Hike Report: Prairie Creek Barrens

The “He tried to warn us” Hike with Mike
The Restoration in Progress of Prairie Creek Barrens

by Sue Arnold

with photos by Barb Jablonski and Barb Homoya

The postcard Mike Homoya sent out for the July 27 hike at Prairie Creek Barrens Nature Preserve failed to deter 28 of us from enjoying a sunny day at this site in Daviess County. He warned: “terrain hilly, no trails present, briers and brush, ticks and chiggers likely.” He failed to mention trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), a vigorous climber determined to wrap our ankles, and knee-high poison ivy (Toxiodendron radicans)

We met Elizabeth Mathias, owner of the land where we parked before entering the preserve, who gave us the family history of the land. Co-leaders Harold Allison and Mike explained that the preserve hosts one of the last remnants of sand barrens in southwest Indiana. (Note: access to the site is by permission only.)

Restoration efforts started 10 years ago and have involved more than 100 volunteers, including some INPAWS members present on the hike. Over the last five years, thousands of plugs were planted. Seeds were collected from similar habitats in the area for their local genetic composition. Some were grown by Spence Restoration Nursery. Others, such as hairy puccoon (Lithospermum caroliniense), required direct sowing in the preserve. Also direct-sown were 10 mature plants of smooth phlox (Phlox glaberrima) not often found in other preserves because of the production challenges.                                                         

Many uncommon and rare species are present. The site contains at least 10 state-listed rare species. Maryland meadow beauty (Rhexia mariana) was especially beautiful with rose-colored flowers and contrasting yellow-orange stamens. Globally threatened creeping St. Johnswort (Hypericum adpressum) thrives in the damp sand of the preserve. We saw many sand hickories (Carya pallida) growing in dry sandy soil at the northern range of their preferred habitat.

The ups and downs of our two-hour hike through briers and poison ivy were well worth it to hear the enthusiasm that Mike and Harold share for the land and the plant reintroduction project. They have not been deterred by set-backs such as critters who pulled up (but did not eat) hundreds of hand-raised, hand-planted plugs. They continue the hard but rewarding work of restoration.

Original hike announcement with directions


    Shane wrote on August 07, 2014

    Hi Alan,The Linn County Conservation Department is doing some storm clean-up along that section of the trail. We hope it will be done soenor than that, but it could take until then. Watch LinnCountyParks.com, the project link, for updated information. We will also post it on the LCTA website as well.

    INPAWS : Hike Prairie Creek Barrens Restoration July 27 wrote on October 07, 2013

    [...] Fruits of our Labor: Restoration of Prairie Creek Barrens   View full hike report [...]

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