Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Last Pictures from Southwestern Wisconsin

In the past week I tried to cover the majority of what we saw in this part of the state, but there is much more which I did not tell you about.  I must say that we packed a lot into every day!  When we were at House on the Rock I could not help but think of Frank Lloyd Wright.  I wondered whether he and Alex Jordan ever chanced to meet.  There was forty seven years difference in their ages, so maybe not.  They seemed to have so much in common- a deep love of the hills and bluffs of the Wisconsin River Valley, and a desire to build homes blending in with the natural surroundings.  Wright built six structures in Spring Green, including his own home Taliesin.  We had toured his western home in Arizona and, as it is not cheap to visit his places, we decided not to visit the buildings in this area.  We did stop at the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center, a place which he designed.  It has a cafe, exhibits of his work, and bookstore- all of which have outstanding views of the Wisconsin River.  There we learned of the Unitarian Chapel located nearby and which was his family's church.  Wright worked with a Chicago architect in creating the "cottage church".  He was a young man at the time it was built in 1886.  While walking through the cemetery next to the church we discovered the gravestone of Wright, as well as those of his six children.
We also visited Tower Hill State Park, and climbed a bluff there to a shot tower built in 1831.  From the tower's shaft there was a 90 foot tunnel built down to the banks of the Wisconsin River.  Lead shot was produced there for thirty years. The tunnel opening by the river is pictured below, from here the shot was sacked and loaded on barges for shipment to St.Louis and other river towns.
 Another beautiful and scenic area which we hiked is Natural Bridge State Park.  The 35 foot high sandstone bridge was created after many years of erosion by water, frost action, wind and gravity.  Beneath the bridge is a natural rock shelter which archeologists excavated in 1957.  They found remains of fire pits of people who lived there possibly as long ago as 12,000 years.
We could not leave the area without visiting the "Wisconsin Desert", located at Spring Green Preserve.  As an interpretive sign at the park describes it, it is where "forest meets bluff and bluff levels into sandy plains and dunes".   All I can say is what a beautiful place!
 We did not have a lot of time to spend walking through the prairie, but we kept going until we found cactus, which turned out not to be very far at all.  For some strange reason, the prickly pear cactus is starting to bloom, it must be all confused living in this northern climate!


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