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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

DNR Home > Divisions > Communications > Outdoor Indiana Magazine - Archives > Outdoor Indiana - March/April 2013 > Outdoor Indiana - March/April 2013 - Featured Stories Outdoor Indiana - March/April 2013 - Featured Stories

From the Director
Restoring a lost Tradition
Lake-effect bird-watching at Dunes
Treasures in your own backyard

From the Director

It's time to go outside
Robert E. Carter, Jr.

Director Robert E. Carter, Jr.Spring peepers. A bag full of morels. Wild turkeys and wildflowers. Sandhill cranes. Redbuds. Dogwoods. Strip pit fishing.

To borrow a line from “The Sound of Music,” these are a few of my favorite things.

Now I’m not much of a musical guy, but I do like springtime.

It’s the beginning of a new cycle as we pry loose from winter’s icy grip.

If the New Year’s resolution you committed to in January has been forgotten or put on hold, now is the time—springtime—to renew that pledge or make a new one that involves nature.

It’s easy enough to experience. Just go outside.

There’s no better place to lift your spirits than one of the many DNR state parks, state forests, nature preserves or fish & wildlife areas.

You’re bound to feel rejuvenated.

Short takes:

  • Free Advice: For the past several years, DNR has waived the fishing license requirements for Free Fishing Weekend in June. This year, there are four free fishing days, beginning with April 20. Additional days on which Indiana residents can fish without a license are May 18 and June 1-2.
  • Farewell: To James Glass, who recently retired as director of our Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, positions he held since 2007. He also wore those hats from 1990 to 1994. Jim, who writes a monthly column for the Indianapolis Star on the history and heritage of Indiana, hopes to do more writing on Indiana’s historic places and the American preservation movement.
  • Welcome: That might sound funny to long-time subscribers of Outdoor Indiana, but it’s meant mostly for those of you who are getting this magazine for the first time. Several hundred new subscribers came on board in December and another 1,600 are receiving OI as part of record sales for the popular Holiday Gift Pack. I hope you come to enjoy the magazine as much as we do.

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Restoring a lost Tradition

Food lovers and naturalists are redefining “weeds”
By Nick Werner
Photography by John Maxwell

Wild edible plants (left to right) violet, wild strawberry, wood sorrel and plantain were found growing on a suburban property near Columbus.From asparagus to zucchini, the cultivated plants we call fruits and vegetables were once wild; and for most of human existence, people lived by gathering those wild plants and hunting wild game.

Historically speaking, agriculture is a relatively modern concept, dating back only about 10,000 years.

On the Indiana frontier, pioneers used wild foods from walnuts to paw paws to supplement subsistence agriculture. In spring, woods and prairies flourished with fresh, vitamin-rich greens, a change of pace after a winter spent huddled inside a cabin eating bland starches and preserved meats.

In summer, fruits like blackberries and persimmons added even more flavor to the pioneer diet.

Fall offered tubers, nuts and seeds.

Information on which plants were edible—meaning they tasted good, or could be made to taste good, and wouldn’t sicken you—was passed down from generation to generation.

In recent years food safety recalls and growing obesity rates have stirred skepticism among some Americans about industrial food production. More people are turning to locally grown food, organic food and even wild food as an alternative.

Advocates of foraging acknowledge that wild foods will not replace agriculture. Wild foods are a snack in the woods, a side dish to a more conventional plate, or an ingredient in a larger dish.

Cutline: Wild edible plants (left to right) violet, wild strawberry, wood sorrel and plantain were found growing on a suburban property near Columbus.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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Lake-effect bird-watching at Dunes

A different kind of spring break
By Nick Werner
Photography by Frank Oliver

Bird watchers take to high ground shortly after sunrise at the dunes to help count and behold the bird migration through the area each spring. During spring 2012, the count tallied 285,383 birds of differing species.Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton has long been a magnet for birders-in-the-know. In 2012, however, the park embarked on an ambitious bird-counting project that DNR officials hope will benefit both science and the area’s tourism industry. Information gathered should improve understanding of spring migration and help boost the park’s reputation from regional birding destination to nationwide Mecca.

According to park naturalist Brad Bumgardner, there is perhaps no better place to experience the magnitude and diversity of spring migration.

That big lake is the reason.

Birds hit the brakes when they see Lake Michigan. Open water offers no food and nowhere for birds to land and rest. Water also doesn’t produce thermals, which are rising winds that help keep aloft large birds such as eagles and cranes.

Wary of a long flight over water, birds gather along the shore in large numbers. When flying conditions are favorable—which usually means a south wind—the birds work their way around water’s edge, often in huge flocks.

In previous years, for example, unofficial blue jay counts exceeded 6,000 a day.

Cutline: Bird watchers take to high ground shortly after sunrise at the dunes to help count and behold the bird migration through the area each spring. During spring 2012, the count tallied 285,383 birds of differing species.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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Tippecanoe River State Park

Mussel bound and speaking softly
By Marty Benson

Part of a series

The Hickman family from Pulaski County—Bonnie, Coleman, Lily and Jason—kayaks down the Tippecanoe River along the eastern side of the park during early autumn. “Peace like a river.”

The words pop up in songs sung by children, Paul Simon and more than a few church choirs.

The lyrics also describe this state park and the twisting, turning “River of Lakes” for which it’s named.

Time seems to stand still at Tippecanoe River State Park. Electronic evidence suggests it’s more than a feeling.

The park sits on the edge of the Eastern Time Zone, close enough to Central Time cell towers that mobile-phone clocks bounce back and forth with mere steps of their owners.

You’d best stick to a wristwatch. Come to think of it, if you’re at Tippy, you probably will have forgotten about time anyway. Or soon will.

Cutline: The Hickman family from Pulaski County—Bonnie, Coleman, Lily and Jason—kayaks down the Tippecanoe River along the eastern side of the park during early autumn. The park’s tents-only canoe camp and the 10 public access points along a 36-mile stretch up and downstream from the park allow for a variety of float-trip options.

To read the rest of this article subscribe to Outdoor Indiana or pick up a copy at most Barnes and Noble bookstores, and state park inns. To subscribe, click here or call (317) 233-3046.

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