Old growth on Main Trail
Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve is an Indiana State Nature Preserve and National Natural Landmark. This old-growth lowland forest is a crucial habitat for a wide variety of animal species, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds. A Nature Center on the western edge of the property offers hands on educational exhibits and a wildlife observation area. On-site programs are offered to school, civic and scout groups throughout the year. No other city in the United States with a population exceeding 100,000 has within its corporate limits, a timber stand of such acreage and sylvan qualities.
Wesselman Woods Nature Center
Visitors to Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve enter this unique urban forest through an interpretive center. This facility offers hands on educational exhibits, a wildlife observation area, a gift shop, and two class/activity rooms. Nature Center staff provides programs to school, civic and scout "groups throughout the year. Refer to our Programs section for specific opportunities. The Nature Center is also utilized for special events throughout the year, including a Maple Sugarbush Festival in March and the Ohio Valley Birding Festival in late April-early May. Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve offers several options for private group activities as well. Wesselman Nature Society naturalists lead programs both on-site and off-site at your school or business. Class/activity rooms, a large campfire circle, and the Odonata Pond area are all available for rental. Birthday party packages are available as well. Contact Wesselman Nature Society for more information on program registration or rentals: 812-479-0771.
Photo by Lisa Hoffman
A Walk in the Woods
The trails through Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve allow visitors an extraordinary opportunity to view Indiana as it was before European settlers arrived. Fortunately, the majority of the Preserve has remained untouched through the years.
There are over six miles of walking trails within the Preserve that lead visitors through stands of massive old-growth trees of various species, through areas densely populated by native wildflowers (spring is the best time to spot these beauties!) and other plantlife, on a raised boardwalk above forest wetlands adjacent to a seasonal pond, and along historical remnants of two railways and the Wabash-Erie Canal.
Tremendous Trees and Plantlife
This lowland forest is of exceptionally high quality. The mean density of trees is high (125 trees per acre) and the canopy starts far above the forest floor. Many canopy level trees exceed 100 feet tall, some of which are estimated to be nearly 300 years old. The basal area of 187 square feet per acre is the highest known for any woods in Indiana.
Despite the moderate variation in elevation within the woods (only 20 ft) there is a wide diversity of tree, shrub, and wildflower species – the last survey team identified more than 125 species of plants! The degree to which sweet gum and tulip trees dominate the canopy, the large number of other trees in the canopy, combined with southern influences, set Wesselman Woods apart from other woods in Indiana.
Saving a Place for Wildlife
Wesselman Woods provides crucial habitat for a wide variety of animal species, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds. This urban forest is abundant with mammals such as raccoons and squirrels, and is often frequented by white tail deer. There are even occasional sightings of fox and coyote.
Visitors marvel at the many woodpeckers, warblers and other songbirds that reside in or migrate through the forest. Owls and other raptors also regularly inhabit the woods. Efforts to protect the declining populations of rare species, such as the marbled salamander, continue.
Although the Preserve primarily consists of forest habitat, this property also includes a reconstructed prairie, a seasonal pond, a manmade pond, and a grassy berm. These features allow habitat for a greater diversity of wildlife.
Visit the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Nature Preserves website to learn more about the importance of Nature Preserves and old growth forests in Indiana: