The Mystery of Rib Mountain - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

The Mystery of Rib Mountain


Rib Mountain's towering rise above the landscape has captured the attention of those in Central Wisconsin for generations. Its back story is equally as captivating.  

"A billion to two billion years ago, there was a lot of volcanic activity taking place here, very explosive volcanoes as well given the type of lava" University of Wisconsin--Marathon County Geologist Dr. Keith Montgomery told Newsline 9.

According to Montgomery over the course of time Wisconsin's terrain has drastically changed. Only features strong enough to withstand years of weathering, geologic processes, erosion and glaciers could survive to this day.

Rib Mountain is among those features capable of surviving the test of time because of what it is made of.  Though the mountain is not volcanic, Marathon County was once home to volcanoes, billions of years ago.   

"Quartzite is one of the hardest known rocks, it's up there with diamond" Rib Mountain State Park Property Manager William Bursaw said.

It's also the factor geologists credit as the reason Rib Mountain is visible today. The ancient volcanoes and vast mountain ranges scientists believe stood in Wisconsin billions of years ago withered away as the Earth's surface changed. Those changes exposed the large chunk of quartzite rock visible today in Marathon County.

"The history of an area is written in it's rock types" Montgomery said, "the Cascades, the Andes, stand tall today because they're still being actively constructed. And the mountains that once existed here, they're long gone, except for Rib Mountain."

William Bursaw of Rib Mountain State Park says that for as strong as the quartzite that makes up Rib Mountain, it is a stronger asset to the surrounding community.

"It's really turned into one of the great recreation areas in the state, each way you look there's something different" he said. "You get out and start hiking on the trails and in nature, you can really get away from everything."

For information on the volunteer opportunities available at Rib Mountain State Park, follow this address:



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