> University Communications Home
> This Month's News Releases
Professor's Passion Helps Create Road Trip CD
MARCH 17, 2005--UW-River Falls geology Professor Bill Cordua has spent
much free time over the past several decades exploring the scenic byways,
rock formations and panoramic landscapes of Pierce County, Wis.
Cordua fits the classic definition of a rockhound: one who hunts or collects
gemstones as a hobby. It's both vocation and avocation, however, for the
geologist who has taught at UW-River Falls for more than 30 years.
He's collected a motherlode of information at his personal Web site, which
receives hundreds of visits per month from other rockhounds. His site,
offers a Wisconsin mineral database, cross-referenced by county, as well
as a bibliography of state mineralogy. The site also has extensive links
including surveys, museums, events and magazines for the geology enthusiast.
He regularly writes articles for the Leaverite News, a newsletter of the
St. Croix Rockhounds, and other amateur publications in addition to authoring
dozens of scholarly articles for almost every journal in his field.
He's recognized far and wide for his expertise, including receiving top
honors from the Midwest Federation of Mineralogical and Geological Societies
as well as being inducted the National Rockhound and Lapidary Hall of
Fame. He is a fellow of the Geological Society of America and a member
of the Friends of Mineralogy, the Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Sciences
and Letters, the Institute on Lake Superior Geology, the Meteoritical
Society, and the Wisconsin Geological Society.
While Cordua has explored sites from Iceland to Ireland and Greece to
the Galapagos Islands, Pierce County remains one of his favorite places
to investigate. So much so that he's put his knowledge of the county's
geological wonders on a road trip CD available from the Pierce County
Partners in Tourism.
The county's unique geology forms the backdrop for a long history as an
outdoor recreation area. Since 1942, visitors have flocked to Crystal
Cave, the state's longest cave system discovered in 1881, to marvel at
the stalactites that take thousands of years to grow even a miniscule
Other highlighted sites on the CD include the Eau Galle Recreation Center,
opened in 1968 and featuring the Midwest's highest earthen dam; the Mississippi
and St. Croix confluence at Prescott; and the sandy beaches and limestone
formations of the Kinnickinnic and its delta on the St. Croix.
One site has intrigued Cordua for decades: the Rock Elm Disturbance at
Nugget Lake County Park. It's a hole about four miles in diameter and
200 yards deep where the usual bedrock is absent, bent downward, folded,
faulted or uplifted along with tilted, exposed beds of Mount Sinai sandstone,
a layer of sediment usually found flat about 700 feet under the surface.
"It's the strangest geology we have in the county," says Cordua.
Along with research from other geologists, Cordua recently concluded in
the geology literature that it is the site of an asteroid impact millions
of years ago. "At the time we were preparing the script, we were
still debating its origin. There are still some people who doubt its impact
origin. So it's still good that the description on the tape still leaves
its origin open."
The idea for a geological road trip percolated for about 10 years, according
to Cordua, who selected the sites, test-drove the route, and wrote the
Because visitors to Crystal Cave were always asking about the area, Jean
Cunningham, who with her husband, Blaze, owns of the Spring Valley attraction,
came up with the idea for a self-guided tour and naturally contacted the
"Originally we were going to do a cassette tape," Cordua says.
"Initially I took a map and marked the places that I felt I would
like to write about. I connected the dots, and it felt like a good route."
The self-guided CD, "Geological Tour of Pierce County, Wisconsin,"
was produced by PCPT and Pierce-Pepin Cooperative Services. UW-RF geography
Professor Charles Rader created a detailed relief map that accompanies
the CD, and KWNG radio host Tom Hughes narrates the tour.
"I think it's one of a kind," says Cordua. "I don't know
of another county with a recorded geology tour; most are in book format."
The auto tour starts at the Prescott Welcome and Heritage Center and traverses
south to Diamond Bluff and Hager City along the Mississippi. It continues
along Highway 35 to Bay City and Maiden Rock and then heads north on County
Road CC to Nugget Lake County Park and on to Spring Valley. From Spring
Valley it traverses east on Highway 29 to River Falls, The last leg of
the tour is along on county roads M and F past Kinnickinnic State Park,
returning Berg's Rock Shop in Prescott.
The CD features a variety of information including estimated driving times,
places to pull off the road as well as the history and background of more
than a dozen sites.
"Every county has a mix of interesting geology, but Pierce County
is so naturally scenic," says Cordua. "It is far enough south
where the glaciers stopped so there is some bedrock and some glacial material.
The roads aren't busy and are nice for a leisurely drive."
The CD is available at the UW-RF Bookstore, Crystal Cave, and other retail
outlets or from Pierce County Partners in Tourism for $14.95 plus shipping/handling,
Area libraries also have copies for patrons to check out.
Tuesday, 22-Jun-2010 16:21:21 Central Daylight Time