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Archive for February, 2013

Tower, Minnesota

Posted by graywacke on February 26, 2013

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now more or less an every-third-day blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Dan –  After three USers in a row, I couldn’t stretch it to four, thanks to this OSer landing in . . . MN; 72/55; 5/10; 2; 154.4.  Here’s my regional landing map, showing that I landed in the “Arrowhead” region of MN:

 tower landing 1

A much-closer-in landing map, shows this intriguing location – in Vermilion (only one “l”) Lake, near Duffy Island:

 tower landing 2

Zooming out a little more, and we can see that Vermilion Lake is quite large, and the town of Tower is nearby (and that’s the town of Soudan just east of Tower, unaccountably not labeled on the map):

 tower landing 3

You can see that I landed on an arm of the Lake, which is known as Pike Bay, because the Pike River flows into it.

Now, it may be a bit of a stretch to say I landed in the Pike River watershed, but what the heck – I’m sure that the pre-glacial Pike River had a hand in creating what is now Pike Bay.  So I’ll go out on a limb and claim the Pike River watershed (making it my first landing there).

Check out this even-more-zoomed-out landing map, which shows the Vermilion River exiting the lake to the north:

tower landing 4 vermilion r

This is my second hit for the Vermilion; on to the Echo River (also 2nd hit); on to the Rainy (8th hit); and on to the Nelson (61st hit).  As I’m sure you know (but may have forgotten), the Nelson flows all the way up and over to Hudson Bay.  In and amongst these rivers is a sea of lakes known as the Boundary Waters.  Check out this yet-even-more-zoomed-out landing map, showing the awesome array of lakes stretching way up into Ontario:

tower landing 5 Boundary waters

My Google Earth (GE) shot shows that I landed pretty damn close to a motorboat – the white blur just south of my landing – it’s only about 135 feet away.  I wonder if they noticed the huge yellow push pin?

 tower GE1 boat 135 ft from landing

Looking way back up at my landing map, you can see County Road 77 along the western shore of Pike Bay.  Here’s a GE StreetView shot from there, looking out towards my landing:

 tower GE2 streetview from west end - landing in far distance

To put things in perspective, here’s a zoomed out GE shot that shows that Vermilion Lake is about 23 miles long, west to east:

 tower GE3

Think there’s a little geologic control of the southwest edge of the lake?  A straight line like that has to be due to some linear geologic feature . . .

About Tower, from Wiki:

Tower  (pop 500) owes its establishment to the Soudan Mine, and was named after mining financier Charlemagne Tower.  It is the home of the McKinley Monument, the first erected in honor of former U.S. President William McKinley shortly after his assassination in 1901.

Tower set the Minnesota record for coldest temperature on February 2, 1996, when the temperature dropped to -60°F. This was the lowest temperature ever recorded in the United States east of the Great Plains.  Tower is the coldest inhabited location in the Lower 48 states, based on average winter temperature.

Speaking of cold, here’s a frigid-looking picture of the McKinley Monument, taken in 1909 (from lakesnwoods.com):


Moving on to Vermilion Lake, from Wiki:

The Ojibwe originally called the lake Onamuni, which means “Lake of the Sunset Glow”.  [Great name the Ojibwe came up with!]   French fur traders translated this to the word Vermilion, which is derived from a Latin word for red pigment. Vermilion Lake is at the northern fringe of the Mesabi Iron Range.

The color vermilion is also known as cinnabar, because the pigment was originally derived from the mineral cinnabar.  Here’s a picture of the mineral from Wiki:

tower - cinnabar

And here’s the color (according to Wiki):

tower - vermilion

Anyway, here’s a screen shot of the homepage of the LakeVermilion.com website:

 vermilion lake home page

The fine print contains the claim that in the 1940s, the National Geographic Society declared Lake Vermilion one of the ten most scenic lakes in the U.S.  Well, here’s what pesky Wiki has to say about that:

The claim that “in the 1940s, the National Geographic Society declared Lake Vermilion one of the top ten most scenic lakes in the United States” has been rebutted by a representative of the National Geographic Society who wrote:

“There are no references in our files indicating that National Geographic magazine has said Lake Vermilion is one of the worlds [sic] most beautiful lakes. We are asked from time to time whether the National Geographic Society has ever rated lakes and sunsets as to beauty or towns as to climate. It has not generally been our policy to do so, since personal opinion plays so large a part in determining such things.”

 Take that, Lake Vermilion!  But what the heck – for what it’s worth, A Landing A Day will be happy to go on record saying that Lake Vermilion is one of the ten most scenic lakes in the country!  Just don’t ask me to name the other nine . . .

 Anyway, we’re in a mining region, with the Soudan mine mentioned as the reason for Tower’s existence.  The Village of Soudan is just east of Tower.  About Soudan, from Wiki:

The mine (and the village) obtained its name from D. H. Bacon, the general manager of the mine.  Bacon said that the severely cold winters are a strong contrast with the tropical heat of the Soudan (or Sudan) region in Africa.

 So, Mr. Bacon thought that it’d be a good joke on everybody to name the mine (located in one of the coldest places in the United States) after equatorial Africa!  What a great sense of humor!

