Cranberry Bog Earthcache- Manitowish Waters
In Wisconsin, United States
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This cache is located South West of Manitowish Waters on Alder Lake Rd. The cranberry bog you will be looking at is owned by Vilas County Cranberry Co. and is next to the Cranberry Square Gift Shop, which is where you will park. This cache is a level 1 on terrain and difficulty and showed easily accessible.
This cache is just outside the town of Manitowish Waters in Vilas County. To get to the location follow US 51 South is coming from Manitowish or Manitowish Waters, turn off on to Powell Road heading West follow Powell Road until you reach Alder Lake Rd stay on Alder Lake Rd, you will drive several miles but will ultimately see a sign for Vilas Cranberry Co Bogs pull in there and park in front of the gift shop, “The Cranberry Square”. If you are coming from Woodruff, Minoqua or Rhinelander head north on US 51 until you see Townline Rd., just south of Manitowish Waters, turn Left (southwest) drive on this until you reach Alder Lake Rd. Stay on Alder Lake Rd until you see the Cranberry Square gift shop and the Vilas Cranberry Co. Feel free to walk out to the bogs, check out the gift shop and take pics. The only request is that you not disturb the workers or go to a bog they are working at. The coordinates will take you right to the bog behind the gift shop, from there you should be able to answer the questions.
To Claim this cache answer the following questions:
1. What type of Bog is this and why do you think so?
NEXT: examine the soil in the bog (next to the cranberry plants not the ditch).
2. What is the texture of the soil?
3. What does the soil look like?
4. How does the soil appear to retain fluid?
5. How does the soil feel when pressing down/stepping on the soil?
Next, with a small tube push it into the soil by the plants but not disturbing them and pull it out:
(a small but sturdy tube, hard straw, pen-minus the ink and tip, pvc tubing, etc- or poke a hole, or take a knife and cut the edge of the bog by the ditch and slice a section off so you can see the layers.)
6. How many layers are present in the tube and what do they appear to be composed of?
The key reason for this cache is to let people see a cranberry bog, what they look like, and somewhat of an idea of how they work. If you go in the fall you may even get a chance to see them harvesting them or you may get to see a sea of blooms in June.
The name cranberry derives from "craneberry", first named by early European settlers in America who felt the expanding flower, stem, calyx, and petals resembled the neck, head, and bill of a crane. Another name used in northeastern Canada is mossberry.
Cranberries are a unique fruit. They can grow and survive only under a very special combination of factors. These factors include acid peat soil, an adequate fresh water supply, and a growing season that extends from April to November. Cranberries grow on low-lying vines in beds layered with sand, peat, gravel and clay. These beds are commonly known as bogs or marshes and were originally created by glacial deposits.
The cranberry is a Native American wetland fruit which grows on trailing vines like a strawberry. Its native range extends in temperate climate zones from the East Coast to the Central U. S. and Canada and from Southern Canada in the north to the Appalachians in the south. The plant is a low-growing, trailing, woody vine with a perennial habit. Cranberries produce stems or runners from one to six feet long. During the growing season, the leaves are dark green and glossy, turning reddish-brown during the dormant season. The vines form a thick mat over the surface of a cultivated bed. Short vertical upright branches, known as uprights, form from the buds along the runners. The uprights have a vertical (non-trailing) growth habit and form the terminal buds that contain the flower buds. Most of the fruit is formed from the flowers on the uprights, with some berries arising from flowers on the runner ends.
The vines thrive on the special combination of soils and water properties found in wetlands. Wetlands are nature's sponges; they store and purify water and help to maintain the water table. Cranberries grow in beds layered with sand, peat and gravel. These beds are commonly known as bogs or marshes and were originally formed as a result of glacial deposits. Natural bogs evolved from deposits left by the glaciers more than 10,000 years ago. These deposits were left in impermeable kettle holes lined with clay. The clay prevents materials from leaching into the groundwater. Rocks and other organic materials were collected by the glaciers. When the ice finally melted deposits of heavy materials were layered on top of the clay. These kettle holes were filled with water and organic matter which created the ideal environment for cranberries.
Cranberry bog soil is unique in that it consists of alternating layers of sand and organic matter. Dead leaves accumulate over the course of time and sand is added to the bed surface every 2-5 years to encourage upright production and maintain productivity. In contrast to normal agricultural soils, cranberry soil requires no tilling, remains undisturbed over time, and little mixing of sand and organic matter occurs.
