Tri-State Field Conference 1980 Trip 3: Environmental Geology Of The Green Bay Area

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
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Ronald D. Stieglitz, Thomas H. Mcintosh, and Donn P. Quigley

Field Trip Overview

Development and land use In the vicinity of the city of Green Bay is influenced by geological, glacial and geomorphological elements. The most striking is the Silurian Escarpment or the "Ledge" as it is called that was observed on yesterday's Paleozoic and Pleistocene field trip. Other features, perhaps of greater significance, include: the bedrock underlying the Fox River Valley, large areas of sand and gravel outwash, low-lying glacial lacustrine lake plains of clay, unconsolidated shore bluffs along parts of the eastern bay shore, several large streams that flow through the urban area, the bay itself and large areas of wetlands along its shore.

The dolomites and outwash have long been quarried and as the city grew the extractive Industries have been brought into direct contact with residential development. Lake clays present problems for waste disposal. The bay and the streams are subject to flooding at times and in addition some stretches must be dredged for navigation. Disposal of the dredge spoils, paper mills sludge, and large amounts of flyash from the coal-fired power plant on the bay shore are continuing concerns. We will visit or cross some of these features on this field trip (Figure 1).

Differences in land use are abrupt and are correlated with land forms and soils. As we progress along the route we will encounter first marsh and made land (fill), outwash, moraines and beach ridges or combinations resulting from reworking by various post-glacial lake stages, and finally the large glacial lake plain. The northern part of the tour area, marsh and outwash/beach ridge area, is dominated by sandy material ranging from excessively to poorly drained with organic accumulation (mucks). As we move south we cross a small area of till ridges and plains and descend onto the northern end of a large glacial lake plain. The intensity of agricultural use for row crops, provides a clue to soil fertility and physical conditions. The sandy areas are used mainly for wood lot, housing, some horticultural crops and pasture. As clay content of the soil increases, agricultural intensity also increases. This relationship is most striking as one enters the lake plain area. In a dairy region such as this perhaps the best indicator of agricultural value is the number of modern large silos per unit area of land.

Figure 3. Generalized soil associations of Brown County, Wisconsin

  1. Kewaunee-Manawa
  2. Oshkosh-Manawa
  3. Shawano-Boyer-Sisson
  4. Waymor-Hochhelm
  5. Onaway-Solona
  6. Oshkosh-Allendale-Tedrow
  7. Tedrow-Roscoimnon
  8. Namur-Summerville-Kolberg
  9. Carbondale-Cathro-Marsh
  10. Shawano-Tedrow-Roscommon

Stop 1: Bay Beach Park and Wildlife Sanctuary

Dredge spoil disposal facility; storm dike and bay shore. Private claim 29, T24N, R21E, City of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Green Bay East 7.5-Minute Quadrangle.

This area was all wetland and subject to flooding. During periods of strong storms from the north, water is forced toward the head of the bay resulting In flooding of the bay shore and of the residential and Industrial area along lrwin Avenue to the south. The rise on which we are standing and which extends east and west along the shore from this point is a dike built to prevent this flooding.

The area from the edge of the bay south beyond the new Interstate has been used as a dump for paper mill waste. A now abandoned municipal landfill site is located about one mile to the east at the Intersection of East Shore Drive and Danz Avenue. Other areas have been filled for Industrial purposes. Native soils range from 60% clay to over 807, sand, where former shore features are present, to organic mucks. The trees are relatively young and second growth.

A short distance offshore is the new dredge spoil containment island. Unofficially this is referred to as Renard isle, after the man of the same name who was president of the Harbor Commission for 10 years. It is 55 acres in area and capable of holding approximately 920,000 cubic meters of material. Only maintenance dredge material may be placed in this area. The approximate life span of this facility is 10 years. The wall of the containment area contains approximately 110,000 metric tons of rock. The wall is about 2 meters across at the top and roughly 5 meters at the base. It was constructed to be about 3 meters above Low Water Datum and at the present time is about 2 meters above the existing level. The rock is placed around sheet steel piling which while not waterproof prevents solids from escaping. There are 3 filter cells (sand) that the effluent runs through before entering the waters of the bay.

One important facet of this facility is a 1500 meter long 60 cm diameter pipe that runs from the mouth of the Fox River to the center of the containment area. The total cost of the project was $4,700,000 and of this amount, $1,000,000 represents the cost of the pipeline. The project was completed in June of 1980.

Route Description - Stop 1 to Stop 2

We will exit the parking lot and turn west (right) onto East Shore. Drive and proceed to the Green Bay Yacht Club Road. The large brown building on the south side of the road is the Municipal Sewage Treatment Plant. A large diameter pipe carries sewage from the west side of the city underneath the river Into a sump below the plant. During construction of the tunnel, a methane explosion killed four workers and necessitated a change in the slope of the excavation in order to avoid the gas filled material. Park in the public lot along the river.

