FT9 - FENS: More than "Peat with calcareous seepage..."

Day: Sunday 7/8
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Trip Leader: Steven Byers
Email Address: Steven.Byers@Illinois.gov

Trip Limit: 25

Fens: More than "Peat with calcareous seepage..." This description of fen wetlands, taken from the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory, fails to convey the unique assemblage of plants and animals that led the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to describe fens as "...perhaps the most unique wetland community in the continental United States." Participants in this day-long tour of Trout Park Nature Preserve and Bluff Spring Fen Nature Preserve will witness two of the finest surviving fens in the entire Midwest. Both sites were identified on the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory in recognition of extant, high-quality natural areas. Trout Park, because of its juxtaposition on ridges overlooking the east bank of the Fox River, supports a forested fen. Here, we will descend from an oak-dominated woodland into a groundwater discharge zone supporting Great Angelica, Skunk cabbage, and Marsh marigolds. Nearby, Black and blue ash and white cedar flourish along cold, groundwater-fed streams cascading down north-facing slopes. Less than 17 acres of forested fen survive in the State. Less than a half hour away is Bluff Spring Fen Nature Preserve. The hallmark of this 130+ acre mosaic of oak savannas, prairies, and wetlands are the graminoid fens and calcareous seeps. Learn how the landscape favored the formation of these wetlands. Narrow trails lead through Ohio goldenrods, Valerians, and Flat-topped asters; species that define the graminoid fens. Volunteers and resource professionals will regale participants in successful restoration efforts; including the critical, early role of volunteers to preserve this site and their continued experimentation with tools (from loppers to bulldozers). Learn more about the effects (if any?) of frequent burn rotations on habitat-restricted butterflies, reintroduction of the Swamp metalmark, and long-term trends of the 12 State-listed species found at this site. At this time of the year, you may meet the Baltimore checkerspot or chance upon a Grass pink orchid. Finally, resource professionals will share efforts to identify and protect the groundwater resource upon which Bluff Spring Fen Nature Preserve is dependent, and engage in "lessons learned." You will leave, after touring these sites, that fens are indeed much, much more than "...peat with calcareous seepage."The field trip will be in Elgin, IL so with the round-trip travel, the trip will be all day. Participants should dress for weather (possibly hot or wet), Hiking shoes are a must. Lunch included.

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