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Niagara Cave


Fri, Jun 8th, 2001
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Monday, June 11, 2001


Our guide flips a switch and plunges us into a darkness so black no eyes can see. It is cold down here over 200 feet below the surface. The roar of a 60-foot waterfall drowns all other sounds. Even those of us who have never been afraid of the dark are frightened now, but it's the same kind of fear that delights a child when he knows there is no real danger. Our guide flips a switch and we can see again.

Mark and Jennifer Bishop, owners of Niagara Cave near Harmony, have provided the Fillmore County Water Planning Committee with a courtesy tour of the cave. Our guide is their 12-year-old son, Ryan.

All of us are familiar with the karst topography in Fillmore County and its role in making our water resources vulnerable to contamination. We know that our fractured limestone bedrock leads to unpredictable connections between water sources through the formation of sinkholes, stream sinks, blind valleys, underground rivers, springs and caves. Now we are able to see firsthand some of the most spectacular effects of karst.

In contrast to most other caves, Niagara extends vertically through three rock formations and has canyons and gorges with ceilings more than 100 feet high. It has an underground river that travels horizontally along the relatively impermeable Maquoketa and Dubuque Formations until it reaches the Galena Group where it becomes a 60-foot waterfall cascading down vertical fractures to the floor of the cave.

Before arriving at the waterfall, we descended hundreds of steps, walked through large rooms and rounded curve after curve in bewildering passageways. It feels as though we are walking through the veins, arteries and organs befitting only the massive innards of Great Mother Earth herself.

We see stalactites, both delicate and massive, still forming drop by slow drop. We enter a crystal wedding chapel that has seen over 300 weddings. We holler into an echo chamber and look into a wishing well. We examine fossils of creatures that lived during the Paleozoic Era over 400 million years ago when shallow seas covered most of Minnesota. The seas provided basins for the deposition of minerals and shells of marine organisms that became the sedimentary rocks through which we are now passing. We see fossils of trilobites, which have been extinct for 400 million years; the edge view of a sunflower sponge coral that looks like a segmented worm; and cephalopods, which are ancient m .....
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"Come Hell or High Water"

Fri, Jun 8th, 2001
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Monday, May 28, 2001

Weaver Dunes Field Report Mid Spring 2001

Peepers and Chorus Frogs now sing in earnest from wetlands throughout Fillmore, Houston, Winona, and Wabasha Counties. The incredible din of these tiny inch long fr ..... 
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But Gardening is So Good For You

Fri, Jun 8th, 2001
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Virginia CooperMonday, June 11, 2001

I don't know about you, but I am sure tired of this cold wet weather. Everything is so yellow. I haven't planted my sweet corn , peppers, squash or melons yet; my garden is a soggy mess. Let's hope for a lo ..... 
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The Game of Softball

Fri, Jun 8th, 2001
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Monday, June 4, 2001

When I was growing up, my brothers and I began our softball season as soon as the grass in our front yard was dry enough to walk on without leaving tracks in the mud. We played softball every spare moment we got throughout ..... 
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The Death Penalty, with Chinese Characteristics

Fri, Jun 8th, 2001
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Monday, May 28, 2001

The European Parliament, considers capital punishment to be both barbaric and inhumane, regardless of the means by which the death penalty is carried out. They routinely mention the United States in the same breath as Chin ..... 
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Fri, Jun 8th, 2001
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