Northeast Indiana Birding Opportunities - Boot Lake Nature Preserve
Walk the trails of Boot Lake Nature Preserve and you might not guess it has an unusual past.
Just a few short miles from Elkhart and the Michigan border, the preserve offers upland woods, native prairie, and emergent wetlands – all rolled into a nice 300-acre bundle. Here, a birder can be a true explorer.
Observe carefully, and you’ll be rewarded with intimate encounters with rarities found few places in the state. In the native prairies, hear the hiccups of Henslow’s Sparrows and the rapid-fire chatter of Sedge Wrens coming deep from within a jungle of towering sunflowers and blades of bluestem. The overlook platform in southern prairie grants birders commanding views of restored grassland. Near sunset, the view here gets even more epic as flocks of waterfowl and majestic Sandhill Cranes soar low overhead as they descend onto the lake.
A portion of the site has a unique story, having been reclaimed from the city’s sludge farm. The transformed site is now a state-dedicated nature preserve, protecting Indiana’s rare and endangered plants and wildlife.
The preserve is named by the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area and it’s not hard to see why. With more than 230 bird species logged onsite, Boot Lake’s reputation as a migration magnet is well-deserved. Hike the woods during mid-May, and you won’t need to put your binoculars down as a kaleidoscope of warblers dance in front of your eyes. Time things right during migration, and you can find some truly elusive birds here. Along with tough-to-find warblers, like Mourning, Connecticut, Golden-winged, and Prairie in the spring, fall attracts some truly special finds – both Nelson’s and LeConte’s Sparrows have been found on-site.
As water levels on the lakes drop, eye-catching shorebirds may also drop in – like Wilson’s Snipe, Semipalmated Plover, and White-rumped Sandpiper.
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Address: 51430 CR 3, Elkhart, IN 46514.
Directions: Boot Lake Nature Preserve is located one-mile northwest of Elkhart. Take C.R. 5 north from C.R. 6. At the intersection of C.R. 4, continue C.R. 5 for .25 miles. Turn right onto C.R. 3 for .4 miles, then turn right onto Williams Lane. Follow the lane east to the Preserve’s parking lot.
Hours: Seasonal hours vary. January, February, November, and December: 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; March and October: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; April and September: 9 a.m.–7 p.m.; May, June, July, and August: 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Park hours are subject to change without notice.
Ownership: Elkhart County Parks
Trail Map: Download the map
Restrictions: Please obey all rules and regulations.
Parking: The gated parking lot is free to use and open during seasonal hours.
Nearby Amenities: The preserve has a picnic shelter and portable restrooms. Nearby Elkhart has fuel, food, and lodging six miles to the south.
Accessibility: The preserve features a 0.4-mile ADA-accessible gravel trail that runs through upland woods to the southern prairie.
Phone Number: (574) 535-6458
Written by: Annie Aguirre
Photo by: Annie Aguirre