Stop 2 Mouth of the Fox River

Green Bay harbor and industry; coal fire power plant, dredge spoils pipe. East edge of Private Claim 45, T24N, R21E, City of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Green Bay West 7.5-Mlnute Quadrangle

This is the confluence of the Fox River with Green Bay and the discharge point for a drainage basin of over 16,700 km2. The discharge of the river has been found to swing to the right as It enters the bay and to follow the east shore for some distance before mixing completely with bay water. Circulation In the shallow lower bay is generally sluggish compounding water quality problems. The ship channel In the lower bay and the river are dredged for navigation to a depth of about 8 meters. Both the new pipe, which carries spoils to the containment site seen at Stop I, and the head of the previously used pipe that carried them to the west shore wetlands can be seen. The outfall pipe from the Metropolitan Sewage Plant is also near here.

Visible across the river is the Pulliam Power Plant belonging to the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation. The different smoke stacks document the sequence of additions to the plant as the demand for electricity increased. The plant burns coal and the resulting flyash has long presented a problem of disposal. Much flyash and dredge spoils have been placed on the wetlands along the west bay shore. Some of the filled areas are visible in route to the next stop. New sites are now required and it is proposed to place some in the quarry at Stop 3.

Route Description - Stop 2 to Stop 3

Upon leaving Stop 2, we will retrace our route on East Shore Drive to Irwin Avenue (County A) at Bay Beach. Turn right on Irwin and right again at the stop sign and move to left lane. If the new Tower Drive bridge over the Fox River is open we will turn left on the 1-43 west ramp and cross the river. If It is not open we will go straight and cross the river on the Main Street bridge downtown. The following discussion is written assuming that the Tower Drive bridge will be used.

The bridge, which rises over 35 meters above the water, provides a view of the area. Southward the lower Fox River and the center of the city of Green Bay are visible. Northward the lower bay can be observed. The water is very shallow with depths outside of the ship channel of less than 4 meters throughout the area between Long Tail Point on the west to Point au Sable on the east. There is a sand bar just beneath the surface extending from near the mouth of the Fox northeastward to Point au Sable. The entire lower bay freezes In winter. Beyond the entrance light water depths increase rapidly reaching depth in excess of 30 meters.

A complex set of glacial features form the higher land rising to the west. Outwash modified by post-glacial lake processes, and beach ridges provide a complicated landscape. Soils range from tills on which Alfisols developed under a mixed forest to sandy areas mainly of Entisols, Inceptisols and a few weakly developed Spodosols.

West of the bridge, the highway crosses a part of the extensive wetlands fringing the west bay shore. Portions of these marshes have been set aside as wildlife refuges where as other parts will soon be industrial park and docks. Flyash has been disposed of In much of the area. In the northern part of this area Spodosols have formed on moderately to poorly drained sandy soils under conifers. The well drained to excessively well drained sandy soils tend to be Alfisols or Entisols.

Stop 3 Duck Creek Quarry

Active quarry in the Galena Dolomite and proposed flyash disposal site; abandoned water-filled quarry containing waste wood material. SW 1/4, SW 1/4, Section 10, T24N, R20E. Brown County, Wis consin. Green Bay West 7.5-Minute Quadrangle.

The quarries at this stop are in the Middle Ordovician Galena Dolomite. The rocks here consist of a gray coarse-grained, somewhat argillaceous dolomite. Fossils are numerous and include, trilobites, brachiopods, corals, and graptolltes on some bedding planes. A glaciated striated and polished surface is present beneath till at the top of the quarry. We will be unable to actually enter the quarry but large blocks of the rock are present along the edge of the entrance area for inspection.

This quarry has operated for many years, however, it is now confined by roads, railroads, and buildings and is almost out of reserves of mineable rock. The quarry is scheduled to be used as a disposal site for flyash after It is closed, raising some concern that the ground water may be affected.

A thin layer of lacustrine sediment, sandy In the upper part, covers the bedrock and in which is formed Tedrow loamy fine sand Entisol. This soil is somewhat poorly drained with minimal profile development. Southwest the land rises. Manistee fine sandy loam Spodosol is found in well drained areas of sandy material. Kewaunee slit loam Alfisol has formed on tills farther upslope.

Across the road to the south is a water-filled quarry In which bark and wood chips were placed. The color of the water and the bubbles of methane bear evidence of their presence. Other abandoned and water-filled quarries lie to the south and can be seen from County Highway HS on the way to the next stop.

