If you’re interested in seeing one of Indiana’s most unique natural areas - over 14,000 years in the making - then Pinhook Bog near Michigan City is the place for you. For those unfamiliar with the term, a Bog is a unique ecosystem that forms when a wetland only takes in water from rain or snow. Pinhook Bog is even more distinctive for being a “Quaking Bog,” where moss has grown into a semi-solid mat floating above the water. Bogs tend to be very fragile ecosystems and Pinhook Bog is no exception: usually a gate closes off the trail leading over the Quaking Bog to protect the landscape.
On Earth Day this past April, Rangers opened the gates and held special talks and tours of the area. My family and I attended and learned that the Bog formed 14,000 years ago when a glacier fragment carved out a spot for freshwater to pool. The water harbors a level of acidity that only a few kinds of plants can tolerate.
We learned a great deal about the Bog’s history, composition, and ecology from the Rangers stationed on the boardwalk.
The plants that populate the spot are among the rarest in the state: according to the Rangers, one-third of Indiana’s endangered plants reside at Pinhook Bog. In one afternoon, you can see Tamarack’s, Pink Lady Slippers, Orchids, and the carnivorous Pitcher Plant, Bladderwort, and Sundew. (That’s right – the last three catch and eat insects. If you happen to be there at the right time, you can actually witness this process!)
The Bog trail is only about half a mile in length. It is mostly flat, though since the walkway extends over the moss mat floating on the water, it does shake gently under your feet, letting you know why this is considered a “quaking” Bog. This can be unsettling if you have trouble with balance, but my family loved it, at times seeing the water bubble and gurgle up around our feet from the holes in the walkway.
Given the uniqueness of the plants, the natural history, and the fun of walking over an actual mat of moss, my boys thought it was one of the most fun and educational hikes they had ever done. We are very fortunate to have one in our region’s backyard.
Pinhook Bog is located off Wozniak Road, near the I-80/90 overpass. It will be open to the public every Sunday from Memorial Day to the end of September. Rangers will be there on those days to talk about the ecology and history of this very special place in our state. Parking is limited, so try to arrive early. If you enjoy unique natural areas, I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to this special place where you’ll be treated to a pleasant walk, beautiful plant life, and the unearthly sensation of the ground literally moving beneath your feet.
Pinhook Bog is part of the Indiana Dunes National Park.
Photo credits: Jeanette Jaskula and Michael Nichols