Vilas County is located in the Northern Highland region of Wisconsin. The physical geography of the county resulted from glacial activity, which occurred 10,000-25,000 years ago. The surface was formed by pre-glacial and glacial movements and is featured by glacial drift such as drumlins, which are oval hills, eskers, which are typically elongated parallel ridges of deposits, stream deposited surfaces, and moraines. The last retreat of the glaciers transformed the formerly uneven, rocky terrain of the county into a diverse landscape. The county’s landscape ranges from broad, nearly level glacial outwash plains to rough, broken glacial moraines and areas of pitted outwash. There are three distinct geographic regions in the county. The drumlins and ground moraines in the eastern portion of the county are characterized by low, smoothly rounded, elongated, and oval ridges that are nearly level to moderately steep and are interspersed with long, narrow drainage ways. The Winegar moraine area, in the western portion of the county is characterized by short, steep slopes and ridges, and by numerous wet depressions, most of which have no outlets. Outside of these moraine areas is an outwash plain, characterized by a rolling or hilly topography with many enclosed basins and depressions. In scattered areas on this plain, including the communities of Eagle River, Manitowish Waters, Conover, St. Germain, and Boulder Junction, sand flats are present, while end moraines and drumlins are scattered throughout. The glacial melt is directly related to the amount and location of surface water.
According to the Pleistocene Geology of Vilas County, Wisconsin, prepared by the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, igneous and metamorphic rocks of the Precambrian age underlie all of Vilas County. Elevations on the Precambrian rock surface range from about 413 meters above sea level in the south-central area to about 512 meters in the north-central and southeast areas. The Pleistocene materials in the County provide water to wells and are also a source for construction aggregate. Groundwater supplies are sufficient in most areas due to the porousness and permeability of the thick layers of Pleistocene sand and gravel.
The lakes in northern Wisconsin are, as a rule, small lakes, closely spaced, irregular in outline, and connected by streams which have the most irregular courses. All this is typical of lakes in a glaciated region. These bodies of water are all glacial, but the origins of the lake basins are diverse. Some are in shallow depressions in the ground moraine, some are held in by recessional moraines, and some are in hollows in the outwash gravel plains. The smaller hollows are kettles formed at the close of the Glacial Period by the melting of buried ice blocks. Few, if any, are in glacially-excavated rock basins, for this part of the state has the rock ledges deeply buried by glacial drift. It is these wetlands that developed this area with its delicate Marsh habitat that cranberries grow. Without this habitat cranberries would not grow and thus Wisconsin’s #1 industry would have never thrived. Allowing Wisconsin’s cranberries to be grown over the marsh’s developed through the Ice Age, with minor changes being made to allow ease of irrigating or flooding. With the increase need to keep wetlands wild and preserved, farmers are no longer allowed to purchase wetlands, to modify wetlands, and build on and/or alter wetlands. Local, state and federal regulations place limitations on the development and use of wetlands and shorelands. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has inventory maps for each town that identifies wetlands two acres and larger. This makes current cranberry bogs even more important and the need to protect the bog and the plants.
During the last ice age, “The Laurentide Ice Sheet” and the large volume of melt water flowing from it greatly altered the landscape of Wisconsin. (Please see picture listed as glacier for a map of Wisconsin's glacier). As a result, the landscape of the area glaciated during the last part of the Wisconsin Glaciation is notably different than that of areas glaciated earlier in the Ice Age (where erosion has destroyed earlier glacial landforms) and areas that were never glaciated. The outermost limit of the last glacier is marked by a conspicuous ridge of glacially deposited debris. The many lakes and wetlands and the irregular landscape that characterize so many areas of eastern and northern Wisconsin are also a direct result of the last glacier.
In the early 1800s Henry Hall, a veteran of the Revolutionary War who lived in Dennis Massachusetts noticed that sand blown in from nearby dunes helped vines grow faster. Today, growers spread a inch or two of sand on their bogs every three years. The sand not only helps the vines grow but also slows the growth of weeds and insects. Normally, growers do not replant each year since an undamaged cranberry vine will survive indefinitely. Some vines on Cape Cod are more than 150 years old and are still bearing fruit.
At the bog, and you will see what’s at its surface: cranberry vines, but if you were to dig down and pull up a plug of soil you would be able to see some of the site’s past. Each layer of soil contributes to the health of the cranberry vine. Each layer also points to a specific event in geological time that in its own way helped create the right conditions for this useful fruit. Close to the surface, you would see evidence of the recent past. You would see the current cranberry root zone and then a thick sand layer which was formed by the sprinkling of sand over the plant to protect it at winter built up by farmers. You might be able to distinguish between the layers of sand laid down every few winters and the organic matter that represents seasons of growth. Beneath the sand, you would find peat, thousands of years old. Within this peat, there may even be chunks of old cedar, thousands of years dead, still slowly decomposing. Peat depth varies from bog to bog, and even from spot to spot, but can possibly be several feet deep or more. Under the peat would be the glacial deposits: first the larger gravel particles, and finally the watertight clay layer lining the underside of the bog. While the gravel ensures good water drainage from the roots, the clay barrier seals in nutrients that leach from peat. This maintains a rich environment for growth.
