Woodland sanctuary with wetland features amid farm fields
Extraordinary spring wildflowers
96 acres, 8 miles of multi-use trail, (2 miles handicapped-accessible)
Behind the Scenes
Bluhm recently linked to a new system of pedestrian-bicycle trails following the route of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train
Take I-94 east into Indiana, exiting at U.S. 421 South (Westville exit). Go south about 6.5 miles to County Rd 300 South. Turn right/west and travel 0.9 mile to County Rd 1100 West. Turn left/south, go 0.7 mile. Parking on both sides of the road
Into the Wild
Bluhm County Park
LaPorte County, IN
Photo: Ron Trigg
FROM A DISTANCE, the forest floor at Bluhm County Park seems dusted with fluffy white snow. Upon entering the early April woods, however, the visitor will find instead a blanket of thousands of cut-leaved toothworts. Farther along the trail, false rue anemones appear in numbers almost as great, then colonies of bloodroot. Patches of large-flowered trilliums cascade over fallen logs, while spring beauties provide pale-pink groundcover at the feet of still-bare maples and tulip trees. Here and there, blood-red prairie trilliums and the green hoods of Jack-in-the-pulpit emerge, and yellow trout lilies dangle their bell-shaped flowers. Deep-blue common violets dot the perimeter of the woods, and lucky visitors may happen upon Dutchman’s breeches, squirrel corn, and nodding trillium.
Bluhm County Park, with its spectacular assortment of spring wildflowers, might as well be called Bloom County Park, as its name sounds. The small woods are undeniably at their most glorious in the first half of April, but the show actually starts in March with the appearance of harbinger of spring and hepatica. It continues through the woodland phlox and waterleaf of late May.
“The spring wildflower display at Bluhm is our best-kept secret,” says LaPorte County Parks Superintendent Tim Morgan, “but we don’t mean to keep it hidden. With a good system of trails, we have tried to make the flowers accessible to all.”
The preserve is comprised of two units: a 31-acre wooded nature preserve on the east and a 65-acre woodland-wetland complex on the west, with some six miles of mountain bike trails. A corridor connecting the units has visitor amenities, wetland and prairie restorations, and a string of well-used bluebird nest boxes.
Local farmers Gayle and Lucille Bluhm donated the land to the LaPorte County Park Foundation in 1990. “They were nature lovers and wanted both to preserve the land and make it available for the public’s enjoyment,” notes Foundation President Jim Jessup. “Neither survived to see the land developed as a park, but I think they would approve.”
While the east unit is justifiably famed for its wildflowers, some find the more remote west unit just as rich. The narrow, curving mountain bike trail gives hikers access to a greater variety of topography and takes them past wetlands where additional floral riches thrive. Bicyclists and nature lovers have coexisted well at the park. After more than ten years of heavy use, Morgan says, the bike trails haven’t noticeably encroached into the surrounding woods.
Photo: Ron Trigg
The preserve, a wooded oasis in a still largely agricultural area, attracts a strong showing of birdlife. Woodpeckers and owls frequent the woods year-round, herons and waterfowl visit the wetlands, and warblers and other transients come through during the spring migration.
Visitors can also make use of a picnic shelter, fenced dog run, playground, and fishing pond. For public hikes and volunteer opportunities, call (219) 325-8315.
— Ron Trigg