Outdoor Indiana - July/August 2016 - Featured Stories

From the Director
INDIANA’S TALLGRASS PRAIRIE
Becoming Grand again
Falls of the Ohio State Park

From the Director

Together, toward restoration
Director Cameron F. Clark

Director Cameron F. ClarkHelen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

One of our functions is to restore Indiana’s natural, cultural or historic resources. We pursue some opportunities on our own, but at other times engage in collaborative efforts to meet the goal.

Nowhere is that more evident than in two efforts coming to fruition this year.

One was construction of a nearly 2-mile-long berm across Eagle Marsh, a restored wetland near Fort Wayne that is co-owned by the DNR and the Little River Wetlands Project.

In 2010, Eagle Marsh was identified as a potential route for Asian carp to migrate from the Wabash River watershed to the Maumee River watershed and on to the Great Lakes. Since then, DNR worked with several federal, state and local partners to prevent that.

In mid-May, the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee visited Eagle Marsh to celebrate completion of the berm, along with our federal partners in the project—U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Indiana/USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and U.S. Geological Service.

We also are partnering with many of those agencies and others to restore the Grand Calumet River in northwest Indiana.

In “Becoming Grand Again,” starting on page 34, senior writer Nick Werner explores the massive cleanup project that is turning this once “toxic liability” into a valued natural resource.

Proving once again we can do so much more together than we can alone.

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INDIANA’S TALLGRASS PRAIRIE

What’s left of the state’s original grasslands offers natural beauty
By Nick Werner, OI staff
Photography by Frank Oliver, OI staff

Purple prairie-clover grows at German Methodist Cemetery Prairie.Six hikers descended a wooded ridge and plunged into a prairie that extended almost as far as the eye could see.

The scene at Fisher Oak Savanna Nature Preserve in northwest Indiana was something almost all early settlers who moved through Indiana would have experienced—an emergence from the vast Eastern forest into a wide-open landscape, a grassland ocean that stretched to the Rocky Mountains.

Tom Post, a DNR ecologist who led the hike, took advantage of the moment.

“Look toward the horizon,” he said. “Start erasing all the farm buildings and all the individual trees. You are at the edge of Indiana’s prairie. Thousands of acres looked like this.”

This was no amber-waves-of-grain prairie either. It was an almost impenetrable composite of grasses, sedges and wildflowers known as tallgrass prairie. More than 100 plant species blanketed the landscape in a scattershot of purple, pink, yellow and white.

Cutline: Purple prairie-clover grows at German Methodist Cemetery Prairie, which is a black-soil prairie remnant along U.S. 41 North in Lake County that covers 2.7 acres.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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Becoming Grand again

Cleanup is transforming Rust Belt liability to asset
By Nick Werner, OI staff

Photography by Frank Oliver, OI Staff

A great egret stands in a restored portion of the Grand Calumet River. Generations in northwest Indiana have treated the Grand Calumet River like a junkyard dog.

They avoided it at all cost.

“Do not enter. Do not swim. Do not eat the fish. You’ll disintegrate,” said Marino Solario, who grew up in East Chicago and is now the city’s planning and economic development director.

For as long as he can remember, the river has been a toxic liability, stigmatizing the already hard-hit communities that surround it. Like the abandoned buildings of Gary, the river had come to symbolize other economic problems and disadvantages this Rust Belt region had endured.

That is about to change.

“It’s a sight to see,” Solario said. “And it wasn’t before. You used to be able to smell the petroleum in the water.”

The Grand Calumet, one of the most polluted Lake Michigan tributaries, is undergoing a $288 million cleanup through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Cutline: A great egret stands in a restored portion of the Grand Calumet River.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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Falls of the Ohio State Park

Much more than fossils
By Marty Benson
Part of a series

The collecting piles near the interpretive center parking lot offer the chance to take home fossils trucked in from local quarries. Wear a snorkel while walking the fossil beds at Falls of the Ohio State Park and you’ll likely turn heads.

But Alan Goldstein, the park’s long-time interpretive naturalist, might understand.

The limestone beds, the signature feature of Indiana’s smallest state park, jut out of the Ohio River in the Louisville metro area. Their petrified images attest to the geological period known as the Devonian, when a shallow, tropical sea covered the entire expanse.

That sea is why the park’s interpretive center, which reopened in January 2016 after a $6 million renovation, kicks off its new exhibits with underwater scenery.

Globally, the area once sat 30 degrees south of the equator. It was part of the sea’s bottom. Now, except when the Ohio River is high, many of the fossils are dry. Some people squirt them with water to see them better.

Goldstein calls hiking the beds “dry snorkeling,” because, he says, “you are snorkeling but you don’t need a mask. You don’t need flippers.“Flippers would make it hard to walk around here.”

Most of the fossils beds—which are divided into upper, lower and outer—are accessible only from summer through mid-fall. The rest of the year, only the upper beds, those handily closest to the parking lot, are accessible.

Cutline: The collecting piles near the interpretive center parking lot offer the chance to take home fossils trucked in from local quarries. Many of the piles’ fossils are similar to those in the river’s fossil beds, which cannot legally be removed.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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