Open swamps or marshes in northern Wisconsin often go by the Indian name muskeg. Like a soggy blanket draped over the landscape, muskeg, or peat bog, it provides a surprisingly fragile home for an abundance of plants that thrive in the wet, acid soil. During the summer, the flowers on many of them add a carpet of soft color to the muted greens and browns typical of muskeg.
Muskeg itself consists of dead plants in various stages of decomposition, ranging from fairly intact sphagnum peat moss or sedge peat to highly decomposed muck. Pieces of wood, such as buried tree branches, roots, or whole trees, can make up 5 to 15 percent of the soil.
The water level in muskeg is usually at or near the surface. Stepping on muskeg is like stepping on a sponge, and walking across it involves avoiding the multitude of open ponds that range in size from potholes to small lakes. Despite their innocuous appearance, muskeg holes can be more than just messy - they can be dangerous. Some are quite deep and offer no toeholds to help the unwary climb back out.
Sphagnum moss is the mainstay of muskeg. It soaks up and holds 15 to 30 times its own weight in water. In the process, it keeps water from draining through the soil, so muskegs can form even on relatively steep slopes.
Muskeg is so wet, acid, and infertile that about the only trees that grow in it are a few stunted shore pine (Pinus contorta). These may grow only 5 to 15 feet high and less than 10 inches around in 300 to 400 years. Muskegs need two conditions to develop: abundant rain and cool summers. A dead plant that falls on dry soil is attacked by bacteria and fungi and quickly rots. If that plant lands in water or on saturated soil, though, it faces a different fate. Air can't get to it, so the bacteria and fungi can't function well. The cool temperatures slow them down even more. All this slows decomposition, and the plant debris accumulates to form peat and eventually, a muskeg.
There are also cranberry and blueberry swamps and drier marshes and swamps not called muskeg, as well as level, tree covered tamarack swamps and hummocky, cedar swamps. Some of the marshes are filled lakes, but a larger number are merely regions of poor drainage due to glacial accumulations. Marshes cover about 425 square miles in Vilas, Oneida, and adjacent counties. This is about 21 per cent of the area.
There are four types of bogs. These are Valley Bogs, Raised Bogs, Quaking Bogs and Blanketing Bogs.
Valley bogs develop in gently sloping valleys or hollows. A layer of peat fills the deepest part of the valley, and a stream may run through the surface of the bog. Valley bogs may develop in relatively dry and warm climates, but because they rely on ground or surface water, they only occur on acidic substrates.
Raised Bogs develop from a lake or flat marshy area, over either non-acidic or acidic substrates. Over centuries there is a progression from open lake, to marsh, then fen (or on acidic substrates, valley bog) and carr, as silt or peat fill the lake. Eventually peat builds up to a level where the land surface is too flat for ground or surface water to reach the center of the wetland. This part therefore becomes wholly rain-fed (ombrotrophic), and the resulting acidic conditions allow the development of bog (even if the substrate is non-acidic). The bog continues to form peat, and over time a shallow dome of bog peat develops: a raised bog. The dome is typically a few meters high in the center, and is often surrounded by strips of fen or other wetland vegetation at the edges or along stream sides, where ground water can percolate into the wetland.
Blanket Bogs grow in cool climates with consistently high rainfall, the ground surface may remain waterlogged for much of the time, providing conditions for the development of bog vegetation. In these circumstances bog develops as a layer "blanketing" much of the land, including hilltops and slopes. Although blanket bog is more common on acidic substrates, under some conditions it may also develop on neutral or even alkaline ones, if abundant acidic rainwater predominates over the ground water. Blanket bog cannot occur in drier or warmer climates, because under those conditions hilltops and sloping ground dry out too often for peat to form – in intermediate climates blanket bog may be limited to areas which are shaded from direct sunshine. In peri-glacial climates a patterned form of blanket bog may occur: string bog.
Quaking bogs are a form of bog occurring in wetter parts of valley bogs and raised bogs, and sometimes around the edges of acidic lakes where bog is beginning to form. The bog vegetation forms a mat half a meter or so thick, floating over water or very wet peat. Walking on this surface causes it to move – larger movements may cause visible ripples of the surface, or they may even make trees sway.
