Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve
A sign near the entrances states that Wesselman Woods is home to trees as old as four hundred years, and that the property contains the largest tract of virgin timber remaining in Indiana. The Forest Service makes a similar claim for Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest (page 115) in Orange County, but Iíd rather spend my time enjoying the trees than trying to resolve that discrepancy.
The Main Trail should be your first choice. It heads east from the nature center, right through the heart of the preserve. Massive trees tower overhead and itís nearly impossible to avoid shuffling along, gaping at the monsters all around you.
Fortunately, the path is quite flat, and where the underlying ground isnít, legions of Eagle Scouts have toiled over the years to build a nice set of raised walks that minimize stumbles and wet feet.
Lindsey et al. (1969) report that tulip poplar and sweet gum dominate these woods, though other species are present, including red, white, and pin oaks, red maple, and green ash. They also note that the cross-sectional area of tree trunks per acre in the preserve is the largest they observed anywhere in the state.
The slowly rotting carcasses of fallen giants litter the forest floor, and smaller trees quickly fill those voids, racing for the sky. The woods also support a nice selection of wildflowers, though they donít seem to be as dense as in some other preserves.
Be sure to traverse the Pond Trail, which follows an elevated walkway through ephemeral ponds that support spotted, marbled, and smallmouth salamanders. The Boonville Trail hugs the northern edge of the woods, paralleling a deep swale that was once the Wabash & Erie Canal; the trail itself follows an abandoned rail line.
Vanderburgh County. From the intersection of US 41 and the Lloyd Expressway, east 1.3 miles on the expressway, then exit onto Boeke (pronounced Bakey) and proceed 0.4 miles north on Boeke to the park entrance on the right. Follow park roads about a half mile east to a parking area near the nature center.
North 37 59.090 West 87 30.735
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Nature Center, water, bathrooms.
Nearby Natural Areas
Habeck: Wild Indiana; Page 99
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
McPherson: Indiana Best Hikes; Page 461
McPherson: Nature Walks in Southern Indiana; Page 486