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Spicer Lake Nature Preserve

Spicer Lake Nature Preserve




Protects biological diverse wetland flora, fauna and/or their habitat

Supports significant numbers of wetland-dependent fauna, such as water birds or fish

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
  • Education


Conservation status: State/Province/Regional Protection

Adjacent Land Use: Agricultural (cropland, orchards, greenhouse)

Approximate natural buffer width:

> 100 ft

Other information:

Also low denisty residential, and pastureland.


Approximate size: The approximate size of basin wetland is 37.5 Ha.

General wetland characterization:

  • Inland Fresh Shrub Swamp
  • Inland Fresh Wooded Swamp

Adjacent Water Bod(ies):

  • Lake
  • Stream

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.


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


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: (SC) Blanchard’s Cricket Frog-Acris blanchardi, Sandhill Crane -Grus canadensis, Black-and-white Warbler-Mniotilta varia



Lindsey, A.A. D.V. Schmelz, S.A. Nichols. 1969.pdf

Flora and Fauna of Spicer Lake (PDF) BioBlitz info.pdf

Lake Management Plan IDNR 1982.pdf

Clifford, L.A., L.L. Garber, V.L. Riemenschneider 1991.pdf

Variations in fagus grandifolia.pdf

Geyer, L.A., E. Kirkwood, 1986.pdf



Applicant First Name: Evelyn Kirkwood

Applicant Last Name: Director, St. Joseph County Parks

Applicant E-mail Address:

Special thanks to Dr. Vic Riemenschneider for assistance with this application.


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