 A little more about the Soudan Mine (which is now a very cool underground museum).  From Wiki:

In the late 19th century, prospectors searching for gold in northern Minnesota discovered extremely rich veins of hematite at this site, often containing more than 65% iron.  By 1912 the mine was at a depth of 1,250 feet.  When the mine closed, level 27 was being developed at 2,341 feet below the surface. In 1965, US Steel donated the Soudan Mine to the State of Minnesota to use for educational purposes.

[Check out the mining method, which is a great way to go:]

The primary underground mining method used was known as cut and fill.  While the ore contains rich hematite, most of the rock surrounding the small hematite bodies is known as greenstone.  Cut and fill involved mining the ceiling and using greenstone and other waste rock to artificially raise the floor at the same rate as the ceiling was being mined out. As a result the floor and ceiling were always 10–20 feet apart, and waste rock never had to be hauled to the surface. This technique was particularly suited to the Soudan Mine due to the strength of the hematite formations and the weakness of the encasing greenstone.

Here’s a shot from level 27, approximately 2,300 feet down in the mine (from Wiki):

tower - Mine tunnel form northern ill univ

I’ll close with a vermilion sunset view of Vermilion Lake (from Wiki):


That’ll do it.




© 2013 A Landing A Day

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Grover, Colorado

Posted by graywacke on February 23, 2013

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a two-or-three-times-a-week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Dan –  I landed in your adopted state (just barely, as you’ll see) – and I’m happy that I did because it’s a USer . . . CO; 66/68 (not by much); 4/10; 3; 154.6.

 Here’s my regional landing map, showing that I was very close to both Wyoming and Nebraska:

 grover landing 1

Zooming closer in, you can see how incredibly close I am to Nebraska (and also see my proximity to Grover):

 grover landing 2

I’ve used my GE shot to highlight the distance to the border:

 grover GE1

Only 1000 feet!!

 Here’s a slightly zoomed-out GE shot, showing that I landed in a largely agricultural area. 

 grover GE2

Before proceeding, I need to share with you something remarkable about today’s landing.  Here are my randomly-selected latitude and longitude, in decimal degrees:

 Latitude:         40.9989226156876  north

Longitude:      104.000102864153  west

 AYKM?  Look how incredibly close I came to landing at exactly 41N, 104W!!

 After some Excel spreadsheet manipulations, I was able to ascertain that, of my 1989 landings to date, this latitude was the fourth-closest to a whole number parallel ever, and this longitude was the second-closest to a whole number meridian ever.

 True confession #1:  I’ve been landing for years and years (I actually started landing on April 1, 1999, and blogging about it on November 25, 2008).  While I’ve been keeping track of latitudes and longitudes all this time, I wasn’t conversant in the terms “parallel” (a line of latitude) and “meridian” (a line of longitude).  Well, it’s about time!

 True confession #2:  I am such a nerd.  I couldn’t help myself, so I calculated the odds of a landing (out of 1989 landings) that is this close to both a whole number parallel and a whole number meridian.  The odds?  About one in a half million!!!  So, after another half million or so landings, I might come this close again!  To all you math-types out there – here’s what I did:  1989/4 x 1989/2 = 494,515 (correct?).

 I suspected immediately that the 41st parallel was, in fact, the boundary between CO & both WY & NE (which it is).

 Interestingly, Wiki had this to say about the 104th meridian:

In Colorado, the meridian 104° west of Greenwich roughly defines the eastern extent of the region of high plains protected by the Rocky Mountains.

I like that:  the high plains are protected by the mountains.  In my mind’s eye, I see the benevolent mountain range, arms extended, looking down with a compassionate smile at its progeny, the high plains.  OK.  Enough of my right brain.  So, lefty, what do you think?  Lefty speaks:  “I’m not sure what know what Wiki is talking about; maybe weather or something.”

My left brain securely engaged, I searched the internet fairly extensively, to try and find the source of the above statement (to figure out what exactly it means).  But no luck.  All of the references seem to circle back to Wiki.  However, I did find some pertinent information, from a 1892 book by J.W. Gregory, entitled:   “Final Report on the Mid-plains Division of the Artesian and Underflow Investigation Between the Ninety-seventh Meridian of Longitude West of Greenwich and the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains.” 

 I think Mr. Gregory’s publisher should have given him advice on a snappier title, like “Hydrology and Water Resources of the Colorado High Plains” or something like that.

 Anyway, Mr. Gregory collected rainfall data from the high plains region, and presented it in a table, sorted by longitude.  Here are his conclusions:

 “East of the 99th, while there is much adjacent territory in which irrigation will be so highly beneficial as to justify diligent effort and large expenditure on the part of the inhabitants to obtain it, it can scarcely be considered a necessity.  West of the 104th meridian, the mountain snows and torrents will unquestionably furnish an abundant supply of water for all purposes.”

Bottom line regarding the mighty 104th:   There should be plenty of water west of the 104th due to Rocky Mountain “snows and torrents.”

 He also concluded that there should be enough water east of the 99th, although it’s at the discretion of the “inhabitants” whether they deem it worthwhile to spend a bunch of money on irrigation.  Although not stated, it looks like the no man’s land between the 99th and the 104th must be pretty damned dry (and therefore needing irrigation). 

 You’ll note that on my zoomed out GE shot above you don’t see any tell-tale irrigation circles.  I went quite a few miles east (around meridian 101, in the heart of no-man’s land), and here’s what I saw.

 grover GE3

I guess Mr. Gregory knew what he was talking about.

