This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fisher Oak Savanna

Rensselaer has a decent system of parks, but Jasper County does not. Fortunately, there are some substitutes. There is the Jasper-Pulaski Reserve, and over in Newton County there is Willow Slough and the Kankakee Sands property owned by the Nature Conservancy. And in southern Jasper County there is the Fisher Oak Savanna, where the brush pile burning shown earlier this week took place.
Perhaps it reflects the agricultural heritage, which involved draining swamps in order to farm, but people in this area seem to be hostile to wilderness areas. They seem to look at wilderness and wonder how many bushels of corn are being sacrificed for the trees or grasses, and never see much benefit from the trees and grasses. (If you disagree, you may politely state your view in the comments.) It is somewhat ironic, then, that much of the funding for the work to restore forest and prairie to this site is funded by the Department of Agriculture.
The preserve is open to the public without a charge. There is a small parking lot and a trail that leads through the woods. I first visited the preserve in June 2005 when there was a public tour. Here is what the parking lot looked like that day. Notice that the field behind the parking lot had not yet been planted in prairie grasses.
It was not well marked, but I was able to stay on the trail with minimal effort. I did not see or hear any birds, and the only animal I saw was a deer.
Speaking of deer, there are two deer-hunting platforms along the trail. Last year part of this trail had standing water until May. This year there was no water on the trail.
The preserve has some small hills twenty or thirty feet high, which I think are the remnants of old glacial moraines.
To the south and east the land is completely flat and until well into the twentieth century was swamp. If you click on the picture below to get a somewhat larger view, you might be able to tell that it is taken from the top of the moraine or ridge and looks down onto a very flat countryside. To the south there is some land that has been agricultural field that will in the next few years be converted to prairie grassland. Originally the preserve was only 133 acres, but with the addition of land to the south of the original holdings, the size is now 220 acres and stretches from 1100S to 1200S, the White County line.
If you want a nice place to take a walk in the woods that is close to Rensselaer, go out and visit it. If I ever hear of a guided tour, I will post it in the coming events list. You can learn quite a bit from the guided tours. For example, do you know the difference between grasses and sedges?
Winter is really not the best time to hike the trail. It will be much more interesting in spring, summer, and fall when there is be a variety of plants and bugs to see.
If you are interested in preserves in Indiana, check out this impressive link. NICHES also has a couple of other sites near Rensselaer that I have not visited, including the Holley Savanna northwest of Mt Ayr.


Old Hunter said...

I never knew this place existed..I'm going to check it out soon Dessert Survivor. Thanks!

Desert Survivor said...

Looks like an interesting preserve--more of these in the area could give more people a reason to visit the Rensselaer area.