Winter hiking in the wetlands

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Recently, I made it out to the Bean Blossom Bottoms Nature Preserve to hike. One of my friends who had never been there went with me, so I became an unofficial tour guide for one of my favorite nature preserves.

For me, winter is a great time to visit this wetland area.

You can see things in the landscape that you can’t see during the summer when the trees have their leaves on and the flowers and grasses are in full bloom.

This preserve, which is located in Monroe county, consists of 733 acres that was acquired from 1995 to 2018.

The majority of the property has been dedicated as an Indiana State Nature Preserve by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and it has also been designated a state Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society and a Wetland of Distinction by the Society of Wetland Scientists. Sycamore’s property adjoins the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Restle Unit of the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge and a privately-owned wetland protected by a permanent Wetland Reserve Program easement. All together, over 1500 acres of land in the Bean Blossom creek wetlands are protected.

This exceptional habitat at this well-loved wetland preserve provides a home for the endangered Indiana bat, Kirtland’s snake, rare orchids, and other threatened species. A raised boardwalk trail and observation decks enhance exploration of this diverse preserve.

We opted for an early morning hike and because it was late November, it was a bit chilly. The sky was overcast with occasional sunshine. The air felt damp so we were very glad that we wore our layers.

The path from the parking lot to the boardwalk had a base of crushed gravel but it was an easy walk to the boardwalk. There was however a lot of excess water on the ground due to recent heavy rain. We did a dance across the puddles trying to keep our feet dry.

We would be hiking the 2.5 mile loop. It was considered moderate in ease of hiking.

It was very quiet as we started out on our morning adventure. We noticed a lot of water throughout our walk though it did not cover the boardwalk.

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It was a beautiful morning, especially the way the occasional sun’s rays reflected off the water that surrounded the boardwalk and also throughout the preserve. Bean Blossom Creek, the preserve’s namesake, flows through the preserve and the marshes, forest, and swampy areas make this place hike worthy. We heard the sound of an occasional woodpecker drilling into a tree otherwise, all was quiet.

Many of the trees in this preserve are young. The Indiana winter was making itself known with the brown, earth tone landscape and the bare tree limbs. There are many Sycamore trees in the preserve. These trees have a striking appearance with their camouflage-like bark. Their gray-brown outer bark peels off in patches to reveal white wood underneath. Other trees there include Swamp White Oaks, Cottonwoods, Pin Oaks and Silver Maples.

It was a nice hike along the boardwalk. In some places, ice crystals had formed along the edges of the water. The frozen water formed ornate, little patterns of ice. So much to take in. We tried to be observant on our hike as to not miss any details that were photo-worthy. Nature never disappoints.

I have grown rather fond of hiking at this preserve and my friend was impressed as well. It’s a fine example of one of Indiana’s wetlands. Wetlands are an important part of our environment. They act as natural sponges in that they trap and slowly release surface water, rain, snowmelt, groundwater and floodwaters. They act as a filter, and they also provide food and habitat for wildlife. And they are just beautiful.

Our hike ended on a high note, as we walked back to my car, we heard yet another woodpecker in the distance, drilling away on an old tree.

This preserve is open from dawn to dusk and it’s free admission. It’s open 365 days a year. The Sycamore Land Trust has put up many wildlife trail cams at this preserve. To view the cam, here’s the link: https://sycamorelandtrust.org/wildlife/

To get to this place: Drive to Ellettsville via Highway 46 east and turn left at the intersection of Union Valley Road, (McDonald’s on right side of 46), travel 2.5 miles to the T section then turn right onto Delap road. Stay on Delap Rd for about 0.9 miles, staying to the right as you pass the first two Y intersections. At the third Y at the intersection of Delap Rd and Woodall Rd, go left on Woodall. Follow Woodall rd for 1.4 miles to a small gravel road parking lot on your right just after the bridge over Beanblossom creek. You’ll see the trailhead sign in the parking lot.

A quote for your week: “ All good things are wild and free”. – Henry David Thoreau – American Naturalist, Essayist, Philosopher. 1817-1862

Until the next trail, Happy New Year!!

Susan

This article originally appeared on Evening World: Hiker’s Path: Winter hiking in the wetlands

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