentary rocks - limestones, siltstones, shales and sandstones. "Greenstones" are named that because of their typically high glauconite content.” (1) Although the actual origin of this material is still uncertain, geologists generally believe that “it is suggestive of slow rates of sediment accumulation and may form by biogenetic or diagenetic alteration of minerals such as biotite or volcanic glass. “ (2) In layman’s terms, it’s an accumulation of dead sea critters and their waste products. As a result, it is broken down more easily than the underlying Cambrian Wonewoc sandstone or the overlying Ordovician dolomite. The processes that led to this deep undercut above the valley floor may include weathering and cutting away by the ancient Kickapoo River that flowed here in the distant past.

Today, one can see the flow of groundwater directed over the rim of the top layer above the cave. This water may also contribute to the cutting away of the ledge, as the glauconite layer is very soft and easily degraded, leaving the hard dolomite ceiling and the underlying Wonewoc sandstone forming the floor. In the wintertime, ice formations occur due to the constant cool environment. There may be solution forming through the ceiling, leaving “stalactite-like” ice drips, and huge curtains of ice form in front of the cave opening. Once inside the cave, the depth and beauty of the ice formations can be appreciated as the light shining through the prism-like ice creates a multitude of colors. Because of its very sheltered location, these formations can remain long after the snow has melted. Old-timers in the Valley speak of seeing the ice in July, but conventional wisdom suggests that depending on the annual weather pattern, they can remain into April.

To log this Earthcache, complete the following tasks:

1) Estimate the number of people that can comfortably move around and explore this cave.

2) Determine the elevation of the cave above the valley floor. Take an elevation reading at the following waypoint, which is near the opening of the rock shelter, then a second reading at the valley floor below this waypoint, and find the difference.

Rock shelter- 43 36.832 90 38.041

3) Describe the colors of rock seen in the cave. Email the answers to the first three requirements to Trekkin’ and Birdin’.

4) Take a photo anywhere near or in the cave and post it in your log. You will definitely want your camera along! Be sure your GPSr is clearly visible, either in your hand or placed within the frame of your photo.

If you visit this EarthCache when conditions may be icy or muddy, the terrain rating could be close to a 5. If you absolutely cannot get up there because of physical limitations, please estimate the height above the valley floor. Otherwise, enjoy the adventure getting up there, and enjoy the fleeting beauty of the ice curtain.

Any logs by finders who do not send us the answers to the above questions within one week will be deleted.

The Kickapoo Valley Reserve has a Visitors Center just north of LaFarge, where you can purchase the Reserve permits needed to enjoy the area. There are many self-registration stands set up to pay the user fee as well.

Special thanks go to Marcy West, Director of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, and the Ho-Chunk Nation, for permission to place this Earthcache. Thanks also go to Chuck Hatfield, who first led us to this special place. Please treat this area with the respect it deserves, following the words of the Wisconsin Speleological Society:

Take nothing but pictures

Leave nothing but footprints

Kill nothing but time



Physical Geography of Wisconsin, Lawrence Martin, 1965

“A Brief History of the Kickapoo Valley Reserve,” brochure, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

“Sandstone Caves in Wisconsin,” Dr. Michael Day


(2) Mineral Database“Mineralogy of Wisconsin,” by William S. Cordura 38.056

The Geocache Notification Form has been submitted to Thomas Meyer of the Wisconsin DNR. Geocaches placed on Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource managed lands require permission by means of a notification form.

Additional Hints (No hints available.)



45 Logged Visits

Found it 43     Write note 1     Publish Listing 1     

View Logbook | View the Image Gallery of 105 images

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Current Time:
Last Updated: on 03/31/2015 09:26:53 Pacific Daylight Time (16:26 GMT)
Rendered From:Unknown
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum