Determining slope movement and water contamination of quicklime deposits along Lake Winnebago, High Cliff State Park, Wisconsin

Beth A. Johnson, University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley
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For nearly 100 years, the site that is now High Cliff State Park near Sherwood, WI was the site of a quicklime kiln. Local Silurian dolomite from the Niagara Escarpment was quarried and baked in large kilns before being shipped by boat on Lake Winnebago at the base of the escarpment. Rejected quicklime spoils are still present near the site of the kiln ruins, resting on the slope leading to the Lake Winnebago shoreline. This project is designed to use basic, low-cost field techniques to determine if any quicklime is moving downslope and into Lake Winnebago. Methods of analysis will include: 1) Placing survey stakes on the quicklime slope to see if they slope is moving, 2) Take several water samples from various points along the lakeshore to test the dissolved mineral content, and 3) Take several water samples from various points along the lakeshore to test the pH. Students will be asked to return to the site several times over the course of a semester in order take samples (particularly after precipitation events) and check the position of the stakes. Students will then use to data to project how far out into the lake the effects of the quicklime extend.

Key words: Quicklime, mass wasting, Niagara Escarpment, water pollution, dissolved minerals

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Introductory physical geology course (majors or non-majors) or introductory environmental geology course

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Must be able to read a carpenter's level and protractor
Should be able to use a GPS to mark locations
Need to be able to organize data on spreadsheets
Any students with canoeing/kayaking experience are requested (but not required)

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity can be used as a semester-long project. Several data samples will need to be collected, particularly water samples from several points along the shoreline and in different weather conditions (heavy rains should result in more sediment of any kind moving downslope into the lake). Data from multiple semesters can be combined for ling-term trends


Content/concepts goals for this activity

1) Accurate placement and orientation of sample stakes using a level and GPS
2) Practice collecting and organizing data
3) Understanding of processes of mass wasting and processes that can influence it

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

1) Analyzing and interpreting data
2) Extrapolate the effects of the quicklime through time
3) Understanding the effects of human interaction with a landscape even decades after the human events have ceased

Other skills goals for this activity

1) Learning to use spreadsheet programs to organize and analzyze data
2) Presenting the results of their research to the community at large
3) Working together in research teams

Description and Teaching Materials

1) Students should start by creating a basic map of the site
2) Wooden stakes should be placed at several points along the slope. These stakes must be carefully oriented to be vertical initially so slope movement will be indicated by tilting of the stakes. A mark should be placed along the stakes to indicate the initial level of the slope material. (Note: As this is at a state park, the stakes should not be obstructive to the location or make a tempting target for park visitors.) The angle and movement of this slope will be compared to other locations along the Escarpment to determine if the quicklime slope is behaving similarly to other sediment-covered slopes.
3) Water samples will be collected at several locations along the lakeshore, both near the quicklime as well as other points along the shoreline. If assistance can be arranged involving a boat, samples will also be collected farther out from the shoreline. The total dissolved solids will be measured using a conductivity meter.
4) The same water samples will be tested with pH strips.

Teaching Notes and Tips

As this is a state park, permission was sought from the park ranger and naturalist before starting this project.


Student progress will be assessed through a final report on the project. Students will be required to turn in copies of their site maps, data charts, etc. as well as their findings and predictions for the future at the site.

References and Resources