Scott Schoepp at Blue Rock
PLUM CITY, WI -- The thunderous explosion of a meteorite in the skies over Russia Friday injured thousands, and prompted many to wonder if the same thing could happen closer to home.
The truth is dozens of meteorites strike plummet to earth in Minnesota and Wisconsin every year, but their the size of a small rock and typically land in unpopulated areas.
But in Nugget Lake County Park in Pierce County, Wisconsin there are signs of an enormous meteorite strike eons ago that altered the landscape.
"A lot of people do come and look at it," Scott Schoepp, who manages the 752-acre park near Plum City, told KARE.
It's a geological formation known locally at Blue Rock, and it hints strongly that the park was once the scene of a cryptoexplosion with the force of a hydrogen bomb.
"Scientists get giddy about it," Schoepp remarked.
"They're say 'Where's Blue Rock?' and the race down here to see it. Some stay here for hours poking around."
One of those scientists is Bill Cordua, a geologist and professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin River Falls.
Cordua told KARE in 2004 that the collision that occured there 450 million years ago was comparable to two football stadiums slamming into the earth at a speed of 60,000 miles per hour.
The exposed rock face in Nugget Park is the strongest piece of evidence, not because of its color but because of its orientation.
"Typically in this area the rocks are all flat, but here they're all slanted and tilted," Schoepp explained.
The theory is that the force of the explosion pushed several layers of rock down and to the sides, leaving a deformation that is recognizable because the huge slabs of dolomite limestone are positioned at angle rather than lying horizontally.
But if you fly over that area now expecting to see the classic crater, you'll be disappointed. Eons of erosion have erased most of the outward signs of an event Cordua named the Rock Elm Disturbance.
"People will drive out here expecting to see this huge hole in the ground, as if it's still smoldering," Schoepp laughed.
"But you've got to realize that was 450 million years ago and a lot has changed around here since then."
The fact that you can walk on it is one of those changes. At the time of the probably meteorite strike, that part of western Wisconsin was covered by a shallow ocean. Some has surmised that the sea water probably softened the impact of the giant flaming bolder.
These days a cataclysmic visitor from outer space would not be too welcome in this part of Wisconsin. But at Nugget Lake County Park they're always happy to see people, and to show them what they've dubbed their scenic "underlooks."
"Yes, we allow Minnesotans here," Schoepp joked, "For a short time and that's about it!"
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