 So, back to the mysterious Wiki quote:  Mr. Gregory’s analysis may explain the phrase “protected by the Rocky Mountains.”  But then again, it may not . . .

 Before I forget – I landed in the watershed of the Lodgepole Ck (3rd hit); on to the S Platte (18th hit); to the Platte (58th hit); to the Missouri (369th hit) to the MM (786th hit). 

 As for Grover – with a population of less than 200, I wouldn’t expect much, and couldn’t find much.  If you’d like to get a feel for the area, a fellow by the name of David Marek has put together quite the video of Grover.  Here’s what Mr. Marek says about his own work on You Tube:

 “Grover, Colorado” is a short piece that explores the landscape and environment of a small town in Northern Colorado”s Pawnee National Grasslands. It attempts to blend two perspectives in the hope of capturing an outsider’s portrait.

One perspective is from the place of “that which passes through.” This is the perspective of the countless folks (myself included) who drive through Grover and only experience it through the window of a car. Consequently, the length of the film is time it took to slowly drive through Grover, then turn around and drive out.

The second perspective is from a place of “that which stays.” These shots are all static as are most of the subjects of the shots themselves. I have superimposed the two perspectives on top of each other in the hope of creating some insight and understanding between the two and perhaps the people who embody them. A film by David K Marek

Click here to go to the video.

 Then, I saw some photographs on line by Jerry Downs.  He knew some folks in Grover (Ernie & Genevieve), and visited and photographed there.  He is a remarkable photographer.  I strongly recommend that you visit his site.  I did, and checked out each of his portfolios.  Awesome stuff.

 His pictures of Ernie & Genevieve are in his “Human Nature” portfolio (shots 12, 13 & 14, with 14 being particularly memorable).  He also has a cool shot of a bug walking in a tire track in Grover (in the “Humor” portfolio, shot 31).  I enjoyed all of the portfolios; from the perspective of A Landing A Day, the portfolio “Real Gone West” is particularly spot on.

 Click here to visit the portfolio page of his photography blog.  Trust me, it’ll be time well spent.

 About 12 miles due south of my landing are the Pawnee Buttes.  Erosional remnants of a retreating (eroding) plateau, they rise dramatically from the surrounding plains. Here’s a Panoramio shot by Ge Nielissen:

panoramio Ge Nielissen

For scale, the top of the buttes is about 300 feet above the plains. 

I’ll close with this shot from the library of Northern Colorado University:

 u of northern colorado library

That’ll do it.





© 2013 A Landing A Day

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Milltown, Indiana

Posted by graywacke on February 21, 2013

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-time-I-get-around-to-it blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Dan –  Just ten landings ago, I landed in this same state (a USer), but this time I’m way further south in . . . IN; 19/23; 4/10; 2; 155.1.

 Here’s my regional landing map (I’m about 10 mi north of the Kentucky state line / Ohio River):

 milltown landing 1

My closer-in map shows my proximity to the Blue River and the town of Milltown (pop about 500):

 milltown landing 2

So, I guess there’s no question about the watershed, eh?  Raindrops on my landing only have to travel 85 feet before they end up in the Blue River (my first landing in this watershed); on to the Ohio R (124th hit) on to the MM (785th hit).

 This is my second Blue R (the other’s in OK), although I’ve often landed in the Big Blue R watershed (Nebraska & Kansas); two Little Blue R watersheds (one in Nebraska flowing into the Big Blue and the other in MO flowing into the Missouri R); and several Blue Creeks (including a Jim Blue Creek).

 Here’s my Google Earth (GE) shot, showing that I landed in the woods on the neck of a large meander in the river:

 milltown GE1

This oblique GE shot (looking west) shows that the southern portion of the woods is on a hillside, while the northern portion is inside the meander loop (and not farmed because it would be so hard for a farmer to get there.)

 milltown GE2

Sometimes, a meander like this one could be breached at the narrow neck, cutting off the meander loop – forming a temporary lake.  Such lakes are called “oxbow lakes,” after a curved portion of part of an oxen yoke.  Upstream along the Blue, I found this evidence of what might be a filled-in oxbow lake:

 milltown - oxbow lake

You never know.  Come back in a few thousand years, and we might have ourselves an oxbow lake just north of my landing . . .

 So, I couldn’t find out much about Milltown.  Obviously, the town’s roots involved mills that used the water power form the Blue River.  Here’s a shot from the town’s website of an old mill:


The building has been demolished, but here’s a shot of the way the mill dam looks today (also from the town’s website).  This shot was taken from the same side as the mill, just past where the building used to be.

 milltown dam from town website

The old mill was in the foreground, and the water you see flowing out the side of the dam no doubt powered the mill back in the day.

 I stumbled on a strange-but-true piece of Milltown trivia:  there is a chainsaw “graveyard” right along Route 66 just outside of town.  A few people have noted (and appreciate) its existence.  Here’s a picture by Maggie Ward, as posted on mkhorror.com:

 milltown - chainsaw garden - vimeo

That’ll do it.



© 2013 A Landing A Day


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Mauston, Wisconsin

Posted by graywacke on February 16, 2013

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-time-I-get-around-to-it blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Dan –  I can’t seem to get out of the mid 150’s (my score has been between 153 and 158 for the last 85 or so landings and between 154 & 156 for the last 20 landings), and it doesn’t help with a landing in yet another OSer . . . WI; 49/46; 4/10; 1; 155.9. 

 Here’s my landing map:

 mauston - landing1

And my closer-in view, showing my proximity to the City of Mauston, the Lemonweir R and the Wisconsin R:

 mauston - landing2

I landed in the Onemile Ck watershed (more about that in a second); on to the Lemonweir R (that flows through Mauston; 2nd hit); on to the Wisconsin R (10th hit); on to the MM (784th hit).

This was my first “Onemile” watershed.  Believe it or not, 35 times I’ve landed in watersheds that I call “X-Mile” watersheds, for example, Eight Mile Creek (which is presumably about 8 miles long).  I doubt that you’re dying to know this, but here’s my count of the various X-Mile watersheds I’ve landed in:


# of Miles

# of Hits











































 So, the winner is “Four-Mile Creek” (they were all creeks) with 5 hits . . .

 Here’s my Google Earth (GE) shot, showing a peculiar rural landscape:  flat farm fields dissected by wooded areas (like where I landed).

 mauston - GE1

I used the GE elevation tool and found that the field to the east of my landing is at elevation 1100.  I landed in a wooded valley; just west of my landing is the bottom of the valley, about a hundred feet lower than the edge of the field.

 Here’s a somewhat broader GE view, showing that the wooded areas are interlaced with the flat farm fields over quite an area:

 mauston - GE2

Now one might think that since the wooded area I landed in is a valley, all of the wooded areas in the above shot are valleys, cut into the higher, flatter agricultural lands.  That was my initial thought.  But as I moved the cursor over the GE terrain, I discovered that this is not so!  You’ll see that I marked the position of a Street View shot on the above photo (near the lower edge).  Here’s that StreetView shot, showing that the wooded area to the southeast of my landing is much higher than the nearby field.

 mauston - GE3

I figured out that the fields surrounded by woods are uplands fields, and the fields beyond the wooded areas are lowland fields (like the field in the above shot).  Most of the wooded areas are hillsides leading up to an upland plateau; it just so happens that I landed in an area where the upland fields are cut by a stream valley.

 Here’s an oblique GE shot looking southeast towards my landing which more or less shows what I’m talking about:

 mauston - GE4

OK OK.  I’m a geologist, and I care about such things.  And as a geologist, I’m sure there’s some serious geology going on here that causes this peculiar landscape.  Rolling up my sleeves, I have certainly found that this is true.  Bear with me (please . . .), and I’ll tell you the story:

 I’ll start with yet another GE shot, this one broader yet, showing the towns of Lindina and Mauston:

 mauston - GE5

Now I’ll move on to a geologic map.  Cleverly, I’ve made the geologic map at about the same scale and covering about the same area as the above GE shot.  Here it is:

 mauston - Geology

Note the location of Lindina and Mauston on both the map and GE shot.  Obviously, the colorful squiggly area on the geologic map that juts out between Lindina and Mauston is the very same area as the wooded slopes and uplands shown on the GE shot.

 Each color on the map represents a different type of geologic unit and you can see the various colors have labels.  The edges of the squiggly area include “hm” (the light brown) & “ht” (the dark brown).  The pink in between the two that’s not labeled is “hw.”  So, here’s what the legend on the map has to say about these units (no need to read all of the detail; I’ll summarize below):

 mauston - ht, hw & hm

Sufficeth it to say that these three geologic units are Cambrian sandstones.  So, more or less 600 million years ago, here near Mauston, was the shoreline of a shallow sea, with lots of sand.  The sand got buried, turned to sandstone, and eventually was uplifted to about 1000 feet above sea level, where it is now.

Before the glaciers came in, these sandstones were high above (and perched on the edge of) the Wisconsin River valley.  So, round about 50,000 – 25,000 years ago, along came the glaciers to this area.  A mile thick, and loaded with rocks, sand, silt and clay.  The ice is gouging here, melting and depositing stuff there, damming up rivers here, making glacial lakes and ponds everywhere you look.  Well, here in Wisconsin, a particularly big glacial lake was formed, known, appropriately enough, as Glacial Lake Wisconsin.  Here’s a map of the lake:

 mauston - glacial lake wisc

You can see Mauston in the lake, near the western shoreline; but look at the southern part of the map and you’ll see the Baraboo Hills.  Well, these hills – composed of really ancient (1.7 billion year old) very hard rock – dammed up the Wisconsin River (with help from the ice sheet itself) forming the lake.  By the way, see the “driftless area?”  That’s where the glaciers never ventured – the general term for glacial deposits is “drift.”

Look closely at the above map, right next to Mauston (just southwest).  Bingo!  There’s the outline of the  “squiggly area” from the geologic map (also the edge of the woods on the GE shot)!!   What the map of the lake tells us is that this sandstone upland was part of the western shoreline of Glacial Lake Wisconsin!!  (Sorry about the exclamation points, but I can get excited by geologic history . . .)

