Left: View of the sedge meadow from the observation deck; all photos by historymike
(Toledo, OH) With the sun out and temperatures in the 40s I decided to pay a visit to one of my favorite outdoor haunts - the Irwin Prairie, part of the state nature preserve system.
Irwin Preserve is one of the last natural prairies in the area, and this 187-acre park is a peaceful reminder of what Northwest Ohio once looked like before the nineteenth century. Outcroppings of prairie like this were like oases in this swampy region.
Portions of the preserve are swamp and marsh, remnants of the Great Black Swamp that once dominated the area.
Left: Iced-over swampland in Irwin Prairie
There is a boardwalk that traverses through the preserve for pedestrians; it is a 1-1/4 mile loop trail beginning at the Bancroft Street parking lot. The posted signs remind parkgoers to remain on the boardwalk, but given the marshy conditions throughout, most visitors will heed this advice.
The DNR website for the preserve indicates a number of rare animals have been reported from Irwin Prairie, including sedge wrens, Bell's vireo, the least bittern, the golden-winged warbler, spotted and blandings turtles and the purplish copper butterfly.
I heard a hawk, but the only bird that came near me was a small warbler. After eyeing me for a few minutes, he apparently decided I was not going to provide him with anything resembling a meal, and he flew off.
If other animals were present, they were ensconced in burrows or nests. Unlike me they were not deceived by the appearance of the sun; the winds in the prairie blow much harder than they do in my West Toledo neighborhood, and it was not long before I regretted leaving behing my hat and gloves.
The path winds through several dense swamp forests. Some of the trees in the preserve tower above the others, and likely date back 150-200 years.
Howling through the trees the wind made a lonesome moaning sound, and I had a few moments of apprehension even though it was broad daylight. I was only a few miles from the modern world, and yet I could just as easily have been light years away from the nearest human being.
I suspect that Irwin Prairie would be positively creepy at nighttime.
This is part of a continuing series in which I profile area nature preserves.