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Blue Hills

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About the Blue Hills

The Blue Hills are a small region in northwest Wisconsin characterized by rugged topography and a high density of lakes.

This region consists mostly of terminal moraines, and is irregularly hilly, with hummocky terrain with numerous kettle ponds and other small depressions, as well as some slightly larger lakes. Interspersed throughout are a few flatter areas as well. There are also some areas, primarily in the north, where intrusions of igneous bedrock, notably pink quartzite are exposed at the surface; the areas immediately around these ridges lack lakes, due to the original drainage patterns being more intact. Where there are quarzite outcroppings, there are a few areas of talus slopes, talus fans, and blockfields or felsenmeers, a barren area of exposed rocks formed by frost-heaving, as quartzite is resistant to erosion by rain but brittle and susceptible to damage from freezing and thawing.

This region was mostly covered in forest of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), and red pine (Pinus resinosa), transitioning to a higher density of American basswood (Tilia americana), oak (mostly northern red oak (Quercus rubra) and white oak (Quercus alba)), and open grassland to the west, with oak most common on dry-mesic sites. Forested wetlands, which covered only a small portion of this region, supported mainly northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis) and black ash (Fraxinus nigra), with some balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and red maple (Acer rubrum); opening to marshland on wetter sites. A few local areas where exposed talus slopes and fans, combined with cold air drainage from higher elevations on the hilltops, lead to locally tundra-like conditions and supported some plants normally only found much farther north.

This area was logged, but has since grown back and is mostly forested, with only a few small, isolated areas of agriculture. The forest composition has shifted towards more early-successional species and there is now a greater portion of red maple and large-tooth aspen (Populus grandidentata) in particular, along with some paper birch (Betula papyrifera), black cherry (Prunus serotina), and white ash (Fraxinus americana), all of which tend to eventually be succeeded by the original hemlock-sugar maple-yellow birch-pine forest cover in this region. This area is mostly unpopulated; the largest settlement is the village of Weyerhaeuser, Wisconsin, with just over a couple hundred people, and there are a few smaller, unincorporated communities. Land use here is mostly limited to forestry, and recreation, which includes camping, hunting, canoeing, rock climbing, and skiing at the area around Christie Mountain.

There is a large amount of public, protected land here, including white cedar-black ash swamp at Tealey Creek Cedars State Natural Area, and second-growth dry-mesic forest at Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area. Two areas of talus slopes and blockfields or felsenmeers are preserved at Rock Creek Felsenmeer State Natural Area and the nearby Blue Hills Felsenmeer.

To the east, this region is bordered by the somewhat-flatter Chippewa Lobe Rocky Ground Moraines, which also has a higher density of agriculture. Over most of this region, it is bordered to the west and south by the Central Wisconsin Undulating Till Plain, a much flatter and heavily agricultural region. However, in the north, this region is bordered to the northwest by the Chequamegon Moraines and Outwash Plain, a somewhat flatter region with coarse, acidic soils and poor overall drainage.