First timer? In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I use an app that provides 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 or towns 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) please see “About Landing” above. To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”
Landing number 2334; A Landing A Day blog post number 765.
My local landing map shows why Lansing obtained titular status:
So this was a Lansing Landing. . .
My streams-only watershed map is pretty straightforward:
I landed in the watershed of Village Creek which has the distinct privilege of discharging directly to the Mighty Mississippi!
Notice Lake Winneshiek on the above map? It’s pretty big:
It was formed by one of many navigational dams associated with locks on the river. Here’s a Google Earth (GE) Panoramio shot of Lock & Dam #9 (by Pemo12):
Speaking of Google Earth, it’s time for my GE spaceflight, zeroing in on NE Iowa. Fire the retro rockets! (AKA click HERE).
Looks pretty good for Street View coverage, and it is! (I moved the Orange Dude up the road a little so I could bring in the barn for reference).
And here’s what he sees:
I moved the OD a little south to get a look at Village Creek:
And here’s the creek:
There’s also Street View coverage of where Village Creek hits the Mighty Mississip:
Here’s the upstream view:
The downstream view shows nuttin’ but river:
Lansing Iowa is a Mississippi river town of 1000 people located about 30 miles South of LaCrosse, Wisconsin and about 3.5 hours Southeast of Minneapolis. For the folks who live here all year, we have many of the things that make it a great small town like a grocery store, library and many small businesses that cater to locals and tourists alike.
Our downtown is very close to the Mississippi River and in fact, Main St. gently slopes down to and dead ends in The River. In the old days, that’s where you would have embarked and disembarked the steamboats that use to ply these waters. We still have a great amount of history on our Main St., with many original buildings and storefronts that all add to the value and charm of our Riverfront town.
Here’s a Street View shot of the end of Main Street mentioned above:
Here’s what the OD sees just after making a left on Front Street (near the silver sport SUV above):
I like Lansing. I like that it has a viable downtown, but mostly I like its intimate connection with the Mississippi River. That said, there’s not really a hook in Lansing to form a basis for this post. But leave it to me, I found a hook (albeit more regional)!
Just a little further down in the MyLansingIowa.com website, I saw this:
Mississippi River Road Driftless Area Center Coming To Lansing
The roof is on and building continues for what is looking like a grand visitor center! Lansing will soon be home to a new multi-million dollar Mississippi River Visitor Center complete with handicap accessible river access, classrooms, viewing decks and information about the driftless area and river on tap.
I shouldn’t be picky, but “on tap???”
So, they’re building a Driftless Area visitor center. So just what is this Driftless Area? I don’t need Wiki to talk about this a little – and yes, being a geologist helps a little.
In the big picture, nearly the entire Upper Midwest was glaciated – covered by continental ice sheets up to a mile thick that came and went numerous times over the last bunch of hundreds of thousands of years. The most recent (known as the Wisconsonan) peaked about 20,000 years and retreated a mere 10,000 years ago.
So the Native American Homo Sapien ancestors (who came to North America 12,000+ years ago) were eyewitness to the ice age and its wildlife like woolly mammoths and saber-tooth tigers (which, by the way, they likely hunted to extinction).
As you know, glaciers grind away high spots and fill in low spots with gravel, sand and clay. These glacial deposits are left behind everywhere the glaciers visited, and collectively, they’re known as glacial drift.
Ah. So now you’re getting the drift. (Unless, of course, you’re driftless.)
Without glaciers lopping off the high spots and glacial drift filling in the low spots, the Driftless Area has more pronounced, dramatic topography, with bedrock exposed in steep valleys & cliffs.
I found in informative post on all-geo.org by Anne Jefferson. Here are some excerpts:
Even before the last glacial period, the Driftless Area seems to have uniquely escaped the terrain smoothing, till depositing influences of the ice sheets. (Play with this animation to watch southeastern Minnesota avoid glacial advance after glacial advance.)
The map below shows the maximum extent of glaciers at:
- (a) 1 million years ago,
- (b) ~600,000 years ago,
- (c) ~250,000 years ago (the Illinoian glaciation) and
- (d) ~22,000 years ago (Wisconsinan glaciation).
In most parts of the Upper Midwest, the bedrock is buried under glacial drift; but millions of years of uninterrupted erosion have spectacularly dissected the landscape of the Driftless Area, creating 150+ meter bluffs and narrow valleys.
This dissected landscape stands out in sharp contrast to the flatter glaciated areas which surround it, as shown in the image below.
And what the heck? Why not a You Tube video, “Serious Science: The Driftless Area” by Into The Outdoors TV:
But here comes the best part. Scott Sumner, a writer for Wall Street Pit, was looking at the 2012 election map, where individual counties are shown red for the Republicans and blue for the Democrats:
He focused on an apparently anomalous blue area:
From Scott’s article:
Do you see it now? There’s a big blob of counties where Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois come together, which are solid blue. Why is that? These are counties with farms and small towns; there are basically no cities of any size.
The biggest city is Madison, population 200,000, which is the big blue county in south central Wisconsin, on the eastern edge of the blob. I grew up in Madison, but I don’t have a clue as to why those counties further west are blue. I always assumed western Wisconsin was exactly like north-central and eastern Wisconsin—full of corn and dairy farms, and small towns with one church and 4 bars.
Counties full of people with northern European backgrounds. Everywhere else in the Midwest the farm areas went for the GOP, except that strange blob that overlays parts of 4 states. A few of those counties may have small cities with a few manufacturing firms, but look how uniform that blue area is. There is obviously some difference that explains this, and now I feel like we should have been taught in school that southwestern Wisconsin is really weird.
Or perhaps we were taught in school, and I wasn’t paying enough attention. There is in fact something weird about southwestern Wisconsin. The glacier that covered North America during the Ice Age missed this area; indeed it went completely around it, leaving it hillier than normal for the Midwest. It’s called the “Driftless Area.” If you grew up on the coasts you’ve never heard of this area, because nobody on either coast finds the American Midwest to be at all interesting. They rather go visit Paris or Bali.
So here’s a map of the Driftless area:
Whoa! That is exactly the same area as the strange blue blob of rural Obama voters. This is beginning to resemble a Stephen King novel. What’s going on in them thar hills? You might argue the blue extends a bit further south into Illinois, but that’s probably the Quad cities area, which is somewhat more industrialized. The mysterious blue farm counties almost perfectly match the Driftless Area.
If these counties were red like “normal” rural counties are supposed to be, the race would have been closer.
Why did farmers who settled hilly areas become more liberal than farmers who settled flat parts of eastern Wisconsin? I have no idea. The Appalachian and Ozark regions are far hillier than the Driftless Area, but are strongly red. It’s a mystery. Only God (or Nate Silver) knows the answer.
I also found a piece by Richard Longworth (“The Midwesterner,” writing in GlobalMidwest.typepad.com). He read and then wrote about Scott Sumner’s article. Here’s an excerpt, which shows a tongue-in-cheek (but decidedly democratic) perspective:
The area’s singularity was first spotted by Wall Street Pit, a financial news website, in a piece written by Scott Sumner, a Madison native who admitted that “I don’t have a clue” why these counties voted as they did.
If this phenomenon baffled Sumner, it was quickly explained by commenters to the blog, who said it was all due to the superior character of the residents — “hard-working, open-minded peaceful people, (who) value people above profit, are neighborly and fair-minded…not cut-throat capitalists…engaged voters…an epicenter for education, medicine and organic farming. People are against suffering, and believe in helping others and creating strong communities.” Organic farming in the area seemed especially vital to the region’s progressive, true-blue flavor.
Ah, that explains it. No argument here. I’ve spent time in the Driftless Area and it indeed is full of folks who are the salt of the earth, peaceable types who feast on organic produce, value fairness and hence are natural Democrats.
And then, I had to take one more step. I had to look at the 2016 election map. I found one with tints of red & blue, reflecting the margin of victory in each county:
There you have it. Trump carried the Driftless Area, although it’s more pink than red. Oh, well.
Time for some Pano shots. I’ll start with this one by IdaWriter, with a sign referencing my watershed stream:
Also by Ida, here’s one from the bluff north of town, looking south:
And yet another Ida shot from the same bluff, looking northeast:
And this cool shot of the bridge, by AlKonMan:
I’ll close with this artsy shot of a Mississippi River backwater area (a slough), just across the bridge from Lansing, by MoFun:
That’ll do it . . .
© 2017 A Landing A Day