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Karst Topography & Spring-Fed Waterfalls

Grannis Creek falls is a moderate sized spring fed stream in the karst topography of the Driftless Region of northeast Iowa. It is a dramatic example (for Iowa) of fractured bedrock creating cool spring fed streams characteristic of the Driftless landscape.  

Location
Grannis Creek Wildlife Management Area near Fayette, Iowa

Possible Guiding, Compelling and/or Anchoring Questions

  • Where is the water coming from?
  • How does the area of the spring differ from the surrounding landscape?
  • Why is the spring area so different looking from the rest of the hillside? 
  • Really, where is that water coming from? (walk ‘upstream’)
  • How could events at the top of the hill impact the water we see coming out here?
  • What needs to happen within the ground to allow this phenomena to occur? 
  • Why are Iowa’s trout streams found in northeast Iowa? (The stream in this video is stocked with trout.)
  • How does this spring help keep trout alive, when they won’t survive in other parts of the state?

Classroom Suggestions

  • This phenomena could be used to highlight karst topography, sinkholes, springs, disappearing streams and why trout fishing is found in Northeast Iowa.
  • Students could use it to begin investigation in bedrock formations, chemical weathering of rocks, cave formation, & a multitude of topics related to ground water - these could include water pollution, water oxygen, soil erosion, nutrient pollution, and ag practices. 

Related Resources

  • Karst and Water Pollution Lesson Plans: PDF file produced by the state of Minnesota with several lessons about Karst topography. Many are written for grades 6-8, but they could be adapted for other levels. 
  • Iowa DNR Trout Fishing Map: This interactive map shows the location of Iowa’s trout fishing streams located in northeast Iowa. A direct comparison of karst topographic areas. 

Iowa Core Alignment

Discipline
Earth and Space Science
Grade
High School (9-12)
Disciplinary Core Idea
ESS2: Earth’s Systems

Credit Info

Submitted by Craig Hemsath

Collaborate

Have you used this resource in your classroom? Do you have ideas for improvement? Share your ideas, experiences and feedback about this phenomena.


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