Max and I have spent the summer visiting local points of interest, our last stop being underground at the Ohio Caverns.
This past Saturday, we visited the Cedar Bog Nature Preserve, located about four miles south of Urbana.
Cedar Bog is the result of a Ice Age hiccup from 14,000 years ago. As the last of the glaciers retreated, they hung a geologic louie, leaving, among other things, Ohio's highest point at Campbell Hill, and the Cedar Bog.
Unique is a word that is bandied about so much that it cheapens the meaning, but it is fittingly applied to Cedar Bog. Given the geologic convergence of 140 centuries ago, Cedar Bog is a living snapshot of the last Ice Age and is the home to a number of tiny but functioning ecosystems which are truly unique to this latitude.
Sally Engle is the President of the Cedar Bog Association and acted as our tour guide Saturday. She said that Cedar Bog is the home to scores of plants and animals that are considered rare, threatened, or endangered, including the Spotted Turtle, the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake and 11 species of orchids, which have no business being found in West Central Ohio.
(Above: A Hummingbird moth gets lunch from a Swamp Thistle)
Cedar Bog itself is a misnomer, as it's not actually a bog at all but a fen, the difference being that bogs have no water flowing in and out, while fens have both. The east and west branches of Cedar Creek therefore qualify the Preserve as a fen, but those who first named the place either didn't know or didn't care, so Cedar Bog is was named and so it remains.
It originally covered over 7000 acres, but agriculture over the past 200 years has reclaimed all but 450 and the Cedar Bog Association has painstakingly preserved what remains. A clean and modern Education Center - complete with a classroom, a lobby and up-to-date green technology - was erected several years ago, and a mile-long boardwalk runs through the preserve. The only paid staff is a part-timer, whose job it is to keep the boardwalk free from clutter and maintain the grounds. All the other work is done by volunteers.
Engle pointed out that Cedar Bog survives 100 percent on donations and admission collected from the tours. The site is owned and operated by the Ohio Historical Society - not the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, as might be expected - and therefore receives no state monies for upkeep.
Walking the boardwalk and exploring the various niches and mini-ecosystems is an interesting way to spend a couple of hours, but don't expect CGI-graphics or the Titanic to sink at the end of the tour. Cedar Bog is subtle, not spectacular, as beauty often is.
Some of the most interesting flora and fauna have to be sought out. We did not see one of the Spotted Turtles Saturday - Engle supplied the pic of the turtle below - but she did say that a one the local rattlers had been coming out on the boardwalk to sun herself. Other items of interest to Max and myself were the carnivorous Sundew and bladderwort plants. The Sundew lures its victims with sticky appendages, while the bladderwort traps its meals by means of a false tunnel then sealing off both ends before digging in.
Also expect to have to stay on the boardwalk, which can be a little slippery when wet. Jumping into the Bog to pick an orchid or fool with a Northern Spring Peeper is strictly forbidden, often illegal, and downright silly. Engle pulled a five-foot ree-bar from one spot in the Bog, then replaced it - straight down - leaving only about eight inches showing. If you go in and get stuck up to your liver in muck and marl because you wanted a 'closer look', you deserve having your rescue end up on YouTube's Top 10.
The eco-systems which thrive here range from prairie to savanna to a cedar swamp, named for the White Cedars that give the Bog its name and which are extremely rare for this latitude. The biodiversity makes the Bog a haven for birders, like myself, and flower watchers.
Cedar Bog Nature Preserve is located at 980 Woodburn Rd in Champaign County. Drive south from Urbana on US 68 about four miles and turn right. The Simon Kenton Bike Path runs all along the eastern edge of the Bog, making it a great terminus for a short bike trip.
Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for students. The Education Center is open form 10 to 4pm Wednesday through Sunday. The boardwalk is open form dawn until dusk and admissions at odd hours are on the honor system.
The Cedar Bog Association is also interested in booking tours of 10 or more, especially from schools. The Education Center is also available for groups. About a dozen people attended a workshop on biodiversity the day we were there and the facilities are modern, clean, and attractive.
To arrange tours or schedule events, call (937) 484-3744 or go to the website at www.cedarbognp.org