Sycamore Land Trust Preserves, Part 1: Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula and Porter West

"You cannot begin to preserve any species of animal unless you preserve the habitat in which it dwells. Disturb or destroy that habitat, and you will exterminate the species as surely as if you had shot it. So conservation means that you have to preserve forest and grassland, river and lake, even the sea itself. This is not only vital for the preservation of animal life generally, but for the future existence of man himself — a point that seems to escape many people." Gerald Durrell, naturalist and author (7 Jan 1925-1995).

An organization which has taken Durrell’s point of view to heart is the Sycamore Land Trust, of which we are members. The primary goal of the Trust is to preserve and restore environmentally sensitive habitat here in southern Indiana and to do so Forever, as their motto states. To date, they protect 10,319 acres (41.75 km sq) with thirteen of their preserves being open for public use. Of course, preserving habitat cannot be achieved if people are not connected to nature, understand the importance of it, and are motivated to conserve it. Hence, another activity of theirs is providing extensive public education and engagement. A description of their current activities is contained in their newsletter, The Twig.

Although we have not been to all the Trust’s preserves, we have been to several and hope to eventually visit all of them. This first post contains photos from two preserves: Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula and Porter West. Subsequent posts will feature other preserves.

Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve

This is a relatively small preserve (48 acres, .2 km sq) that consists of a peninsula jutting into Lake Monroe. It is a lovely preserve with wonderful water views and is an easy walk along what appears to be an old farm road. Lake Monroe is a man-made lake that was completed in 1965 (10,750 surface acres; 43.5 km sq).

The preserve is very close to Bloomington. Take SR 446 south from Bloomington, go past the Scenic View restaurant on the right, pass the 446 Marine and Lake Monroe Boat Storage on the left, and pass the caution sign for Salt Creek Drive. The next caution sign will be for a left turn to East Rush Ridge Road. After the turn, you will quickly come to an intersection with East Rush Ridge Fork, bear left to stay on the very twisty Rush Ridge Road. (Note the name change.) According to Google, the parking lot for the preserve is .8 miles from that intersection. Because of its popularity, go early. Parking outside the very small parking lot is not permitted. Further information about the preserve may be found here, on the Sycamore Land Trust's site.

You will have a very pleasant walk along the peninsula with views of the lake on either side. The trees appear to be mostly maples and oak.

Porter West Preserve

This 188 acre (.76 km sq) preserve was donated by David Porter, who once used it for his composting business. It contains some attractive ponds, a small pioneer cemetery, limestone sinkholes, mature trees, and beautiful spring flowers, especially, Dwarf Larkspur (Delphinium tricorne). The property is approximately square shaped with several trails through it, of which there are 2.6 miles in total. The steepest trail runs south to north and is largely forested. An east-west trail through the mid-section of the square will have many wildflowers in the spring. Power lines run from the southwest to northeast and create a surprisingly interesting opening. The trees are cleared underneath the power lines, allowing plants that prefer more light to thrive and contrast with the fairly dense forest on either side. Once again, parking is limited. More information may be found here on the Trust’s site.

  • A sinkhole

    There are several of these, some of which are deep. They are a product of water leeching away the limestone below ground.

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