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September 05, 2013 04:19 PM CDT

EarthCaches: The Ins and Outs

by beccaday

Author: Rebecca Lillo. 325 Reads
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The Ins and Outs of Earth Caches

Have you noticed that geocache icon that looks like the earth and wondered what that was all about?  Or maybe you know what Earth Caches are but could use a refresher on the etiquette?  Earth Caches are different from geocaches and can bring you to some truly excellent places.  I very much enjoy looking for Earth Caches and have even created a few myself, maybe you’ll enjoy them too. 

So what is an Earth Cache?  An Earth Cache is meant to teach you an earth science lesson, focusing mainly on geology and the resources that we have here on the earth.  You do not find a physical container, as you do with geocaching, but rather you complete tasks on site.  You then email the owner of the Earth Cache with the answers to the logging requirements listed on the cache page.  This ensures that you have learned the lesson taught about that geological feature and acts like the signature on a log book, proving that you were there.

The first time that I decided to check out this whole new website I found that the closest geocache to my house was an Earth Cache.  An interesting spring house that I had passed hundreds of times when bringing my children or the preschoolers in my classes to the park.  Being new to the hobby I read up on what an Earth Cache was and how it differed from physical geocaches.  I went out and “found” it and that was my first geocache “find.”  Now that I have been geocaching for a while I wonder, if that hadn’t been the closest to my home, would I have taken the time to learn what they were?  Or did I just do it because it was my first time visiting and I was trying to learn all about the hobby that day and that particular one caught my eye?

Finding Earth Caches aren’t for everyone, but our family very much enjoys them.  We have gotten to visit beautiful springs, majestic rock formations, remnants of old quarries and mines, waterfalls and much more!  I have always loved to learn and so the science and history lessons on the cache pages, and often on the signs at the locations, really appeals to me.  But don’t let this intimidate you, you don’t need to be a geologist or scientist to understand the information.  Earth Caches are designed so be written at a 14-year-old’s comprehension level.  Earth Caches are able to take you places where physical geocaches aren’t allowed to go.  For example, physical geocaches inside of National Parks are very rare but Earth Caches usually are allowed.  When our family visited Yellowstone National Park we racked up many smilies on our trip visiting the Earth Cache sites during our park exploration.  I may have learned more from the Earth Cache pages than from the park signs!  Also, here in Wisconsin physical geocaches are not allowed in State Natural Areas, only Earth Caches are allowed.  We’ve seen some beautiful places that maybe wouldn’t have caught our eye had it not been for the cache pages.

So how do you claim an Earth Cache as found?  As with any type of geocache, you need to read the cache page before your visit.  Because there is no physical log to sign, you need to complete the logging requirements listed on the cache page.  This sometimes involves bringing special tools, like a thermometer to measure water temperature, a tape measure to learn the size of an erratic glacial deposit, a pH test kit, etc.  If you don’t read the cache page first, you won’t be prepared and able to log your “find”.  It makes it MUCH easier on the owners of the Earth Caches if you send your answers to the logging requirements at the same time that you log your find, so please do so.  Writing a few sentences in your log about what you learned or observed, or just the fun that you had, is appreciated by the Earth Cache owner but is not a requirement.  Also, many older Earth Caches will say that a photo is a requirement, which is no longer legal, but is appreciated by the owner if you’re so inclined.

If you’d like to do some Earth Caching you can search for them specifically with the advanced search features on  If you go to you can even search for particular types of features.  For example, if you’d really like to visit a cave or see some fossils, just look for those types of Earth Caches.  You can narrow it down to the state you’d like to visit as well.  Using the favorite points as your guide can also help you find ones that are especially interesting and worth visiting.

Do you need to be a scientist to create an Earth Cache?  No, anyone can create one with a little bit of work.  You’ll need to read through all of the rules first and make sure that you follow them or else it won’t get published.  Earth Caches are not reviewed by our Wisconsin reviewers Wis Kid and Bec, but by specific Earth Cache reviewers trained in this area.  They can offer you guidance as you’re putting together the earth science lesson and can give you advice on acceptable logging requirements to create for your site.  You’ll need to get permission from the property owner, as well.

For more information about Earth Caches go to or visit the WGA’s Earth Cache forum. 


Here are some recommendations from some of our WGA members on their favorite earth caches around Wisconsin:

Beccaday:  GC144QR A Visit to Paradise Springs EarthCache – A beautiful old spring house in the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest.  Our family visits this place every year and we always come prepared to spend a lot of time there.  It’s beautiful!

GC27BNR Harrington Beach #1 – Stonehaven – This EarthCache takes you to multiple locations around the park.  It’s a beautiful walk through the woods from the kilns, to the quarry (now a lake) to the shores of Lake Michigan.

GC1Z3Y6 Earthcache IATCC - Ice Age Trail ColdCache – This EC talks about the many geological features at Interstate State Park and the Ice Age Trail.

GC181AJ Earthcache Ice Age Mystery – A very short hike to a large sandstone rock formation.  It is easily climbable for a view from the top and there are odd sandstone formations all around the feature.


Lostby7:  GC1A9G5 Parfreys Glen....the place shows awesome erosion and the ravine feels almost magical to be in.

GC16KZC Elm Rock Disturbance....It’s a meteor impact site; one of I believe 2 (or three) in Wisconsin...the bedrock is lifted and tilted.

GC19696 Black's Ravine EarthCache...Amazing and again magical location particularly in winter. A great example of erosion and glacial events.

GC1A9G8 Driftless: Natural Bridge State Park...This is Wisconsin's largest known natural bridge and below it is a cave which is "one of the oldest dated sites for human occupancy in northeastern North America."

GC1YDTJ Holes in the Devil...Magnificent location at Devils Lake, this shows how a simple stone can drill a hole in granite via the power of erosion.”


Trekkin’ and Birdin’:  GC1BAQA ST. PETER’S DOME – A long walk that takes you through the landscape to an amazing overlook.  It's on part of the beautiful North Country Trail and you'll see Morgan Falls and other aspects of the Penokee Range on your way to The View.

GC1Z45H This Gibraltar Rock is Really Lying Out There - Another long hike up the hill to some amazing rock outcrops.  You can look across Lake Wisconsin while you're up there.

GC3P9NV The Clints and Grikes of Devils River - New EC information and a beautiful location on a river. The forest along the riverbanks has a wonderfully mystical feel as well.

GC35VQV IATCC- Dells of the Eau Claire and GC3WNG3 Marathon Mystery - Spectacular scenery in a river gorge.  Wonderful trails to explore as well.

GC1A5D0 Valley of the Ice Grotto – The ice cave in the Kickapoo is pretty neat, but only in winter and some years are better than others.  It's a very scenic hike through classic Driftless Area country in any season, though.


Northwoods Tom:  1.Boulderstash, GC17721, North of Langlade (Such a fascinating boulder field. Massive samples everywhere in this area. It's like you're in a giants bag of marbles.)

2.St. Peter’s Dome, GC1BAQA, West of Copper Falls (Unbelievable view from on top of an ancient lava flow.)

3.Bunyan’s Bowling Ball, GC1EODE, NW of Clam Lake (Excellent, massive fossil. Excellent signage which explains it beautifully.)

4.The Namur Drumlin, GC3FDFJ, Namur (Glacial feature we have all seen and often don’t realize. Beautifully presented here.)

5.Black Granite, GC1A3WR, N of Mellen (Gorgeous anortrhosite rock outcropping right on the highway. It sparkles beautifully in the sun when damp or wet. Against a snowy backdrop it's even better. Mellen has large samples all over the community also.)



KungFuHippie:  GC3R8Z6 Ferry Bluff SNA EC - great workout jogging to the top of the bluff and wonderful views down the river

GC3DKEC Under the Glacier--The Wilkie Gorge - Cross Plains SP, undeveloped but still one of my favorite places to visit and explore.

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