John Merle Coulter Nature Preserve is situated in northern Porter County, adjacent to the Indiana Dunes National Park.
A century ago, the land here was an incredible mosaic of rolling oak savanna and wetlands. Today Coulter Nature Preserve is relatively flat (find out why!), but no less fascinating. Owned and managed by Shirley Heinze Land Trust, the property is one of roughly 300 nature preserves dedicated by the State of Indiana. The distinction affords it the highest level of natural area protection available in the Hoosier state.
My dear friend Barbara Plampin introduced me to Coulter some years ago. Barbara is a superbly-skilled amateur botanist—the doyenne of the Indiana Dunes, to anyone who knows her. She was among a group of dedicated volunteers who worked to ensure the Coulter site was permanently protected.
I try to visit Coulter a few times each year. The landscape is varied, the terrain easy to walk—important for those with less-than-perfect mobility—and the scenic beauty never fails to rejuvinate. The preserve is lovely in all seasons. In the spring and early summer it shouts color. As the warm season slips away, it whispers in subdued shades and textures. It truly is a special place.
Let me share what I discovered on my most recent trip.
Grasses and sedges and rushes (Oh my!)
The grasses and grass-like plants take center stage in September. They monopolize every vista. Their slender stems and delicate seed-heads dance on the breeze.
The eye is always caught by the light, but shadows have more to say.
— Gregory Maguire
Going Out in a Blaze of Glory
These harbingers of autumn twinkle across Coulter's landscape.
Getting to John Merle Coulter Nature Preserve
John Merle Coulter Nature Preserve is located on the east side of County Line Road between US 12 and US 20 in Portage, Indiana. It is bounded on the north by the MonoSol industrial plant and on the north and east by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Limited parking is available adjacent to the preserve entrance, on the east side of County Line Road.
Bonnie Hawksworth is a fundraising professional, non-profit leader, and avid nature lover based in the Indiana Dunes. For nine years, Bonnie worked with Shirley Heinze Land Trust, the owner and manager of John Merle Coulter Nature Preserve, on initiatives throughout northwestern Indiana. Now she's helping other nonprofit groups exceed even their most ambitious goals. Bonnie is committed to giving back to her local community and growing awareness and support for the organizations that improve the quality of life in Northwest Indiana.
Bonnie can be reached via email at BonnieMHawksworth@gmail.com.