The Flambeau and Manitowish Marshes are among the largest of these flat expanses of grassy muskeg. Each of them covers 15 to 25 square miles. They are irregularly circular, while the muskegs to the east in Marinette County are long narrow swamps, trending northeast-southwest between the moraine ridges. It is the presence of this 21 per cent of marsh land in the lake country of northern Wisconsin, together with the sandy soil of the outwash plains and the hilly topography of the terminal moraines.
Cranberries are native to Wisconsin's marshlands, and records mark the year 1853 as the earliest known cranberry cultivation in the state, even though it probably didn't consist of much more than crude ditches to modify natural bogs. Today, there are 150 cranberry marshes in eighteen counties in Wisconsin covering 110,000 acres. In 1991, Wisconsin's cranberry crop totaled around 78 million dollars. Since then the industry has grown nationwide, and in 2005 Wisconsin produced roughly 59 percent of the nation's crop at roughly 124.4 million dollars. The massive cranberry-growers co-operative, Oceanspray, attracts plenty of Wisconsin's farmers; 70 percent of the state's cranberry acreage belongs to Oceanspray members
Agricultural land use in Manitowish Waters is almost exclusively located in the southeast portion of the town, around the northern portion of Little Trout Lake and the southern portion of Alder Lake. This portion of the town is where the cranberry operations are located due to the ideal wetland features that are present there. The town has 600 cranberry producing acres, with agriculture occupying 5.4% of the total land use. The town’s 6,282 acres of wetlands covers 27.4% of the town. The vast wetland complexes afford the opportunity for cranberry production, a major tourist attraction and economic component.
Wetlands may be seasonal or permanent and are commonly referred to as swamps, marshes, fens or bogs. Wetland plants and soils have the capacity to store and filter pollutants ranging from pesticides to animal wastes. Wetlands can make lakes, rivers and streams cleaner, and drinking water safer. Wetlands also provide valuable habitat for fish, plants, and animals. In addition, some wetlands can also provide the replenishment of groundwater supplies. Groundwater discharge is common from wetlands and can be important in maintaining stream flows, especially during dry months. Groundwater is the primary source of potable water in Vilas County and the Town of Manitowish Waters. In the North Central Wisconsin region, major areas of recharge occur in the sands and gravels of the glacial outwash plain. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season. Water saturation (hydrology) largely determines how the soil capability and the types of plant and animal communities living in and on the soil. Wetlands may support both aquatic and terrestrial species. The prolonged presence of water creates conditions that favor the growth of specially adapted plants (hydrophytes) and promote the development of characteristic wetland (hydric) soils. There are 6,282.5 acres of wetlands in Manitowish Waters.
The majority of the soils in Vilas County are sandy and loamy soils. The major soil types found in Vilas County are described below. The Soil Survey of Vilas County was prepared by the US Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service (now Natural Resource Conservation Service) and includes detailed maps and descriptions of these major soil types.
Rubicon-Sayner-Karlin Association: Nearly level to very steep, excessively drained and somewhat excessively drained, sandy soils on uplands .
Padus-Pence Association: Nearly level to very steep, well drained, loamy soils on uplands.
Gogebic-Pence-Fence Association: Nearly level to steep, moderately well drained and well drained, loamy and silty soils on uplands.
Champion Association: Nearly level to moderately steep, moderately well drained, silty soil.
Loxley-Dawson Association: Nearly level, very poorly drained, organic soils in depressions and on low lying flats.
Keweenaw-Karlin Association: Nearly level to steep, moderately well drained to somewhat excessively drained, loamy and sandy soils on uplands.
Croswell-Dawson-Au Gres Association: Nearly level and gently sloping, moderately well drained, very poorly drained, and somewhat poorly drained, sandy and peaty soils on flats and in upland drainage ways and depression.
Bog Soil: poorly drained soils on top of peat and under marsh or swamp vegetation dirt, soil - the part of the earth's surface consisting of humus and disintegrated rock
Loam: a rich, friable soil containing a relatively equal mixture of sand and silt and a somewhat smaller proportion of clay.
Peat: a highly organic material found in marshy or damp regions, composed of partially decayed vegetable matter: it is cut and dried for use as fuel.
Silt: earthy matter, fine sand, or the like carried by moving or running water and deposited as a sediment.
Sand: the more or less fine debris of rocks, consisting of small, loose grains, often of quartz.
Clay: a natural earthy material that is plastic when wet, consisting essentially of hydrated silicates of aluminum
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