Great features of the Great Lakes region: Indiana

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Pinhook Bog in Northern Indiana is part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Image: National Park Service

By Carin Tunney

Editor’s note:  This is part of a daily series featuring one natural attraction in a Great Lake state or province. Of course, with more than 4,500 miles of coast and a landscape carved by glaciers, each state and province has many more than one great natural feature. So nominate and make the case for your favorite in this state in the comments below. At the end of the series we’ll poll you on the region’s greatest natural feature.

Today: Indiana

Many might shy away from an environmental marvel in Indiana, mistaking it for a muddy mess. In reality, the Pinhook Bog is listed as a national landmark.

The 580-acre wetland is in Coolspring Township, south of the better-known Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

It is one of the southernmost bogs in the U.S.

“Pinhook Bog is a vivid example of one of our state’s great under-told stories,” said Mark Newman, the executive director of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development.  “It photographs beautifully, is home to some unusual flora and fauna and has an interesting backstory that dates back to the glacial period.”

Photographers enjoy fauna like this pitcher plant. Image: National Park Service

Bogs are relics left behind by receding glaciers. They form gradually when an area is cut off from groundwater.

The water in Pinhook Bog became acidic as many plants decayed, but sphagnum moss thrived and grew in floating mats, according to the National Park Service.

Unique plants like sundew, orchids and insect-eating bladderwort and pitchers, thrive on the mats. Other areas within the wetland support more traditional fauna like forests and shrubs.

“You’ll find an interesting contrast in plant life.” Newman said  “On the one hand, you’ll see carnivorous plants and on the other you’ll find wild blueberry bushes.”

The carnivorous bladderwort plant thrives within the bog. Image: National Park Service

A floating boardwalk creates a unique area for viewing. Birdwatchers also use it as an observation deck since the bog is a migration path for about 250 birds.

Before you visit, be aware that the upland trail is open, but the bog trail requires visitors to call ahead for permission from the park. The park also offers ranger-led hikes on specific days.

Share your favorite natural feature in Indiana in the comments.

We especially seek suggestions within the Great Lakes basin.  We’ll list the top nominees for each state at the end of this series and submit them all to a vote for the best natural feature within the Great Lakes basin.

Read the rest of the series:

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