Great Marsh Trail Virtual Ranger Tour

Indiana Dunes National Park


Hey folks, I'm Ranger Kip, and I'm here to welcome you to Indiana Dunes National Park.

As you know, the park stretches from Gary, Indiana all the way to Michigan City, Indiana, about 22 miles, and we have a little over 15,000 acres. Now today we're here at the Great Marsh, and I'm going to be giving you a tour of this 1.2-mile trail. As you can see, we're going to start our hike here and take the trail through the wetlands up in this area here. There's a nice overlook observation deck.

So in the early 1900s, people thought of places like the Great Marsh as swamps and were places that needed to be drained because of the mosquitoes and the muck that was around. They didn't realize how important it is. So. follow me and we're gonna talk about how important this area is.

So, you've heard the term "drain the swamp." Well literally, that's what happened here in the 1900s. People came in, they put tiles in to drain away the water, so they can get rid of all the muck. the mosquitoes, and they can build their homes. In fact, this trail used to be a roadway. This area here has had a lot of disturbances.

In fact, our resource management team had to come in, and they spent many years rehabilitating this area to make it what it is today. So once the tiles were put in and the water was redirected and the quote-unquote swamp was drained. Homes were put in. Right over here, you can see we have remnants of an old home site. We got invasive plants here. Somebody had their home here. In fact, there were hotels and restaurants in the area, as well.

All right, so we're down the trail just a little bit further and I see a big patch of skunk cabbage here. The really unique thing about skunk cabbage is the fact that it's one of the first plants to come up in the spring--early spring--, and as it's reproducing, it actually produces heat, so that way, it kind of wards off any frost or anything that might kill other plants. Right next to that is May Apple, and underneath this little umbrella come May, it's going to be a little flower, and a fruit that grows, you can actually eat May Apple, but you got to make sure it's ripe, or else it might give you a little stomachache.

Over here we have golden ragwort, and this is another beautiful plant that's going to flower later on in the spring on the trail. You might see these plants here. They're beautiful. They're called marsh marigolds. Now marsh marigolds are poisonous, so you don't want to pick them and eat them. You can make dandelion soup or tea, but you can't make anything out of these things.

So you can see here, you can see the little stump right there, that's actually a beaver chew. So, beaver have come in and started chewing down the trees to make their lodges, and things like that. That's just one of the animals that you can find here in the marsh.

So you're probably wondering why I have this prop here. It's called a sponge. You guys have this in your house, probably in your kitchen. Well, in the 1900s, people didn't really understand how important wetlands were.

One of the things that the wetlands did was it absorbed moisture. If you had a hard rain, there wouldn't be flooding, because the wetland acted as a sponge. Also, I have coffee filters with me. We drink water, and water is very important to us, and guess what? The marsh actually would act like a coffee filter, and it would strain and make sure that the water was clean. So, that's important as well. I've got a baby in a baby crib, and guess what?

The marsh is a place where lots of different animals have their babies, and the babies here are protected by the the marsh, and grow into it into adults.

In fact, four out of every five bird species that are in the park use the marsh to breed, to find food, and just have protection. People come from all around to do birding. The great Marsh is one of those great places to do birding.

In fact, it's one of the places where waterfowl, on their migration, come to stop to get food and breed, and have protection.

Oh, here we go, we've got a hawk feather right here. That reminds me of the birds that I've seen out here. I've seen bald eagles, osprey, and even white pelicans out here. Some of the more common birds are blue-winged teal, and coots.

So we're here at the viewing platform of the Great Marsh. If you look over my shoulder, you'll probably see a sandhill crane. That's one of the birds that people come out to see. If you have a pair of binoculars like this, and a good camera, you'll have a great time out here. This is also fully accessible. We've got a parking lot just west of here, and a ramp that leads to the lookout.

So we've come to the end of the trail here, and I'd just like to thank you guys for coming on a hike with me today. There's lots of trails out here, over 50 miles of trails, so please, come out and enjoy the national park. Thank you.


Join Ranger Kip, as he will be discussing some interesting features along the Great Marsh trail, including bird-watching, its history, environmental benefits, and more.


6 minutes, 1 second


Indiana Dunes National Park

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