Trails & Beaches

Heron Rookery absolutely beautiful this time of year…and soon you will have more acres to hike!

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April 19, 2016

When looking for a place to hike in the spring, look no further than Heron Rookery. Located just off 450 East, you can find the rookery’s west entrance. There is just a 3 car lot and it can be easy to miss, but a quick look on google maps should get you in the right direction. Off this west lot is a pathway into a completely different world. The trail leads towards the Little Calumet River and wildflowers are popping up everywhere you look.

And soon there will be new areas to explore!

Shirley Heinze Land Trust just announced that it has acquired a 165-acre property along the Little Calumet River in Porter County. The property is located south of and contiguous to Heron Rookery Unit, which is approximately 460 acres. This will now create a block of preserved land of some 625 acres on the Little Calumet River.

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“This is the single largest acquisition in our 35-year history and it nearly doubles our total holdings in the Little Calumet River corridor, bringing them to 320 acres,” says Executive Director Kristopher Krouse.  “The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation, Save the Dunes, the Indiana Bicentennial Nature Trust, and other partners were integral to this achievement.”

At the end of 2014, the Indiana Bicentennial Nature Trust designated the Little Calumet River Corridor as a special conservation area for land acquisition funding. Since then, Shirley Heinze Land Trust and other partner organizations have focused acquisition efforts there. The Porter County Izaak Walton League has also acquired land east of the Heron Rookery, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has established the 1,250-acre Reynolds Creek Game Bird Habitat Area on land transferred from the Department of Corrections.

Beautiful at all times of the year, this area is especially gorgeous now. While walking through the trails, false rue anemone, bloodroot and yellow trout lily are in abundance. Many different birds can be heard as well as the water from the river running. All of this, along with just your footsteps and the sounds of nature, gives this area an extreme sense of peace and makes you feel like you are in a fairy-tale land.

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Yellow Trout Lily. Photo by Stephen Lehman.

Shirley Heinze Land Trust has been protecting natural land in the southern Lake Michigan watershed of Indiana since 1981. More than 1,900 acres in Lake, Porter, and LaPorte Counties have been preserved for the public’s benefit. Shirley Heinze nature preserves feature significant scenic and ecological value, and most are open to the public for hiking and enjoying nature.  The organization protects, restores, and maintains examples of the entire spectrum of the region’s rich and significant natural communities, including tallgrass prairie, high dune, oak savanna, boreal flatwoods, dune-and-swale, woodlands, marshes, swamps, ponds, fens, and riparian habitat.  Five of its properties – Cressmoor Prairie, Seidner Dune & Swale, John Merle Coulter Preserve, Barker Woods, and Ambler Flatwoods – have been dedicated to the people of Indiana as state nature preserves. 

You can see the wildflowers too! Sign up for a Dig the Dunes guided hike here!

You can read about more of the areas trails and nature preserves right here.

Photos taken by Stephen Lehman

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