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The history of Columbia County, Wisconsin, containing an account of its settlement, growth, development and resources; an extensive and minute sketch of its cities, towns and villages--their improvements, industries, manufactories, churches, schools and societies; its war record, biographical sketches, portraits of prominent men and early settlers; the whole preceded by a history of Wisconsin, statistics of the state, and an abstract of its laws and constitution and of the constitution of the United States

History of Columbia County: Chapter I,   pp. [309]-[325] ff. PDF (9.3 MB)

Page 318

due east, in which direction it continues, with one or two subordinate turns
southward for about
seventeen miles, through low sand banks, as far as Portage. Here it bends
abruptly south again,
and, reaching its most eastern point not far below, soon swerves around into
the final southwest-
ward stretch to the Mississippi.  The cause of this long detour to the east
is sufficiently evident.
As the river leaves the Dalles, it finds lying directly athwart its course
two bold quartzite
ranges, which extend east and west through Sauk County for upwards of twenty
miles, and, crossing
into Columbia, finally unite about eight miles east of the county line in
a sharp and bold, east-
ward-projecting   point, rising four hundred   feet above the river-bottom.
 Above Portage,
where the Wisconsin forms the southern boundary line of the town of Lewiston,
the ground,
immediately north is lower than the water in the river-the heads of Neenah
Creek, a tributary
of the Fox, rising a short distance from its banks. In times of high water,
the Wisconsin over-
flows into these streams, and thus contributes to a totally different river
system.  At Portage, the
Fox, after flowing south of west for twenty miles, approaches the Wisconsin,
coming from the oppo-
site direction.  Where the two streams are nearest, they are less than two
miles apart, and are
separated by a low, sandy plain, the water in the Fox being five feet below
that of the Wiscon-
sin at ordinary stages.  The greater part of this low ground is overflowed
by the latter stream
in times of high water, and to this is chiefly due the spring rise in the
Fox River.
     After doubling the eastern end of the quartzite ranges, as already said,
the Wisconsin turns
 again to the west, being forced to this by impinging on the north side of
a high belt of limestone
 country, which, after trending southward across the eastern part of Columbia
County, veers
 gradually to a westerly direction, lying to the south of the river, along
the rest of its course.
 Soon after striking this limestone region, the river valley assumes an altogether
new character,
 which it retains to its mouth, having now a nearly level, for the most part
treeless, bottom,
 from three to six miles in width, ten to thirty feet in height, usually
more on one side than on
 the other, and bounded on both sides by bold and often precipitous bluffs,
one hundred to three
.hundred and fifty feet in height, of sandstone capped with limestone.  
Immediately along the
water's edge is usually a narrow timbered strip, rising two to four feet
above the river, which is
overflowed at high water.  The line of bluffs along the north side of the
valley is the northern
edge of the high limestone belt just mentioned, which reaches its greatest
elevation ten to fifteen
miles south of this edge.   In front of the main bluff-face, especially in
its eastern extension, are
frequently to be seen bold and high isolated outliers of the limestone country.
 On the north
bank, the bluffs are at first the edges of similar large outlying masses,
but farther down they
become more continuous, the river crossing over the northwestward-trending
outcrop line of the,
Lower Magnesian limestone.
      In this last section of its course, the Wisconsin is much obstructed
by bars of shifting
 sand, derived originally from the erosion of the great sandstone formation
which underlies the
 whole region, and to whose existence the unusual amount of obstruction of
this kind in the,
 river is due. The altitude of the water surface of the Wisconsin at Lac
Vieux Desert above
 Lake Michigan, is 951 feet; at Wausau, above dam, 623 feet; at Knowlton
(high), 538 feet--
 (low), 523 feet; at Stevens Point, 485 feet; at Conant's Rapids, 468 feet;
at Grand, Rapids,
 -railroad bridge, 420 feet; at Kilbourn City-railroad bridge, 233 feet;
at Portage, 211
 feet ; at Merrimac, 182 feet; at Sauk City, 165 feet; at Spring Green bridge,
134 feet; at
 Muscoda, 115 feet; at the mouth of the stream, 34 feet.  The average velocity
of the river
 below Portage is remarkably uniform, and is just about two miles per hour.
The daily discharges
 of the river at Portage, in times of extreme low water, is about two hundred
and fifty-nine
 million cubic feet. The average fall of the water surface of the river below
Portage is one and
 one-half foot per mile. This rapid fall, were it not for the great amount
of sand in the river-
 bed, would make the stream a series of pools and rock rapids.
   Rock River.-The RockRiver, by its head streams, drains nearly all of eastern
 County territory.   Its branches are everywhere divided from the tributaries
of the Wisconsin
 by the high belt of limestone country, already described as running southwestward
through the
 eastern par~t of the county, and then westward through the northern part
of Dane County.

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