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Fall is a great time to explore the outdoors close to home, and a new series will help you do just that! The Watershed Foundation and our Clean Waters Partners (CWP) worked together to support the Kosciusko County Convention and Visitors Bureau in creating Blue Spaces and Wild Spaces Guides. The following information is a list of favorites from the CWP, but it is just a tiny portion of the blue and wild spaces available.
We want to encourage residents and visitors to reconnect with nature in our community. These spaces are also fantastic havens for improving your physical and mental health. Come with us on a digital journey to some of Kosciusko County’s best Blue and Wild spaces.
Blue spaces are vitally crucial to Kosciusko County! With over 100 lakes and 600 miles of streams, the options for you and your family to enjoy these natural resources are endless. Lakes are great for human health for various reasons including the number of negative ions concentrated in any body of water. These ions, although negative, have a very positive effect on the human body by helping control and balance serotonin levels. Simple water action of the lake also helps to improve moods and reduce stress, thus improving health. The lake’s blue water is calming which helps to reduce stress.
From the calm waters of Grassy Creek to the excitement of muskie fishing on Webster Lake, there’s something for everyone. Hook up your trailer and grab your paddles – Kosciusko’s blue spaces are ready for you!
A prominent blue space in Kosciusko County is Chapman Lake. Chapman Lake is two connecting lakes. Both Big and Little Chapman are glacial lakes. Approximately 680 acres of water are accompanied by 260 acres of wetlands that filter out pollutants contributing to the lakes’ health. Chapman Lake is also a popular destination for all water activities such as boating, swimming, fishing, canoeing, and more. Chapman Lake gives much to those that reside close to it; it is a beautiful natural resource.
Tippecanoe Lakes Chain
A favorite blue space of Lyn Crighton, Executive Director of The Watershed Foundation, are the three lakes that make up the Tippecanoe Lakes Chain. These lakes include Oswego, Tippecanoe, and James (often called Little Tippy). Crighton has many fond childhood memories at these lakes. These lakes offer many opportunities, such as swimming, kayaking, boating, and paddleboarding, for families to spend time together and enjoy their natural resources. There are various ways to get out on the water to enjoy it. Two marinas, Patona Bay and Tippecanoe Boat Company, offer boat rentals, with Patona Bay also offering kayak rentals. Grassy Creek offers a DNR public ramp, and there are three marinas that charge a fee to launch. These lakes provide wonderful opportunities to make lifelong memories like those Lyn has.
Grassy Creek is a unique blue space in Kosciusko County. Grassy Creek offers access to two different chains of lakes in northern Kosciusko County. Going north through one culvert pipe leads to the Tippecanoe Chain, and going south through the locks leads to the seven lakes of the Barbee Chain. CWP partner Sarah Baier says Grassy Creek is celebrated for its diversity of wildlife and plant life that users can easily view and experience.
If you make a trip to any blue space in Kosciusko County, there is a good chance you might see Darci Zolman of the Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation District launching her kayak. As water is prominent in her job and her personal life, she has a passion for educating students about the importance of water and water quality. Cherry and Eagle Creek are commonly used for these educational field trips that test water quality and search for smaller life in the water. Fun Fact: Cherry Creek runs through the Winona Lake Trails (one of our featured wild spaces) and drains into Winona Lake. While not quite deep enough to kayak, it is ideal for children and adults alike to catch crayfish, cool off after a long hike, or enjoy the views.
Wild spaces are anywhere you can be in nature, and preserves and nature trails are two ways you can easily access wild spaces in your hometown!
Winona Lake Trails
The Winona Lake trails along Cherry Creek offer terrain for all levels of hikers. This area is privately owned but is open to the public to enjoy. This area has been used for years as a respite for youth to re-engage with nature. All ability levels can easily be satisfied from a stroll through the woods on flat terrain to rugged uphill climbs. Cherry Creek offers diversity and a substantial amount of trails in a small area and is also home to a wide variety of plant and animal life. It is also well known for its biking trails, with the Fat and Skinny Tire Fest being hosted here every year. Sara Marty-Schlipf shares why these trails are an extraordinary place welcoming to anyone.
Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation Trails
Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation trails, also known as the WACF trails, are another unique wild space in Kosciusko County. These trails travel through the wetlands and hook up with the Conklin Bay area. CWP partner Pam Schumm with WACF says, included in the trails are boardwalks, educational signs, and plentiful parking at the WACF center. Conklin Bay Boardwalk, in particular, goes out into Conklin Bay and overlooks the wetlands. This boardwalk (connected via the Syracuse-Wawasee trails), although not included in the WACF trails, is connected to the system. State Road 13 offers a paved path from the WACF center to this boardwalk and another trail through the woods that provides access.
The Watershed Foundation’s Watershed Coordinator, Caitlin Yoder, says her favorite Wild Space is the Beyer Trail in Warsaw, Indiana. Caitlin is a mother to two young children. During the pandemic, she found there was nowhere to go with them, and they were getting cooped up. As any mother on a mission, she searched to find a place outside that was also contained yet still had the ability for her kids to run around.
The Beyer Trail has a lovely boardwalk where Caitlin’s kids can’t run off into traffic. Another great thing about the Beyer Trail is the abundance of wildlife. The Beyer Trail sits on a wetland surrounded by frogs, birds, and bugs, all things kids like to see. Not only is the Beyer Trail fun for families, but it is a significant area because it’s a wetland. Our wetlands do a lot to filter out pollutants or bad things we don’t want in our water. “Having this area protected and serving as a place of beauty and entertainment is an outstanding benefit as well,” Yoder explained.