 Now, back to the geologic map:

 mauston - Geology

You can see the large areas covered in blue, with the geologic units labeled “oc” & “oy.”  Back to the legend to see what this is about (once again, no need to read the details):

 mauston - oy & oc

These are termed “offshore sand” and “offshore sand, silt & clay.”  I wouldn’t call them “offshore” deposits, I’d call them lake bottom deposits, because that’s what they are.  The lake was filled with water from melting glaciers, and the water poured in like heck.  It was flowing very quickly, and loaded with sand, silt and clay, which, naturally enough, ended up settling out on the bottom of the lake.

These deposits are now the lower farm fields that are outside of the wooded areas near my landing.  Being laid down at the bottom of a lake, they are naturally very flat. So, today, if you go out to one of those farm fields and start digging, you’ll be digging sand, silt and clay put there about 20,000 years at the bottom of the lake. 

 One more detail.  My more astute readers may be wondering about the upland farm fields, for example, the one just east of my landing.  Why are those there?  Well, back to the geologic map:

 mauston - Geology

You can see these upland farm fields comprise the yellow unit – “wc.”

 mauston - wc

Hmmm.  About 1.3 meters of “windblown silt.”  So, this windblown silt was deposited on top of the sandstone, resulting in nice flat areas with good soils that are now farm fields.  Note that the silt would have been deposited everywhere on the Cambrian sandstone areas, but it got washed away on the slopes, so only persisted on the flatter upland sandstone plateau.

It was deposited at the “last part” of the glacial period.  Why?  Well, during the warmer months of the year, the glaciers were melting like crazy, and rivers were carrying all of this sand, silt and clay, like I mentioned before.  But in the winter, the ice would stop melting, and the meltwater rivers would stop flowing.  The riverbeds would dry out, and, it being winter, nothing would grow on them (so no roots to hold the soil in place).  So, if it didn’t snow for a while, and the wind blew, there were pretty large dust storms going on (about 10,000-15,000 years ago).

The wind couldn’t carry the sand far at all (sand particles are too heavy).  The clay would be picked up, but dispersed over huge areas, so we can’t really find any wind-blown clay deposits.  But the silt?  Well, silt is between clay and sand, and was just light enough for the wind to pick it up, but just heavy enough that it got deposited in bulk not too far from the dried-out glacial streams.  Voila.  The result – silt deposits, like the ones next to my landing.

 FYI, these deposits are called glacial loess.  Loess is German for “loose,” and nobody I knew back in school knew how to pronounce it.  Some simply called it “loose,” some said “lōse” (rhymes with dose); some said “looss”  (rhymes with wuss); some said “luss” (rhymes with plus).  I kept my mouth shut, and wrote “loess” when that was the answer on the exam.

 One last thing.  Generally, Glacial Lake Wisconsin drained to the northwest (see the map of the lake).  But finally, one particularly warm summer about 15,000 years ago, the ice portion of the dam down at the Baraboo Hills broke lose – catastrophically.  A huge flood resulted.  The floodwaters carved into the Cambrian sandstones just downstream from the breach, creating the scenic rock formations of the Wisconsin River Dells.  Here’s a picture, from Wiki:

 mauston wisc dells

Wow.  I’m pretty much blogged out, and I haven’t mentioned Mauston, except in passing.  So, I’ll just present this about the name origins, from Wiki:

 Mauston was founded by Milton M. Maughs and the town was originally named Maughs Town.

I’ll close with a winter shot of the Lemonweir River in Mauston (from WRJC.com):

 mauston lemonweir

 That’ll do it.




© 2013 A Landing A Day

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Taylor, Arkansas

Posted by graywacke on February 8, 2013

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-time-I-get-around-to-it blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

Dan –  I landed in a large contiguous undersubscribed (US) area in the S-Cen U.S. that includes NM, TX, AR, LA & MO; more specifically . . . AR; 27/34; 5/10; 1; 155.3. 

 I landed just north of the LA border (about 6 mi north), and not far from the Texarkana triple point:

 taylor landing 1

My closer-in map shows that I landed just north of the town of Taylor:

 taylor landing 2

Perusing Google Earth (GE), I landed in what looks like a tree farm of some sort:

 taylor GE1

Zooming out a little, here’s a shot that includes the town.

 taylor GE2

Zooming out on StreetAtlas, you can see that I landed close to Lake Erling:

 taylor landing 3

I landed in the Little Crooked Ck watershed, on to the Crooked Ck (my 9th landing in a “Crooked Creek” watershed); on to Bayou Dorcheat (3rd hit); on to Loggy Bayou (also 3rd hit); on to the Red R (50th hit); on to the Atchafalaya (57th hit).  By the way, the unusual name “Dorcheat” is a Caddo Indian word, meaning “people.”

I checked out the Caddo Indians on Wiki; the usual tragic story of encounters with white people and then decimation by disease.  But Wiki had this 1906 picture of a young Caddo women named Kaw-u-tz, which is so striking, I thought I’d put it here (photo from Southern Methodist University Library):


 Moving right along . . . my recent Dubois WY post featured the Yellowstone R receiving its 50th hit.  The Yellowstone is joined today in that prestigious category by the Red.  As I’m sure you’re wondering, the Red & and the Yellowstone are now tied for 13th on my list of watershed hits.  Whether or not you care, here’s the list:
























St Lawr





















Red (S)


 Besides the dramatic struggle for 13th place, how about the three-way tie for 10th (with the Atachafalaya happily joining that club via today’s landing)?

