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Spicer Lake Nature Preserve


The Spicer Lake basin lies within the Valparaiso moraine formed during the waning stages of Wisconsinan ice sheet during its last advance in the Lake Michigan basin. The basin was probably formed when a large block of ice separated from main ice sheet and was surrounded by later morainal deposits.  The basin contains two small kettle lakes and a large central mat anchored at west end by a kettle lake and red maple-black ash-elm swamp forest. The eastern 2/3 is mainly a shrub swamp on a floating peat/sphagnum mat (> 1.1 m thick) with an open water hinge line around the edge. The basin harbors several state endangered and threatened species. The two small lakes are seasonally stratified, dystrophic, and contain benthic and plankton flora similar to more northern lakes.  The lakes are surround by a yellow pond lily and swamp loosestrife floating ring that grades into a button bush-winterberry-swamp rose-blueberry shrub zone.  Behind the shrub zone is the red maple-elm-black ash swamp forest.  The wetland is used by Canada Geese, Sandhill Cranes, Wood Ducks,  Red-shouldered Hawks, and several warbler species for nesting.  In addition many bird species use it during migration including flocks of Rusty Blackbirds. The peat in the wetland and lakes holds a record of the floristic history of the region and was recently used to examine the history of American Beech in the area.  As an Indiana state-dedicated nature preserve, it is recognized by the Indiana DNR as a site worthy of protection. (IDNR Nature Preserves listings by county.) It is owned and managed by St. Joseph County Parks. A quarter-mile boardwalk, two additional viewing platforms and roughly 7 miles of trails exist within the property and make this wetland accessible to hikers, wildlife watchers and nature photographers. 

Exemplary Ecosystem Services

Aesthetic/Cultural Heritage Value/Provisioning

Recreation (birdwatching, ecotourism)

Flood storage/mitigation

Carbon storage

Water quality improvement


Conservation Status and Threats

  • Conservation status

    State Protection
  • Adjacent land use

    Agricultural (cropland, orchards, greenhouse)
  • Approximate natural buffer width

    > 100 ft
  • Other Information

    Also low denisty residential, and pastureland.


  • Approximate size (ha):

    The approximate size of basin wetland is 37.5 Ha.
  • General wetland characterization:

    Inland Fresh Shrub Swamp, Inland Fresh Wooded Swamp
  • Adjacent water bod(iess)

    Lake, Stream
  • Approximate stream order

  • Name of body of water

    Headwaters of Dowling Creek; Legal drain: Sandmeir Ditch. Spicer Lake. Lancaster Lake.
  • Surficial geology

    The basin lies within the Valparaiso end moraine composed of glacial medium to fine grained end moraine deposits.  The coarser textured soils of the ridge between the Lancaster Lake basin and main basin suggests an outlet stream may have formed between the ice blocks in the early stages of development.

  • Soils

    Houghton muck  (HO); Marsh (Mc); Milford silty clay loam (Mp); Palms muck (Pa); Wallkill silt loam (Wk)


Flora and Fauna

  • Dominant flora

    Acer rubrum, Fraxinus nigra, Ulmus americana, Lindera benzoin, Ilex verticillata, Cephalanthus occidentalis, Bidens connata, Boehmeria cylinderica, Osmunda cinnamomea
  • Unique flora

    Lycopodium lucidulum, Woodwardia virginica, Carex alantica ssp capillacea (state endangered), C. bromoides, , C. crinita, C. intumescens, , Coptis trifoliata , Lycopus rubellus, Maianthemum canadense, Medeolea virginiana, Peltandra virginica, Viola pallens, Viburnum cassinoides (state endangered)
  • Dominant fauna

    Northern Banded Watersnake; Central Mud Minnow, Painted Turtle; Downy, Hairy Woodpeckers; Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat; Eastern Screech Owl
  • Rare fauna

    (SE) Blanding’s Turtle-Emydoidea blandingii; (SC) Blanchard’s Cricket Frog-Acris blanchardi, Sandhill Crane -Grus canadensis, Black-and-white Warbler-Mniotilta varia


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