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Fox River at Waukesha Gaging Station Earthcache

A cache by AuntieNae Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 1/8/2009
In Wisconsin, United States
1.5 out of 5
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size: not chosen (not chosen)

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Geocache Description:

This is not your typical geocache, it is an earthcache, you will not a "cache container" rather, an earthcache is designed to bring you to a geological feature.


PARKING: It is recommended that you use the E.B. Shurts parking lot N 43° 00.177 W 088° 14.656 which is a short walk over to the river and this EarthCache. You may visit during school hours as this is City parkland but please be respectful of the school groups that may be present. If you feel you must cross railroad tracks, you are approaching from the WRONG SIDE of the river.

The coordinates for the Earthcache will take you to the City of Waukesha Fox River Sanctuary. The USGS Gage House 05543830 is a permanent structure located along the river here. The Sanctuary is an open space along the Fox River on the southwest side of the City that contains mature trees, open meadows, prairie grasses, ponds, boardwalks, observation platform, arboretum and designated lowland areas. The majority of this area has been identified as a shoreline-wetland area in the State of WI Wetland inventory. A large portion also falls within the 100-year flood plain for the City.

The E.B. Shurts Environmental Education Center is also located here. It was constructed as a joint partnership between the City of Waukesha, Department of Natural Resources, Waukesha Women's Club, the School District of Waukesha and the Fox River Development Board.

The City of Waukesha Fox River Recreation Trail head is located at the E.B Shurts Building. Trail segments run both north and south from this location. The Glacial Drumlin State Trail enters the park on the west side under St. Paul Avenue and leaves the park at the intersection of Prairie and College Avenues. From this location the bicycle trail utilizes city streets before its connection to the New Berlin Trail at Lincoln Avenue extended. The Glacial Drumlin State Trail begins in Cottage Grove, near Madison. A State Sticker to use the Drumlin trail by bike is required, hiking it is not.



This EarthCache is designed to introduce you to the Fox River that flows through Waukesha, show you how the USGS measures the river level through the gaging station and have you explore a designated wetland area for flood control.


So, just how many Fox Rivers are there? Well, this Fox River starts near Menomonee Falls and flows past Brookfield, Waukesha, Big Bend, Waterford, Rochester, Burlington, Wheatland, Silver Lake and Wilmot for a total of 70 miles in Wisconsin. There is another Fox River in north east Wisconsin plus two others in southern Illinois one that is a Little Wabash tributary and a smaller Fox River that joins the Wabash River near New Harmony Indiana.

The coordinates will bring you to the gaging station. It plays a vital role in the control of the water levels along Fox River. It has a drainage area of 126 square miles. The datum of the gage is 793.04 feet above sea level. This station has been recording data since January 1963. The Fox River that flows in Waukesha is actually a tributary of the Illinois River. The Illinois River is a primary tributary of the Mississippi River! So, eventually the water that flows through Waukesha will be flowing into the Mississippi River.

In the Summer of 2008, the area you will be standing was subject to the “great flood” of Waukesha. At the height of the flooding, this gaging station was pretty much under water.

The latest Ice Age about 10,000 years ago, the Wisconsin Glaciation left its mark on Waukesha by the rolling hills and soils. The underlying ground in this area is a mixed combination bedrock of limestone, dolomite and shale. Limestone and dolomite are more likely to allow water to flow through but the shale is less likely. As the glaciers melted and moved across the area, the glacial till left behind a combination of rock, silt and soil. As an identified shoreline-wetland area, this area serves an important role for retaining stormwater from rain and melting snow rushing into the river to help minimize flooding to areas downstream. It also serves as value habitat for wildlife.


The primary purpose of the gaging stations is to provide data for the regulation of the river and for flood forecasting. The Gaging Stations are continuously measuring two fundamental items of hydrologic information: Stage/Height and Flow/ Discharge. Stage is the water depth above some arbitrary datum. It is commonly measured in feet. Flow/Discharge is the total volume of water that flows past a point on the river for some period of time. It is usually measured in cubic feet per second or gallons per minute. A gaging station can also include equipment that measures water quality properties such as temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen and dissolved chemicals. Some gaging stations also include instruments for measuring weather conditions such as air temperature, precipitation and wind speed.

The USGS operates and maintains more than 85 percent of the Nation's stream-gaging stations, which includes 98 percent of those that are used for real-time river forecasting. Currently, this network comprises 7,292 stations dispersed throughout the Nation, 4,200 of which are equipped with earth satellite radios that provide real-time communications. The NWS uses data from 3,971 of these stations to forecast river depth and flow conditions at 4,017 forecast-service locations on major rivers and small streams in urban areas.


There are several methods the gage height or stage is measured. One of your tasks with this earthcache is to identify which one is in use at this location.

Staff Gage: Basically looks like a giant ruler mounted to a fixed point along the stream typically a bridge support or pier. The height is read manually by looking at it.

Wire Weight Gage: Permanently mounted on the side of a bridge or other overhead structure to measure the distance from a point of known elevation on the bridge to the water surface. A wire weight gage has weight, a reel of wire, and a manual crank. This number is compared to the datum height to calculate the stage of the stream.

Vertical Pipe Gage: This type of gage is mounted above a pipe that penetrates the bottom of the stream. Water flows into the pipe through holes or tubes in the side of the pipe or through the sediment and fills to the same level as the water in the stream. Pressure sensors or a float/wire system is used to determine the height of the water. Some of these gages record the height of the water in a memory – which is then manually downloaded to a laptop.

You can find further river information at the websites below:,1


This will be my first of several Earthcaches about the waterways in our Milwaukee-Waukesha area. I am launching this one first so it is published in time for the Waukesha Winter JanBoree Event to be held on Saturday, January 24, 2009. I purposely selected this location of the Fox River because it is the site of the gaging station. An added bonus is we host Geocaching 101 workshops at this park each Spring so I can use it now to introduce new geocachers to EarthCaches.

Special thanks to Waukesha Parks, Recreation and Forestry for permission to place this EarthCache.

Enjoy your visit!

To log this earthcache, you must complete the following TWO tasks.


At the time of your log, email me the answers to the following questions: 1. Identify what type of gage is in use at this location. I do realize that certain weather conditions will make it impossible to reach the water’s edge and to observe this; please just email me the condition (deep snow, flooding) at the time of your visit. I do live near this location. 2. Identify how data is being sent from this location (telephone, satellite). 3. How is this gaging station powered (electrical, solar).

2) BRING YOUR CAMERA. We would like a photo of your team with your GPSr showing the Fox River in the background or the gaging station (PLEASE do not give away any answers in your photo please). However, if you are solo caching, a photo of your GPSr with enough of the location in the background that can be identified, will also be accepted. You must upload your photo(s) with your "found it" log.

Please be advised, failure to complete the TWO tasks listed above AT THE TIME YOU POST YOUR FIND IT LOG (emailing the answer and posting your photo will result in log deletion without notice.

You do NOT have to wait for confirmation from me before logging your find. Please do not make any reference to these answers or show answers in your photo.

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211 Logged Visits

Found it 203     Didn't find it 1     Write note 5     Enable Listing 1     Publish Listing 1     

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Current Time:
Last Updated: on 10/12/2017 3:35:55 PM Pacific Daylight Time (10:35 PM GMT)
Rendered From:Unknown
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum

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