Merry Lea

Merry Lea is a remarkable place that includes eight miles of well maintained trails that traverse a wide variety of habitats. Goshen College uses it as an environmental learning center, and thousands of area schoolchildren pass through each year.


Merry Leaís area has increased over the years, and it now incorporates more than a thousand acres. It includes much of the shoreline of Bear Lake, and encompasses numerous wetlands, meadows, and woods; indeed, represented ecosystems include most of those found in northeastern Indiana.


The trail network is dense, with many junction points (marked by letters on posts) allowing a variety of routes. Be sure to pick up a trail map at the learning center, adjacent to the parking lot.

My favorite area is around the Onion Bottom Wetland, a short stroll to the north of the parking area. Once an onion field, this restored wetland (second image, left) is now full of life. Even the dead trees that rise like skeletons above the water's surface host woodpeckers (and no doubt many burrowing insects).

Onion Bottom

Trails circle the wetland and short spurs allow closer inspection at several spots. Look for turtles, ducks, dragonflies, the occasional snake, and Canada geese that will insist on noting your presence with extended and noisy commentary.

The path through Bear Lake Prairie offers views of Onion Bottom and Bear Lake, as well as an opportunity to get your feet wet, as the tread is often partially under (shallow) water. Trails also extend to the northwest and northeast; the latter area more recently farmed. The land in this part of the preserve retains some of its agricultural character, along with an old farmstead.


Noble County. From the intersection of US 33 and IN 109 at Wolf Lake, go south 2.2 miles on IN 109, then right 0.9 miles on 350S, then north 0.5 miles on 500W to the marked entrance; continue down the drive to a parking area.

North 41 18.564 West 85 31.028
DeLorme 22:H3

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Learning center.

Nearby Natural Areas

Bender Nature Preserve
Chain O'Lakes State Park
Crooked Lake Nature Preserve
Dygert Nature Preserve
Greider's Woods


Bloom: Hiking Indiana; Page 39
Habeck: Wild Indiana; Page 38
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Nature Conservancy: Guide to Indiana Preserves; Page 148