Sycamore Land Trust acquired the Columbia Mine Preserve in 2012; it occupies more than a thousand acres. As the name suggests, part of the property is a reclaimed coal mine, now home to a series of lakes and large meadows (pictured below). It also connects previously separated portions of the Patoka National Wildlife Refuge, thus helping to create a significant contiguous block of habitat. I don’t know what to think of this place. On my last visit it was visually striking but eerily quiet. There was a large beaver lodge on the shore of one of the lakes but otherwise things seemed almost too perfect, as if life hadn’t fully returned. On the other hand, those who know better than me report bobcat and river otter, among other exciting finds. So I expect great things when next I return.
The adjacent Patoka National Wildlife Refuge offers several trails to the southwest of Columbia Mine. Boyd Trail has a pier that extends into Snakey Point Marsh; it’s worth a gander. Maxey Marsh Nature Trail is my favorite, if often overgrown.
Directions: Gibson and Pike counties. From I-69 Exit 33, east 4.0 miles on IN 64 to 1275 East, then north 0.3 miles to 75 South, then east ¼ mile. Turn left onto 1300 East, which angles northeast; this will bring you into the area in the lower left corner of the sketch above. I won’t try to explain all the various options you have from that point. Instead, I hope you’ll forgive me if I suggest you consult the sketch and explore as your interests dictate.
GPS: N 38 22.007 W 87 18.907 (Laura Hare Lake Lot)
GPS: N 38 21.124 W 87 19.013 (Boyd Trail Lot)