Wingate Multicache: From the Prairie to the Kettle
In Illinois, United States
Size:  (not chosen)
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This Earth multi-cache is a little over a mile in length. Because this is an Illinois State Nature Preserve, please remain on marked paths in the prairie. Please do not disturb any of the plants or animals you find. More information about Illinois Nature Preserves including the rules and regulations can be found here:Illinois Nature Preserves
This cache is one of twelve participating caches
in The Crystal Lake Park District
"90 Years of Fun Geocoin Challenge"!
A bit of younger history…
In 1939, the Crystal Lake Park District purchased a plot of land from John Walkup, one of the early settlers of Crystal Lake and McHenry County. At the time, the area was comprised of sloping, open prairies and scattered groupings of bur oaks. The land also included a small pond, approximately 4 acres in size. The land was designated as a public park and later named Veteran Acres in 1946. In the early 1950s, weeping willows were added around the pond and groupings of conifers were planted in the prairie to provide Christmas trees to the local community.
The park grew in popularity and a local teacher, Bill Wingate, began to use it as part of his outdoor education program in the late 1960s. The McHenry County chapter of the Illinois Audubon Society learned of the park from Wingate and took initiative on preserving and protecting the land by forming a committee known as the Friends of Veteran Acres Prairie. The committee began work on the identification of native trees and flowers and the clearing of invasive species.
As steward of the prairie for 27 years, Bill Wingate guided over 150 volunteers in restoration efforts. The book, Plant Lore of Bill Wingate lists over 100 species of flora that can be found on the prairie. His efforts were rewarded when the Park District agreed with a suggestion from a prairie volunteer. In 1994, a 33.5 acre section of Veteran Acres was named Wingate Prairie by the Illinois Nature Preserve Commission.
A bit of older history and geology…
The terrain of Veteran Acres was formed approximately 10,000-22,000 years ago when a large sheet of ice called the Wisconsin Glacier moved through the area and at times covered most of McHenry County. As the glacier traveled, large amounts of soil, sand, gravel and larger rocks were brought with it. The resulting hills and valleys you see are the result of these materials being deposited when the glacier melted and disappeared from the area.
One of the results of these deposited materials is the 39 acres of precious gravel hill prairie located to the northeast of the Nature Center. Wingate Prairie is precious as only 59 acres of gravel hill prairie are known to exist within the entire state of Illinois. Gravel hill prairies, such as this one, are typically located on the exposed glacial till of moraines. Wingate Prairie is classified as dry-mesic as the soil is very easily drained. In fact, a much of the water that surfaces in the Sterne's Wetlands comes from Veteran Acres. However, the top soil present in the prairie still supports a large variety of grasses and wildflowers including the rare prairie buttercup, queen of the prairie and purple-flowering raspberry.
Another result of glaciers moving through the area is a large bowl shaped formation known as a kettle. This is indicated in orange by the decreasing contour lines in the map below. Kettles are formed during the retreat of glaciers from an area. As the glacier recedes, a block of ice may snap off and become buried by the sand and gravel being deposited from the glacier. As this ice block melts, the glacial till above collapses in on the open space leaving a depression.
These depressions may be found above or below the local water table. Kettle lakes formed below the water table are filled primarily with ground water. Kettle lakes that form above the water table can also be filled with water, however, these are filled from runoff rain and snowmelt and may even dry out seasonally. At Veteran Acres, the deepest part of the kettle can be easily observed by the water forming the pond.
To claim credit for this Earth Cache, please email the answers to the following questions to me via my geocaching.com profile. Please do not post any of the answers in your online log. Any online logs without a corresponding email will be deleted.
1) As you travel to Stage 1, note the change in vegatation. Measure the elevation at Stage 1.
2) As you travel from Stage 2 to Stage 3, you will observe a change in elevation as you come down the slope of the moraine. Measure the elevation at Stage 3.
3) (Optional) At stage 4(a popular spot for locals), please take a picture of the current state of the prairie looking south towards Stage 1. This will help to develop a gallery of the prairie with pictures from every season. You may include yourself in the picture if you like.
4) As you travel to Stage 5, note the change in the soil on the trail. Why do you think the soil on the prairie is so well drained?
5) As you travel to Stage 6, you will be initially traveling down a slope. As you get to the open area with the baseball diamond, note the slope on the other side of the field. You are now walking in the kettle towards the deepest part. Measure the elevation as close to the water as possible without disturbing the vegetation. Compare this measurement to that of Stage 3. Do you think this kettle is above or below the local water table?
Awakening a Prairie by Ellen L. Riedl
Crystal Lake Park District
Wingate Prairie is maintained by the Crystal Lake Park District and the volunteer steward, Jim Wigman.
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Last Updated: on 3/15/2017 3:26:40 PM Pacific Daylight Time (10:26 PM GMT)
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum