This wetland nature preserve in Muncie offers visitors a gorgeous look into a wetland ecosystem…right in the heart of the city.
Prior to the settlement and agricultural development of Indiana, much of the state contained vast acres of wetlands. The World Wildlife Foundation defines wetlands as “a place where the land is covered by water” and they “often support high concentrations of animals – including mammals, birds, fish, and invertebrates – and serve as nurseries for many of these species.” Wetlands might be bogs, marshes, sedge meadows, swamps, or other areas where water, plants, and animals form a tight ecosystem.
It is estimated that between 1800 and the early 1900s, the Hoosier state lost millions of acres of natural wetlands – some 85% of the original land is lost. To counteract the loss of such valuable ecosystems, the state advocates and promotes “the restoration and creation of high quality wetlands throughout the state, and to conserve and protect Indiana’s remaining wetlands.”
Located in the heart of Muncie, John M. Craddock Wetland Nature Preserve is a great example of a restored wetland area. The Craddock Preserve sprawls across 27 acres and is equally divided between woodland, wetland, and prairie.
A fantastic, ADA accessible walkway snakes through the Preserve allowing anyone to enjoy the natural landscape and the flora and fauna that have reclaimed this area of Muncie. The trail includes an elevated boardwalk through the wetland area that “guides trail users, nature enthusiasts, educators, researches, and students through a diverse native landscape.”
The Craddock Preserve is especially significant in that it exists next to an old industrial site that is currently being rehabbed as the Kitselman Pure Energy Park. The Craddock Preserve was named after Muncie’s long-time serving Bureau of Water Quality chief, John M. Craddock.
Craddock dedicated 31 years of his life restoring the White River in Muncie, focusing on point-source pollution and monitoring and the elimination of raw sewage. His work increased the number of fish species “from 30 to 65 and the fresh water mussel (clam) species” from “0 to 15.” His work, in part, led to the establishment of national EPA guidelines for clean water.
Craddock Preserve also connects to the Cardinal Greenway by-way-of the White River Greenway, a 5.54 mile asphalt biking/jogging/walking trail that runs adjacent to the White River through Muncie and connects with the larger Cardinal Greenway.
The trail at Craddock Preserve offers several lookout areas and a large pavilion exists near the center of the site.
The Preserve is managed by Red-Tail Land Conservancy, a Muncie-based non-profit that manages over 2,700 acres of natural areas in east-central Indiana.
I’ve enjoyed the Craddock Preserve during all times of year, but it is especially beautiful in spring-fall. It’s worth the trip to Muncie.