The Ozaukee County clay bluffs south of the coal docks are a unique geological feature. Water action from Lake Michigan erodes the glacial deposits along the shoreline to create spectacular views of Lake Michigan from steep-sided bluffs that are often over 100 feet above the lake. In places, steep ravines lined with cedar trees are cut by small streams through the bluffs, providing wildlife habitat and a quiet respite from the crashing waves.
The eroded face of the bluffs provides a fascinating glimpse of the recent glacial activity that not only deposited the soil but carved Lake Michigan itself. Evident are the glacial tills, the mass of rocks and ground material picked up by the glaciers and deposited as they melted. Between the tills are sandy outwash layers deposited by meltwater streams in front of the receding glaciers. Together these deposits paint a picture of the glacier’s activity.
The glacial materials in the bluffs and on the beaches provide wildlife habitat and hours of interest for visitors walking the beach. Bank swallows and kingfishers nest in cavities they excavate in the soft sandy outwash deposits. Wetlands form on steep slopes from the springs and seeps along the bluffs. Rocks of all types and colors, carried and smoothed by the glacier, cover portions of the beach and provide hours of pleasant distraction. Walk along the beach, with the timeless sound of waves and gulls, Lake Michigan stretching endlessly east and the glacial bluffs hiding most traces of civilization, and it’s easy to believe you are walking in a world almost untouched by humans.
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