“A great trail that takes you right into the heart of a biologically diverse marsh wetland habitat.
— Rafi Wilkinson
Birding · Wildlife
A nice loop around the largest wetland in the Lake Michigan watershed!
Free parking and access. Open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm. No bicycles or motorized vehicles allowed. Stay on the trail to protect wildlife and yourself. Pets are allowed on a leash (6' or shorter).
Need to Know
There are no restrooms or potable water source.
The Great Marsh is the largest interdunal wetland in the Lake Michigan watershed. It serves as a critical habitat for breeding and migratory birds. This popular trail features an overlook of the marsh where you can spot a wide variety of birds ranging from Great Blue Herons to Sandhill Cranes. While much of the marsh was drained in the early 1900s for residential and agricultural use, the National Park Service began restoration of this portion in 1998. To protect the birdlife, no pets are allowed on this trail.
The trail may be muddy or slippery. Wear adequate footwear. The trail length from the south parking lot around the eastern loop, to the observation deck and back to the south parking lot is 1.7 miles.
A handicap parking spot is provided at the north lot. There is a paved road from this lot to the accessible overlook.
Flora & Fauna
Flocks of coots, mallards, and wood ducks now glide over the wetlandâ€™s surface. Kingfishers, tree swallows, and rusty blackbirds rest during migration. Green herons stalk the shoreline while beaver play in the channels. The Great Marsh abounds in the diverse animal activity of a healthy wetland ecosystem. During the migration periods, the wetland will be frequented by flocks of ducks and geese. The wading birds like herons and egrets, and the song birds such as warblers and red-winged black birds are again abundant.
The diversity of plants, birds and habitats signifies the return of a healthy wetland ecosystem after decades of neglect. Now restored, the Great Marshâ€™s fens, sedge meadows and wet prairies are again thriving and providing the natural filter to improve the area's water quality.
History & Background
The national lakeshore was established in 1966 to preserve for the educational, inspirational, and recreational use of the public, certain portions of the Indiana dunes and other areas of scenic, scientific, and historic interest and recreational value in the state of Indiana. About two million annual visitors enjoy the parks 15,000 acres of wetlands, prairies, sand dunes, oak savannas, forests, and historic sites. The parks beach hugs the southern shore of Lake Michigan from Gary, IN, to Michigan City, IN. For more information, visitnps.gov/indu/planyourvisit/…