Welcome to Gibson Woods Nature Preserve and Environmental Awareness Center
Nature Preserve GPS coordinates: 41.599352,-87.45186
Exit I-80/94 north on Cline Avenue in Hammond to 169th Street. Travel west to Parrish Avenue, then north to Gibson Woods.
Gibson Woods is a special place
away in the heart of the industrial region of northwest Indiana is an
island of nature with some very unusual features.
This 131-acre parcel of virtually “undisturbed” land is known
as Gibson Woods Nature Preserve . . . a Lake County Park.
Woods is one of the last sizeable remnant of high quality dune and swale
topography remaining in the Midwest. Because
of the widespread urbanization and industrialization in Northwest Indiana,
this type of topography and its associated natural communities have been
almost entirely eliminated. The
rare environment, surrounded by urban development, was preserved because
it was part of railroad property of the Gibson Yards.
dune and swale features of the preserve were produced after the last
glacier created ancient Lake Chicago, the forerunner of Lake Michigan.
The parallel sand ridges still found in Gibson Woods today
represent the effect of Lake Chicago as it retreated thousands of years
Americans were the first visitors to the Gibson Woods area.
Although no tribes resided permanently in the preserve evidence of
several Woodland Indian seasonal campsites have been found.
The most recent native inhabitants were the Potawatomi, who used
the area as a hunting ground until their removal in 1830.
Gibson Woods area was almost uninhabited by European settlers until the
Michigan Central Railroad opened up the area by building the first
railroad in Lake County in 1852. Gibson
Woods was named for the Gibson station of the railroad, formerly located
just west of the preserve. The
area remained railroad property until the Nature Conservancy purchased it
in 1980. The Lake County Parks
and Recreation Department then purchased this tract from the Nature
Conservancy and it was dedicated by the state of Indiana as a Nature
Preserve on November 8, 1981.
unusual topography, high natural quality, flora associations and presence
of endangered plant and animal species make this a truly significant
natural area. It was the
unique natural character of the Gibson area that attracted scientists to
study plant and animal life here. Henry
Cowles, known as the father of ecology, studied plant succession in
Northwest Indiana’s dune region in the early 1900s including what he
called “a most interesting series of sand ridges alternating with
depression in the Gibson Station area.”
Today, it is still an area worth noting for many botanists,
ecologists and naturalists.
Woods’ topography is an exceptionally well-preserved example of the
landscape as it appeared in Northwest Indiana 4,000 year ago.
Although man has had some impact on the preserve throughout its
history, Gibson Woods has remained largely as it was.
It is this lack of disturbance that allows the preserve to have
such a variety of natural communities.
oak savanna dominates the dune ridged.
The sandy soil supports tallgrass prairie composed of native
wildflowers and grasses such as Big and Little Bluestem, Prairie Cordgrass,
Indian Grass, Fringed Gentians, Yellow Coneflower, Nodding Lady’s
Tresses and a host of others. More
than 300 species of plants have been identified in the preserve, several
of which are considered threatened or endangered.
of its natural diversity, Gibson Woods Nature Preserve provides differing
habitats which offer feeding and nesting cover for many animals.
More that 160 species of birds have been recorded here.
Certain species of animals inhabiting the preserve such as
Blanding’s Turtle and Franklin’s Ground Squirrel are endangered or
considered rare in Indiana. The
Karner Blue Butterfly, a federally endangered species, is but one
noteworthy example of the importance of the habitat preserved here.
preserving this area, the people of Lake County Indiana have created a
living museum for rare flora and fauna.
By protecting this tract of land we are preserving an important
link with the past. An aid in
that protection is prescribed burning, which is an accepted and practical
way to restore and maintain the prairie.
Before European settlers came to the area, fire was a natural
occurrence. Lightening strikes
would burn the prairie. Now,
unburned prairies leave dead and decaying vegetation which stifles growth
of prairie plants and deprives them of space and light.
Since prairies have an abundance of plants, insects, birds,
mammals, and reptiles, many found only in prairies, it is to our advantage
to keep the remaining prairie areas we have in Northwest Indiana.
trails allow the public to passively use the nature preserve.
The Gibson Woods Environmental Awareness Center, built in 1984 with
a grant from the Land and Conservation Fund, houses exhibits that
interpret displays such as the 6,000 year old Mastodon bones found right
here in Lake County, live reptiles and amphibians, and educational
displays. The Outdoor
Education staff offers a variety of interpretive tours, programs, and
lectures to the public throughout the year.
Many local school children visit the preserve as part of their
outdoor education curriculum. Interpretive
tours include an indoor program and a hike into the dune and swale
prairie. Programs are designed to fit the age and need of the school or
group. Nature programs like bird and wildflower walks are held throughout
the year, while groups like 4-H, and Dunes/Calumet Audubon Society utilize
the facility for meetings. Wild Ones Natural Landscapers is directly
sponsored by the Lake County Parks Department and acts in a volunteer
capacity to assist in seed collection, cleaning, growing, and replanting.
The park and Center
are closed on Mondays and holidays. When the park is open the
trails are open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. March through October and
from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. November through February and the Environmental Awareness Center is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For information about Gibson Woods call 219-844-3188 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
owned and operated by the Lake County Parks, Gibson Woods Nature Preserve
is a state dedicated preserve due to its rare plants and animals, some
listed as endangered.
FOR SCHOOL GROUP OR EDUCATIONAL TOUR RESERVATIONS CALL
Phone: 219-769-7275 or call Gibson Woods directly at 219-844-3188 for program information.
Lake County Parks and Recreation Department Corporate Office