Rugged is the rule for accessing the interior of most DNR properties. Venture past the trailhead and you’re likely traveling on a dirt path. If the trail features a little gravel and a bridge over especially wet portions, it may qualify as deluxe. Mud, rocks, uneven terrain and hills are part of the charm of visiting the DNR’s natural areas, but not all visitors find these qualities equally appealing.
Nature lovers who want to experience the great outdoors without battling their way through it should consider the 128-acre Pisgah (pronounced piz-gee) Marsh Area. Pisgah is at the heart of four interconnected properties set aside for the preservation of plant and animal species. Its standout feature is the Pisgah Marsh Boardwalk and Golden Eagle Viewing Deck.
Running for about 1/3 of a mile atop a ridge over the marsh, the extensive boardwalk structure provides a bird’s-eye view of the wetland and surrounding area from the comfort of an elevated platform.
The boardwalk is truly open to all visitors; it’s Americans with Disabilities Act approved. The parking lot, restrooms and boardwalk (grades of 5 percent or less) are accessible to those in wheelchairs and scooters. Wooden railings have been replaced with wire at certain points so wildlife watchers with lower vantage points have an unobstructed view.
“The boardwalk was built to provide an opportunity for people to view the unique area without trails. People can view it anytime and not disturb the habitat. It’s a self-guided walk with various kiosks and little pavilions with information on what someone might see,” said Steve Roth, property manager of Pisgah Marsh, Tri County FWA, Pigeon River FWA and satellite properties.
According to Roth, the number and variety of animals that inhabit and pass through Pisgah Marsh is large, diverse and possibly rare.
“If you’re looking for birds, you could probably find well over 190 different species throughout an entire year of migration. As far as mammals go, deer, beaver, muskrat, fox, coyote, squirrel and mink are all common. Even some otter were released within the noble county area. But a couple of the most interesting species are the state-endangered massasauga rattlesnake and Blanding’s turtle,” he said.
More than a few vegetative species also call the marsh home. Many north-central Indiana tree species such as hickory, dogwood, tamaracks and a variety of oaks all grow at Pisgah.
Though the boardwalk is the property’s main attraction, visitors who see the sights from above yet still yearn for some ground-level exploration are in luck. Pisgah Marsh is comprised of four areas, the boardwalk and surrounding marsh are centrally located in Area 1.
The 180-acre Durham Lake Area, located directly south of Area 1, is open all the time and allows hunting and fishing (Area 1 does not). Primary species in the lake are bluegill and largemouth bass; check with the office at Tri-County FWA for information on special bass regulations. Durham Lake is 13 acres, has access for small boats, but does not allow gas motors.
Areas 2 and 3 are accessible by permit only. Contact Tri-County FWA for information on visiting these portions of the property.
All together, the Pisgah Marsh Area has 445 acres of marsh, grassland, lake and upland habitats. Roth said in order to keep these important habitats healthy, remember to carry out what you carry in and take only memories.
Informational packets to supplement the self-guided boardwalk tour are available for individuals and school groups, contact Tri-County FWA for details.
For more information about the Pisgah Marsh Area, including a printable map , visit IN.gov/dnr/fishwild or call Tri-County FWA at (574) 834-4461.
Getting there: From Ft. Wayne take U.S. 30 west about 30 miles to Indiana 5 and turn north. Take 5 just over 8 miles to County Road 850 N and turn west. Follow 850 N to the short lane leading to parking lot on right.
Originally published in Outdoor Indiana magazine.