 Note:  The only river that may be unfamiliar to some readers is the Nelson.  That’s because it’s a Canadian River, just north of MN / ND.  The reason it has so many hits is that the Red River of the North (currently ranked 14th with 42 hits) flows into it.  Obviously, the (S) after Red in the list above is to differentiate the southward-flowing Red River of the South from the northward-flowing Red River of the North.

 So, I landed just outside of Taylor.  Well, here’s the story:  I have over 400 posts, and have landed near innumerable small towns, with populations of less than 1,000, like Taylor (pop 566).  And when I do an internet search, it seems as though I can find something, at least some little tidbit, to focus on for my post.

 Well, Taylor has nothing.  Searching deep within Google, I find nothing but trivial sites that provide no real information.  Google images have nothing beyond standard data-base site maps.  Google Earth shows no Panoramio photos anywhere close.  I am stymied.

 On a whim, I even emailed a Taylor High School teacher to see if I could scare up a lead or two.  Nothing.

 South of the state line in Louisiana (and not far away from my landing) is the City of Springhill (pop 5,300).  I’m sure I could find something of interest about Springhill, but it just doesn’t seem right to dip into a town across the state line.

 OK, so I found a little history on Lake Erling.  The dam and lake were built by International Paper Co. as a water supply for its mill located in Springhill.  It was named after an International Paper Vice President.  The lake’s big – about 8.5 miles long, and about a half mile wide.  Well, the mill is gone (closed in 1979), and the company’s land holdings around the lake have been sold or leased. 

 Negotiations are underway for the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission to take over the lake, which would make Lake Erling the largest state-owned lake in Arkansas, and possibly the entire country.   Now there’s something for Taylor to hang its hat on:  “home of the largest state-owned lake in the country” . . .

 Evidently, there’s not much development around the lake, and the fishing is awesome.  From an article in TheCabin.com:

 So plentiful are the catfish in Erling that a special Arkansas Game and Fish Commission regulation allows a triple limit — 10 channel catfish and 10 blue catfish in addition to the regular daily limit of 10 catfish of any variety.

Here’s a lake front cottage for sale for $145,000:

 taylor - for sale

Man.  Put that in NJ and try to buy it for $145,000 . . .

 I’ll close with this shot of sunset on Lake Erling (Billy Hathorn on Wiki):

 taylor - lake erlind - billy hathorn on wiki

That’ll do it.




© 2013 A Landing A Day

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Hooker, Oklahoma

Posted by graywacke on February 6, 2013

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-time-I-get-around-to-it blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

Dan –  Continuing my slump (only one USer in my last six landings), this landing in . . . OK; 55/45; 4/10 (1/6); 6; 155.9.

 Here’s my regional landing map, showing I landed in (on?) the OK panhandle.

 hooker landing 1

Speaking of panhandles . . . Wiki identifies the following panhandles in the lower 48 (with their areas in sq miles):


  1.  TX   (25,887)
  2.  ID  (21,013)
  3. NE (14,258)
  4.  FL   (11,304)
  5.  OK   (5,687)
  6. WV (east)   (3,499)
  7. MD   (2,194)
  8. WV (north)   (601)

 You’ll note that in Wiki’s opinion, Nebraska has a panhandle.  Well, A Landing A Day does not recognize Nebraska’s faux panhandle.  It’s too thick relative to the rest of the state.  I mean, really, take a look at this map:

 hooker panhandles

Texas’s panhandle is bigger (and thicker), but relative to the whole state, the term “panhandle” works.  And everybody talks about the Texas panhandle, yet I, for one, don’t hear mention of the Nebraska panhandle.  

 Once again, keeping track of all things landing, here’s my panhandle scorecard (# of landings, out of 1985 landings):


  1.  TX – 22
  2. ID – 10
  3. OK – 7
  4. FL – 5
  5. MD – 1
  6. WV (north) – 1
  7. WV (east) – 0

Looking at the areas vs. the landings (and the ratios of landings to areas) – I’d expect more ID and FL panhandle landings – i.e., these panhandles are undersubscribed (US).

 Moving right along to my closer-in landing map  – you can see I landed in an area with a plethora of small towns:

 hooker landing 2

I confess that I was immediately drawn to Hooker, for obvious reasons.  I dutifully checked out the surrounding towns, but when Hooker winked at me, there was no going back . . .

 Here’s my Google Earth (GE) shot, which shows an ill-defined rural (likely pastureland) landscape:

 hooker GE1

Just to the north of my landing is the Palo Duro Ck; on to the Beaver R (8th hit); to the North Canadian R (15th hit); to the Canadian R (40th hit); to the Arkansas (109th hit); to the MM (783rd hit).

 I was looking into the origin of the name “Palo Duro.”  There’s a Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the Texas panhandle, and the Park’s website has this to say about the origin of the phrase (which likely applies here as well):

Early Spanish Explorers are believed to have discovered the area and dubbed the canyon “Palo Duro” which is Spanish for “hard wood” in reference to the abundant mesquite and juniper trees.

