Fonferek Glen County Park
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Fonferek Glen County Park, also known as simply Fonferek Falls, is arguably the crown jewel of all the parks in Brown County, Wisconsin. Nestled in a crevasse of the Niagara Escarpment in rural Brown County, Fonferek Falls offers stunning vistas of the Fox River Valley to visitors while at the same time providing a sense of being it two worlds; one, where humans are ever present,the other, where they seldom tread.
History of the Park
Fonferek Glen County Park was established after the Brown County Park Department acquired the land from the Fonferek family in late 1991. Back then the Department saw a rare opportunity to acquire what is surely a small natural wonder in Brown County—often compared to a miniature Wisconsin Dells, but quieter. One of the concerns then as now is urban sprawl. It is easy to see why the Department jumped at the opportunity to acquire the land. Land development just west of the park has given reason for planting trees along the western edge of the park to buffer the effects. Those trees continue to mature and are gradually beginning to block out the sight of the development. Fonferek has seen a rise in popularity in recent years. Unfortunately, this popularity has brought a few problems. Injuries due to the rugged terrain has required the park to install signs and barriers in high risk areas. Unauthorized use of the park after hours has required the Department to install an electric gate at the park’s entrance. The Department has also recently expanded the parking lot to accommodate the rising popularity of the park. It seems that after a quarter century of existence the park’s relative obscurity is giving way to a wave of new admirers.
Geological History of the Falls
In the history of the earth, the true beginning of the Falls goes back to a time known as the Silurian Period. It was then the dolomite rock, the main geologic feature of falls and the glen, was laid. In the history of the earth, the true beginning of the Falls goes back to a time known as the Silurian Period. It was then the dolomite rock, the main geologic feature of falls and the glen, was laid. This geological feature was laid down over tens of thousands of year by many sea creatures that died and deposited their remains at the bottom of the ancient seas during this geological period of earth’s history. Today’s appearance of the dolomite cliffs are a direct result of the glacial erosion of the past four ice ages.
Fonferek Glen County Park was the first park I visited when I moved here to Green Bay seven and a half years ago. I fell in love with it the moment I first laid eyes on it. My first viewing of the falls was awe inspiring. The falls was unusually a torrent. We had more than ample rain that spring and it had rained heavily several days before my visit. Usually, the falls is far less than spectacular; often, the falls amounts to no more than a trickle, especially in the middle of the summer and into the fall. But, please, do not think that the falls is the only feature of the park worth seeing; the park offers more delights for the mind and the senses. Perhaps the other obvious feature of the park is the gorge, or glen, that transects the park starting from below the falls. The entire length of this glen can be followed be hiking any trails and off-trail foot paths that run along Brower Creek, which is the water sources of the falls. What I consider to be the most impressive feature of all is the one that is least visited. To get there takes perhaps 15 to 20 minutes to walk. I have never timed myself. I never hurry the journey and often pause along the way. To get there, one must take an obvious and well-worn path that is to one’s left when walking to the falls. One must follow this path around and then beyond a timber line that runs west, and then walk north. It a long walk and not easy. Much of the walk will be through thick grass. What foot hued path there were a few years ago have now been obliterated. However, the difficulty is well worth it. As one continues northward from the west end of the timber line, a panoramic view of the city of Green Bay and the Fox River Valley with Lambeau Field in the distance opens up, and an urban reality falls away. The sounds of birds and rustling grass in the wind dominate. As one continues to walk, the prairie, the sky, and the forest’s edge is now all that surrounds; the city in the distance is only a reminder.
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The main feature of the park is, of course, the water fall that is approximately 30 feet in height, which is part the Niagara Escarpment that was created by Silurian dolomite approximately 400,000 years ago. In the park the escarpment runs along the 800-foot contour that marks the lay of the land as being 800 feet above sea level(note that the water surface of Green Bay is approximately 570 feet above sea level). The glen itself consists of a deeply buried valley that cuts into the escarpment along its northern edge. The glen from top to the creek bottom is itself approximately 50 feet in height. One of the oddest features of the park, and one for which I have no explanation, is there appears to be springs that originate in the prairie on the west side of the park. It can be observed during the driest periods of the summer water draining from it and then over the edge of the cliff on the west side of the glen. For the most adventurous of those fans of Fonferek is to find the glen, which is narrow at the south end of the park starting end of the waterfall, open up into a broad but small valley at the north end of the park. Be prepared for a rugged walk.