Route Description - Stop 3 to Stop 4

From Stop 3 proceed west on Glendale Avenue to the four-way stop. Turn left at the stop sign back onto County Highway HS and return to Highway 41 south (note abandoned quarries). Go south on Highway 41 and exit at Highway 29 west. Follow Highway 29 to County Highway FF. Turn south (left) on FF to Highway 54 and turn right to the landfill site at Stop 4.

West of the quarry, Glendale Avenue crosses Kewaunee "till soil" and enters onto an area of Oshkosh slit loam developed in lacustrine sediments at the Intersection with Velp Avenue. Velp Avenue crosses a small area of Kewaunee soil, a large area of lacustrine Tedrow soil and east of Duck Creek an area of Manistee soil which also continues along Highway 41. Highway 29 west recrosses Duck Creek, passes over Flatten Hill a ridge of till with Kewaunee soil, and then crosses an area of Waymore silt loam developed on till beyond the intersection with County Highway J. The next rise is Burdon Hill on which the soils are a coarser member of the Waymore series. The soils around the Intersection with County Highway FF belong to the Manistee and Shawano series, both sandy soils. The landforms on which these soils are formed are a complex of outwash, beach, ridges, and sand bars awaiting further study. South of County Highway J there is a large area of Briggsville silt loam, a soil formed in a thin layer of slit over calcareous lacustrine slits and clays. The soils along Highway 54 are mainly Briggsville and Waymore series. Note a variety of sandy knolls to the south.

Stop 4 West Brown County Landfill site

Waste disposal; Glacial landforms. SW 1/4, NE 1/4, Section 35, T24N, R19E. Brown County, Wisconsin. Oneida North 7.5-Minute Quadrangle.

At this stop we will view a large modern landfill site. The facility is located In an area of the thick outwash material near the northwestern margin of the lake plain. It has only recently opened, being proceeded by a facility located on the east side of the river immediately across Highway X from Stop 6 of the Paleozolc and Pleistocene Field Trip. The DNR ordered previously used landfill sites to be abandoned by July 1, 1974 but when replacement sites were not ready In time the city continued to operate them In violation of the order. The resulting litigation has only recently been settled.

The soil materials at the landfill Include Kewaunee on the west side, Waymore In the center and Briggavllle on the extreme east. The best exposure will be on the north side of the site which Includes Waymore slit loam.

Route Description - Stop 4 to Stop 5

From the landfill site we will exit west (right) onto Highway 54. At the east edge of the Village of Onelda turn left onto County Highway E. This highway follows the crest of the southea.stern cravasse filling which together with a similar feature to the northwest are known as the Twin Ridges of Onelda. They extend for over 35 kilometers from northeast to southwest and rise more than 20 meters above the nearby landscape. Duck Creek flows northward between the two ridges to enter Green Bay just east of Stop 3. The road provides a good view of the ridge as well as the Fox Valley lowland to the east. The escarpment should be visible across the valley.

About 3 miles south of Highway 54, we will turn east (left) onto Fish Creek Road. We are in Outagamie County and this road becomes Brown County Highway G which we will follow Into De Pere.

The soils at the intersection of Highway 54 and County Highway E are of the Oshkosh series formed In lacustrine parent material. South of County Highway G, the route crosses Kewaunee soil formed in till and then enters Outagamie County. The soils on the ridge top and upper slopes are now classified as Hortonville slit loam formed In till. This soil is coarser textured throughout than the Kewaunee which occurs farther downslope. Near the intersection with Fish Creek Road the soils become sandy and are formed in material believed to be outwash or beach ridges. The soils at lower elevations to the east along County G are poorly drained and formed In lacustrine sediments but the area includes better drained knolls of Kewaunee and Waymore soils.

Just west of Ashwaubenon Creek and Highway 41 is an area of Oshkosh silty clays followed by more sandy deposits. Pass beneath the highway and enter the parking lots for Stop 5.

Stop 5 Big Boy and Country Kitchen Parking Lots

Sum up and departure point for participants going south or west. Private Claims 28/29 (SW 1/4, NW 1/4, Section 21). T23N, R20E, West De Pere, Wisconsin. De Pere 7.5Minute Quadrangle.

This site is located on the lake plain and is about one mile west of the Fox River. We will attempt to answer questions and bid you farewell.

For those returning to Green Bay or with time to spare the following route may be of Interest. Go east on Highway 32 across the Fox River. Turn south at intersection on east side of the bridge. Go about 1/2 mile to the small park and then right onto the road along the river beneath the bridge. At the first intersection beyond the bridge parking can be found and you can walk onto the De Pere dam. When leaving, go east one block to Highway 57 (Broadway) and turn left to Green Bay or right to travel south.

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Created 31 August 2004, Last Update 17 November 2011

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