Before I go to Hooker, I’ll share with you something that caught my eye while perusing GE.  Check out this GE shot, and you’ll see a huge hunk of brown real estate about 5 miles NW of my landing:

 hooker GE2

Here’s a closer-in shot, showing that the big brown patch is over a mile across:

 hooker GE 3

So, I zoomed in, and figured out what I was looking at:

 hooker GE4

Cows!  All of the little dots are cows.  That’s right, this is a huge feed lot.  I worked hard to figure out who owned it, but couldn’t do it.  I found information about two other local feed lots, but not this one.  One of the feed lots that’s smaller than this one can hold 59,000 head of cattle, so I’d say this one holds (and feeds) more like 80,000 head.

 Odds are pretty good that you and me and just about everybody who eats beef has eaten some that was raised here.

 Finally, on to Hooker.  Well, the folks there seem to embrace the name of their town.  Of course, it wasn’t named Hooker because there were so many er, ah, ladies of the evening there.  This from HookerOklahoma.net (with a little editing by yours truly):

Back in the 1800’s,  this land [i.e., the OK panhandle] was No Man’s Land, because none of the surrounding states or territories wanted this little strip of land about 40 miles wide.  Folks started running cattle around these parts and one of those folks was John “Hooker” Threlkeld.  John earned his infamous nickname by being such a good roper.  He was described as one of the really great ropers of the day, a man who could ride quietly into a herd, drop a tight, small, and fast loop from either side of his mount and catch calves standing beside their mothers.

Hooker was born in Kentucky, November 13, 1846.  He came west with his parents to Missouri.  In 1864 he joined up with a freight outfit and bullwhacked west from Omaha to Virginia City, Montana with his two brothers.  In 1873, Hooker came to No Man’s Land where he spent the next 30 years in the saddle.

 [Quick note on “bullwhack.”  It means “to drive a team of oxen with a whip.”]

Things in Hooker, Oklahoma started coming right along with schools, churches, and businesses going up.  Then on June 1, 1908 tragedy struck.  A fire started behind Mrs. Atterbury’s restaurant and destroyed 42 businesses and assorted other buildings.  No fire trucks were available and the fire spread quickly.  But true to the pioneer spirit businesses immediately started rebuilding.

The 1930’s saw the whole great plains region devastated by horrific dirt storms and drought.  Things were so bad that the railroads used snow plows and shovel crews to clear tracks after the storms. In the 1940’s the oil and gas industry pumped additional life into the town.

In 1967 the little league park was opened and a new library was completed.  1967 was also the year that the American Legion baseball team became known as the Hooker Horny Toads.

Catchy name, Horny Toads, eh?  From TripAdversor.com:

 hooker horny toads

Even the Chamber of Commerce isn’t above a little suggestive marketing (from RoadsideAmerica.com):

 hooker c of c

From Nevco.com (the folks that make scoreboards), check this out:


Way to go, Hooker!

 One last stop on this landing tour.  Looking back at my landing map, you can see the fairly substantial lake just north of Hardesty.  This is the Optima Lake, created by the Optima Dam.  As a hydrologist, I was blown away by what happened here.  I’ll start with Wiki:

Optima Lake is located near the towns of Hardesty and Guymon in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

Construction on the earthen Optima Lake Dam began in 1966 and was completed in 1978 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, with a height of 120 feet, and a length at its crest of 16,875 feet.  The project cost taxpayers $46 million.

[Wow.  The dam is over three miles long!  But get this:]

The lake has never reached more than 5 percent of its design capacity and now is effectively empty.

[Big time ouch.  Somebody really screwed up.]

Rapid declines in streamflow (related to large-scale pumping from the High Plains Aquifer) coincided with the completion of dam construction.

[Weak excuse.  Nothing to do with groundwater happens quickly.  Like I said, somebody really screwed up.]

The US Army Corps of Engineers states (emphasis added):

Visitors should be aware that the lake’s level can be very low. Depending on rainfall and evaporation rates, the lake may offer no water-based recreation and may not be suitable for swimming, fishing, boating or other activities.

Lake camping facilities and buildings have been dismantled for public safety by the Corps of Engineers as of October 2012.

I spent some time trying to find out some technical information about this incredible failure.  I’m sure the information exists, but not in the first 5 or so pages of a Google search (which is about as deep as I’m willing to go).

 Anyway, the Corps built campgrounds, access roads, a boat ramp, and all sorts of facilities.  For people who never came.  Thousands of acres of land was possessed by eminent domain, which now serves as a nature preserve (not all bad, I guess).

 Anyway, here are some pictures from AbandonnedOK.com.  Here’s a shot from the dam, looking out at the “lake:”

 shot from the dam, looking out at the lake

Here’s a shot from the “lake,” looking back at the dam:

 looking back at the dam

Here’s the top of the dam:

 top of the dam

I’ll close with this artsy shot of one of the abandoned buildings in the park:


That’ll do it.



© 2013 A Landing A Day

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Wolsey, South Dakota

Posted by graywacke on February 3, 2013

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-time-I-get-around-to-it blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Dan –  Since I got back in the ALAD saddle, I haven’t had one of my good ol’ fashioned High Plains teeny town landing.  Until now, here in . . . SD; 53/50; 4/10; 5; 155.4.

 Here’s my regional landing map:

wolsey landing1

 Here’s closer-in, showing my proximity to Wolsey:

wolsey landing2

Note the tidy one-mile square pattern of roads.  I mean, really – if you’re out there building roads across a flat prairie, and there’s no reason not to . . .

