One recent adventure took my mother, sister and I out to Green River State Wildlife Area to explore the area’s fall colors.
About six miles north of Ohio, this gem is a mix of swamp, prairie and wooded areas. The landscape is reminiscent of what Lee County looked like hundreds of years ago before the swamps were drained for farming. It’s a perfect off-the-beaten-path destination for hikers looking for some solitude and light to moderate exertion.
Green River can be accessed by a network of several country roads that border and cut through the 1,000 or so acres. It’s littered with parking lots for the mainly hunters and equestrian groups who use the space. When we went, we had the paths almost all to ourselves.
This year’s drought dried out even the marshiest areas of Green River but fortunately did not drain all the color from the changing foliage. The first path we walked on led around bits of prairie and woods and opened to a wide field. To get the most out of this, take a field guide with you for identifying plants. Fortunately I was with a walking field guide when it comes to that subject, so I heard the names and other facts about such plants as lamb’s ear.
The park doesn’t seem like it was designed primarily for hiking, because there are no trail maps. You don’t quite know where you’re going to end up when you embark on a path, but that’s part of the fun.
We sidestepped on a few offshoot trails for a quarter mile just to see where they led. One path we walked on, or rather waded through, was a mowed over cattails and reeds in a dried up slough. The sun was falling toward the horizon when we turned back and caught the most spectacular light.
Fall and spring are the best bets for experiencing either peak floral or fauna activity. Visit before most of the birds have migrated. One of the drawbacks of our trip was that there were very few birds, and we had been looking forward to seeing and identifying them. On the plus side, there were plenty of fall colors: gold in the trees, deep red in shrubbery, and everything in between.
I counted at least five species of wildflowers as well. I can only wonder what Green River looks like in the spring when a plethora of blooms are emerging.