Topographically, Wisconsin may lack the jaw-dropping majesty of other states’ vaulting crags or shimmering desert palettes. But it possesses an equable slice of physicality, with fascinating geographical and geological highlights—many of them found nowhere in the country—or world—outside of Wisconsin.
Yet never with any drama. This author holds that the Midwestern aw-shucks, taciturn stereotype—not always untrue—stems from an innate sense of the land itself.
Where is the state? Sticklers say “eastern north-central United States.” In a guidebook (another guidebook), one outlander classified it simply as “north,” which makes sense only if you look at a map. Wisconsinites themselves most often consider their state a part of the Midwest—more specifically, the Upper Midwest. And some even prefer you call it a Great Lakes State.
Extend your left hand, palm outward. There—pretty much—is Wisconsin (albeit with a large pinky knuckle and superfluous index finger).
One-third of the U.S. population lives within a day’s drive of the state. Its surface area of 56,514 square miles ranks it 26th largest in the nation.
Wisconsin is by no means high, yet this is a state of rolling topography, chock-full of hills and glacial undulation. The highest point is Timm’s Hill in north-central Wisconsin; at 1,953 feet it’s nothing to sneeze at for the Midwest.
Hydrophiles love it here. Even excluding all the access to the Great Lakes, approximately 4 percent of the state’s surface is water—including more than 16,000 ancient glacial lakes (40 percent of which have yet even to be named).
Most of Wisconsin’s perimeter sidesteps surveyors’ plotting. The grandest borders—Lakes Michigan and Superior—are unique to Wisconsin and only one other state (Michigan). Superior occupies the far-north cap of the state, ensconcing the Bayfield County promontory and its Apostle Islands. More subdued Lake Michigan runs for an enormous stretch down the state, interrupted only by the magnificent Door County Peninsula.