With Fonferek’s flora, we are witness to a transitional zone. This region of Wisconsin has a mixed forest, one that is a mix of northern, or taiga, and temperate. Pine and birch, typical of the more northern regions of Wisconsin, mix with oak and maple. I have noticed several very mature specimens of oak and maple. They stand out in stunning contrast to their surrounding trees in the autumn when in full coloration. The prairie, which dominates the west side of the park is expansive and contain many wild flower. For anyone wishing to learn how to identify trees and herbaceous plants, Fonferek is the ideal place.
Admittedly, I am unfamiliar with the written literature about the animal life of the park, however I have witnessed much of it first-hand. I have seen several birds of prey: falcon and owls. Song birds abound: robins, cardinals blue jays, woodpeckers, and wrens. But, there is a song bird that previous to my first visit to this park I was completely unfamiliar with. I still do not know the name of it. It is a beautiful bird: jet black except for a bright red stripe on its neck. It is a brave bird; it nests in the tall prairie grass of the park, not high up in a tree where one would think would offer more protection. These birds, however, aggressively defend their turf. Hiking anywhere near where they nest will raise their ire. Although they have never made actual physical contact with me, they have attempted to dive bomb me as I walk through some of the prairie areas of the park. I have also seen squirrels, chipmunks, and garter snakes on many occasions.
Fonferek Falls is open and enjoyed all four seasons of the year. The most popular season for visiting, of course, is autumn, but Fonferek remains popular all year round, including winter. I find inspiration and solace visiting the park and walking its trails during the entire year. During deer hunting season I avoid the north half of the park, as it is the most heavily wooded and frequented by hunters. I will also avoid the trails in the early spring due to the mud from the thawing earth and spring rains. In spite of any of these limitations Fonferek is always worth the effort and experience. One last word about the park’s seasons: Normally the fall can be quite dry and be just a trickle, but the best time of the year to see it as a raging torrent is in the spring or after there has been considerable rainfall in the area. This can be tricky to judge sometime. A lot of rain that may come in the summer after a long dry spell, which happens frequently in northeast Wisconsin, and may be so totally absorbed by a land that is very thirsty, leaving very little to overflow into Brower Creek, the falls water source.
Posted in the near the parking area is a list of the park rules, and the list is rather long, which also has at the end contact information for a full list of the rules. Highlighting just some of the more important and obvious rules: 1) No pets, 2) No smoking or vaping of any kind, 3) No paint ball guns, or spray painting activity, 4) What items you take in, such as cans and bottles, you must bring out. Leave no trash behind, 5) No alcoholic beverages, 6) No off-road vehicles, 7) No fires, 8) No fort building. There are other rules, but these are the main ones. The park has an electronic gate that closes at sundown. Note that the Fonferek family still live on the site of the park; respect for their peace and quiet is perhaps not a written rule, but the first that should be observed.
Fonferek’s Glen (Falls) is located south of Green Bay and just east of De Pere in the town of Ledgeview in Brown County, Wisconsin. To get there from Green Bay, take Interstate 43 going south toward Milwaukee. Get off on the MM County Road exit and turn right. This road curves to the right after about a half mile and becomes Dutchman Road. The entrance to the park is another half mile and is located on the right side of the road at 2825 Dutchman Road. From De Pere travel east on Chicago Street. After you cross the bridge on the East River, Chicago Street becomes Dickenson Road. Do not let this confuse you. All you have done is cross over into the town of Ledgeview. Follow Dickenson Road all the way up the hill. Less than 50 feet after you pass the intersection of Lime Kiln Road you will take a left onto Dutchman Road and travel approximately a mile and a half. There is a sign indicating the entrance of the park. From the UW-Green Bay campus, exit the campus going south on Bay Settlement Road, which becomes Huron upon crossing over Highway 57. Continue going south till you reach Highway 29 and turn right till you reach Main Street and then turn left. Travel south on Main one tenth of a mile and turn right on MM County Road and follow the road for approximately one mile as it curves to the left and becomes Dutchman Road. The entrance will be on the right.
- Town of De Pere 1991 Tax Roll, Brown County Treasurer, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Archives and Research Center, p. E06.
- Jim Kneiszel, “Fonferek Glen a Refuge for County’s Nature Lovers,” Green Bay Press-Gazette, October 22, 2003, pp. B-2-B-3
- "Fonferek's Glen," Brown County, www.co.brown.wi.us/department/page_01e36501ddc81
https://www.co.brown.wi.us/departments/page_01e36501ddc8/?department=260ed145263d&subdepartment=dadc284c6c54 http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/GeologyWisconsin/geostops/fonferek.htm https://www.co.brown.wi.us/departments/page_01e36501ddc8/?department=260ed145263d&subdepartment=dadc284c6c54
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