New Niagara museum sign shows history of Menominee River bluffs
NIAGARA, Wis. — The beauty of the bluffs across the Menominee River in Niagara has drawn the attention of passersby for years, with many admirers left wondering how this natural feature came to be.
The public can now read how these formations were created, thanks to the efforts of the Niagara Area Historical Society and memorial contributions by the Gordon family. For 45 years of their marriage, the late Jerry and Della Gordon enjoyed the scenery, so this project seemed the perfect way to honor them.
A 4-by-4-foot metal composite sign depicting the development of Bluffs of the Menominee River now hangs on the side of the Niagara Historical Museum at 1364 River St. in Niagara.
“We feel that it was important for members of the community, as well as visitors, to know the geological meaning of the bluffs — and we have accomplished that,” said Karen Klenke, president of the Historical Society, adding it was a project they talked about for years.
Research was done by Bruce Redmond of Niagara, with the help of geological expert Paula Leier-Engelhardt of Suamico, Wis., who had done lectures on the bluff in 2016 at the museum.
Redmond, who was inquisitive like so many others, was eager to take on the task. “I had tons of questions. Where did they come from? Why isn’t there something like this anywhere else around here?” he said.
He dove into the material last winter, then faced the challenge of condensing tons of information into something small enough that could be displayed.
“Paula helped me narrow down the wording and the graphics,” Redmond said.
After many months of detailed work, they put together a final design with the help of Shawn Fischer of CJ Graphics of Kingsford. “CJ Graphics was very helpful and generous to us,” Klenke said.
The introduction on the sign states, “The geologic processes behind the formation of the basalt and gabbro rock bluffs along the Menominee River include plate tectonics — the shifting of the earth’s rigid outer shell — volcanoes, the Penokean Orogeny — a major mountain building event — glaciers, and erosions.”
Klenke said they detailed the history of the bluff perfectly.
Redmond noted that for those who wish can go to references noted on the bottom of the sign and can further look into more details. “We have these amazing phones now — people can take a picture and go investigate,” she said.
Redmond did point out that many people get the bluffs confused with the Niagara escarpment, stressing they are not the same, as that was something much younger in history. “These (bluffs) are ancient — this whole process took almost two billions years,” he said.
Redmond also noted that many universities travel to Niagara to do field trip reports on the bluffs. “It is well known with geological experts,” he said.
Klenke emphasized that without Redmond’s dedication, this project wouldn’t have happened. “He is the expert — he has devoted many, many hours in this,” she said.
The Niagara Area Historical Society originally had planned to place a large bronze marker on the river, but not only did they have too much information, it would have take away from the beautiful view.
A small sign that includes the introduction on the bluffs will be located near the driveway of the Riverside Church to direct them to the museum.
“We wanted to make a safe environment down by the river and not having cars stop where are not suppose to be,” Klenke said.
The Gordon family also arranged to have one of the benches along the river restored. The existing concrete supports were cleaned and the bench and backrest rebuilt.
The Historical Society hopes to honor the Gordon family in the spring.
“So many people come to Niagara and this magnificent view just blows them away,” Klenke said. “We are so proud to do this for the community and our visitors.”
Klenke gives special thanks to CJ Graphics, Niagara Fabrication and the city of Niagara for their support on the project.
The Niagara Historical Museum is open Thursday mornings and available for private tours. Klenke encourage anyone who has family in town to contact the museum to make arrangements.
The Historical Society already is moving forward with plans on future projects that feature more of Niagara history.