Hike Report: Trine State Recreation Area

INPAWS Hike at Pokagon State Park’s Trine State Recreation Area

by Fred Wooley, Interpreter, Pokagon State Park

On June 8, 14 hikers joined me on the Pokagon State Park Potawatomi Inn sundeck for an INPAWS-sponsored hike to the new Trine State Recreation Area in Steuben County.

In 1969, the Indiana Natural Areas Survey first published Natural Areas in Indiana and their Preservation by Lindsey, Schmelz and Nichols. In my 1970 edition, there is a discussion of an area called Wing Haven in Steuben County. It is noted for glacial-made kettle hole lakes, wetland fens, and high quality upland woodlands. Nearly 200 acres, said the authors, “merit[s] the position at the very top of the priority ratings for potential nature preserves in Indiana.”

The Seven Sisters lakes have been the focal point of this property. The western three lakes were part of the Wing Haven parcel. Part of those 200 acres and two of the three small lakes were preserved as Wing Haven Nature Preserve by the ACRES Land Trust in 1984.

The land around the largest lake, Gentian Lake, had been sold to a church camp in the 1970s. Through the generosity of Ralph and Sheri Trine, in 2006 this land was purchased and given to the State of Indiana to be managed by Pokagon State Park as Trine State Recreation Area. By 2007, the ACRES Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Indiana Natural Heritage Trust and others contributed further funding and the land was preserved.

The INPAWS group carpooled to the SRA and stopped for a preview of the Swenson Lodge and one of the cabins that remain from the Wing Haven Resort days. We viewed from afar the wetland mitigation project that pulled out truckloads of sand and gravel that previous owners poured into the fen and lakeshore. We talked about the wetland and fen plants that were returning to populate the re-exposed muck soils.

Then we got up close and personal with the habitat that put Wing Haven and now Trine SRA on the priority list for state naturalists: the shoreline fen.

The INPAWS group entered slowly in single file, to have as little impact as possible on this fragile environment. Soon we were hip-deep in classic fen plants. We were flanked by a nice grove of deep green tamarack trees to the west and beautiful Gentian Lake to the south.  We saw shrubby cinquefoil and the early stages of big bluestem, dense blazing star, Ohio goldenrod, and brown-eyed Susan.

We entertained ourselves by having half the group stand still while the other half jumped. The ground rippled below us and we smiled, knowing the muck and water world many feet below. Then the other half jumped and the first group felt the effect.

In early June, the fen was not in full flower. (A later July visit by the Northern Chapter saw more mature, flowering plants.) As with school groups who visit for just one day, I told our hikers that the “quick look” is simply one lick of an ice cream cone. To get the whole cone, you have to come back at different seasons. See the fen in late summer when it lights up with blazing star in full bloom. Come back to enjoy Aldo Leopold’s “smoky gold” of the October tamarack.  See it in winter, laden with snow. Visit in spring before or after a prescribed burn.

We are working hard to open the property to the public. We hope to host a “soft” opening yet this fall and an official grand opening early next year. 

Original hike announcement with directions


    INPAWS : INPAWS Hike: Pokagon State Park & Trine State Recreation Area June 8 wrote on October 07, 2013

    [...] Pokagon State Park and Trine State Recreation Area, Steuben County, Indiana  View full hike report [...]

Leave a Reply