Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve


Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve is a National Natural Landmark, and one of the largest prairie remnants in the state. It may be hard to believe, but in 1974, winter wheat grew where the large expanse of reconstructed prairie now stands immediately south and west of the parking area.

The best time to see most of the flowering species is probably late summer, when the plants use some of the energy they’ve stored in the warmer months to put on a spectacular show.

Hoosier Prairie

Prairies and savannas depend on fire, and the DNR uses periodic controlled burns as necessary, so your visit may show signs of recent burning. Also, despite the size of the property, there’s no real escape from civilization here.

Noise from nearby highway and rail traffic is virtually continuous and usually loud, while large petroleum tanks loom to the south. Even so, this is a great place to visit.


Trails

Gravel paths skirt the eastern edge of the reconstructed prairie, and a short spur offers limited access to its interior.

Beginning near the southern end of the gravel path, a sandy quarter-mile trail loops east through a thin line of trees into virgin prairie.

The ground is wet in spots and the species mix is different, for both plants and animals. This is important habitat for a variety of reptiles and amphibians, though you will be lucky to see any. Cattails and sensitive fern are common, and iris are present.

Where the ground is higher (and drier), the plants are typical of tallgrass prairie. Look for coneflower, rattlesnake master, blazing star, vervain, and many other species.

A 0.3 mile loop attaches to the eastern end of the previous trail. It passes through slightly higher ground, dominated by oak savanna. The sandy soil hosts large stands of bracken fern and sweet fern is abundant.

Despite its name, sweet fern is a shrub, not a fern. Its leaves, however, do emit a sweet-smelling aroma, especially when crushed.


Directions

Lake County. From US 41/Indianapolis Blvd at the border of Highland and Schererville, go east 0.75 miles on Main Street to the parking area on the right.

North 41 31.373 West 87 27.455
DeLorme 18:D4


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Facilities

None.


Nearby Natural Areas

Cressmoor Prairie Nature Preserve
Gibson Woods Nature Preserve


References

Habeck: Wild Indiana; Page 9
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
McPherson: Indiana Best Hikes; Page 140
Nature Conservancy: Guide to Indiana Preserves; Page 126