Did you know that 85% of Indiana's original wetlands have been destroyed? In the last twenty years, scientists have begun to recognize the many benefits of wetlands. Little River Wetlands Project has risen to the challenge of restoring and preserving wetlands with the help of its many members and volunteers. LRWP now protects almost 1,200 acres of wetlands in the Little River watershed in Allen and Huntington Counties, Indiana.
It is land that supports vegetation that will grow only where it is wet at least part of the year. Yes, wetlands are defined by their vegetation! Typically, areas that are wet much of the year are interspersed with drier areas that are under water only part of the year or not at all. Special plants, trees, and shrubs that need lots of moisture grow in the wetter parts of wetlands. In upland areas, there will be different kinds of plants and trees. Taken together, the different habitats of wetlands form a functioning ecosystem with interdependent plants and animals, each contributing to the balance of the whole. To learn more about the habitats and wildlife of LRWP’s preserves, click here
LRWP's project area in the Little River watershed supported tens of thousands of birds and other wildlife before it was drained for agricultural use in the late 1800s. As the hydrology and habitats of our wetland preserves have been restored, wildlife have been returning in abundance. More than 225 bird species have been seen at Eagle Marsh alone.
About half of all federally endangered wildlife rely on wetlands for survival at some point in their life cycles. Our preserves’ natural and restored habitats include wet/marshy areas, sedge meadows, wetter and dryer prairies, mature forested wetlands and areas where native trees and shrubs have been replanted. Imperiled wildlife often need larger and wilder areas for their survival than other creatures do. LRWP is proud that 29 bird, two amphibian and one reptile species endangered or of special concern in Indiana have been seen at our preserves.
LRWP's wetland preserves offer numerous recreational opportunities including hiking, birding, and nature photography. Studies have found that nature experiences enhance people's physical and emotional health. Children especially benefit from being out in nature. LRWP's free nature education programs, serving about 10,000 children and adults annually, help visitors to our preserves learn about wetland ecosystems and the plants and animals that live there.
Eagle Marsh offers 11 miles of trails through diverse habitats. The Towpath Trail, a multi-use community trail, borders the preserve's north boundary with a trailhead and parking on Engle Road. Arrowhead Marsh's almost two miles of nature trails wind through marsh, woods and prairie. Arrowhead Prairie features about three miles of trails leaving from the demonstration nature garden area. The Buttonbush Bottoms preserve near Roanoke and Little River Landing preserve (co-owned with ACRES Land Trust) in Huntington may be open to the public at a later time.
Wetlands prevent flooding in our area and downstream because they hold rainwater and snowmelt that would otherwise end up in nearby fields, roads, basements and yards. The native plants in wetlands also clean up the water while it’s there. When the people of Toledo, Ohio couldn’t drink their tap water a few years ago because it was too polluted, experts recommended creating more wetlands to cleanse area waters. Scientists call benefits such as these “ecosystem services” that we should be valuing at billions of dollars per year.
LRWP’s wetland preserves also directly benefit Fort Wayne, Roanoke and Huntington because they beautify these communities and their surroundings, making them more attractive to area residents and newcomers looking for a nice place to live. Finally, there are economic benefits as the preserves attract visitors from out of town. For example, birders have come from as far away as New York City to see rare and endangered species at our Eagle Marsh and Arrowhead Prairie preserves.