 Although there are no streams in the immediate Wolsey vicinity (as you can see above), I could, using Google Earth’s topographic feature, figure out that the land sloped to the east, towards Stony Run, which is off the map to the east.  By the way, this was my 11th distinct landing watershed with the name “Stone, Stoney or Stony”.  Stony Run runs on to the James R (an amazing 17 hits) to the Missouri (368th hit) to the MM (782nd hit).

 Note how the landing map shows little intermittent ponds all over the place.  I wonder what those are.  Well, let’s take a look at the Google Earth (GE) shot:

 wolsey GE1

I landed in a predictably agricultural setting (maybe pasture land?).  The intermittent ponds just look like the splotchy brown areas.

 I checked out the geological & soil surveys for Beadle County, and figured out that we’re in an upland area underlain by glacial till deposits.  The glaciers were pretty messy about laying down their deposits, and we’ve ended up with irregular topography with small depressions.  The soils are fairly permeable (well-drained), and so these depressions are generally dry.  I bet that’s more information than you needed (or cared about) . . .

Here are a couple of back-in-the-day shots – the first, is the old railroad depot, from the town website:

 wosley old rr depot, town webiste

And this, of Main Street, probably about the same time (from the USGenWeb):

wosley us gen web postcard main st

So, what else about Wolsey?  Well, the town is pretty little (pop 367).  Here’s a GE birds-eye view:

 wolsey GE2

The only thing of real interest is this little tidbit from Wiki, under “Notable Wolsey Residents:”

Richard Warren Sears, founder of Sears, Roebuck, and Co, began his retail sales career by selling unclaimed watches while serving as a station agent for the railroad in Wolsey in the early 1880s.


Here’s some bio info on good ol’ Dick Sears, from the Sears archives:

Richard Warren Sears was born December 7, 1863, in Stewartville, Minn., to James Warren and Eliza Sears.

Although Sears’ father was at one time a fairly prosperous blacksmith and wagon-maker, he lost all of his money—about $50,000—in a failed stock-farm venture. Consequently, at a young age, Richard Sears found it necessary to work in order to help support the family. After learning telegraphy, he was employed by the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad and eventually became a station agent at North Redwood, Minn.

Note:  this bio says nothing about Wolsey SD.  Oh, well.  I’m going to let Wiki pick up the story here (they included some interesting details):

It was in 1886 at age 23, that his career path changed forever: A shipment of gold-filled pocket watches from a Chicago manufacturer was refused by a Minnesota retailer, Edward Stegerson.

A common scam existing at the time involved wholesalers who would ship their products to retailers who had not ordered them. Upon refusal, the wholesaler would offer the already price-hiked items to the retailer at a lower price in the guise of alleviating the cost to ship the items back. The unsuspecting retailer might then agree to take this new-found “bargain” off the wholesaler’s hands.

But Stegerson, a retailer savvy to the scam, flatly refused the watches. Young Sears jumped at the opportunity, and made an agreement with the wholesaler to buy the watches for $12.  He then set about offering his wares to other station agents along the railroad line for $14. Sears acted as a “middle man,” because the other station agents actually sold the watches to passers-by.

The watches were considered an item of urban sophistication. Also because of the growth of railways, and the recent application of time zones, farmers needed to keep time accurately which had not been necessary until then. For those two reasons the station agents had no trouble selling the watches to passers-by.

Within six months, Sears had netted $5,000 and felt so confident in this venture that he moved to Minneapolis and founded the R. W. Sears Watch Company. He began placing advertisements in farm publications and mailing flyers to potential clients. From the beginning, it was clear that Sears had a talent for writing promotional copy. He took the personal approach in his ads, speaking directly to rural and small-town communities, persuading them to purchase by mail-order.

In 1887 Sears moved his company to Chicago and moved his residence to nearby Oak Park, Illinois.

[Hey – I used to live in Oak Park, and never knew Sears lived there.]

In 1887 he also hired watch repairman Alvah Roebuck to repair any watches being returned.

Roebuck was Sears’s first employee, and he later became co-founder of Sears, Roebuck & Company, which was formed in 1893 when Sears was 30 years old. Roebuck left the growing company a few years later, and Sears went on with a new business partner, clothier Julius Rosenwald, who became president of the business in 1908 upon Sears’ retirement at age 44.

The first Sears catalog was published in 1893 and offered only watches. By 1897, the 500-page cataglog include items such as men’s and ladies clothing, plows, housewares, bicycles and athletic equipment.

How about that Roebuck?  A watch repairman who only hung around for a few years.  No wonder they eventually dropped his name . . .

Here’s a quote from Mr. Sears:

“If you buy a good watch you will always be satisfied, and at our prices a good watch will influence the sale of another good watch; and that’s our motto: “Make a Good Watch,  Sell a Good Watch.” (1892)

True confession:  the quote (lifted from the Sears history archive website) said “Make a Watch, Sell a Watch.”  AYKM?  (OK, that means “Are You Kidding Me?”)  That’s a lousy motto without the “goods.”  In my not-so-humble opinion, my version is vastly improved!

I’ll close with this country side shot, taken some miles south of my landing (Panoramio, by fred089):

 wolsey fred089


That’ll do it.




© 2013 A Landing A Day

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