Hikers at Merry Lea

Merry Lea to offer glacial geology field trip

To the geology buff, the feature marks the path of a torrent of melt water that flowed beneath a glacier, depositing gravel along its path. It is called an esker and serves as a clue to the way climate change over 15,000 years ago still shapes our lives and our economy today. While the Grand Canyon may offer more dramatic scenery, local landforms have a story of their own to tell that is just as fascinating. Those who are curious about the slopes and swamps of northern Indiana will have a rare opportunity to understand them better on Saturday, November 6, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., when Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College hosts a day-long geology field trip.

Larry Yoder, Goshen, Ind., will lead the tour. As a botanist who grew up on a family farm, Yoder couldn’t help taking an interest in soils. His fascination with geology expanded in the early 1980s when he became director of Merry Lea–a nature preserve where ecological diversity is largely shaped by glacial activity.

“Early November is the perfect time for a geology field trip,” Yoder observed.

“Since the leaves are off the trees and the fields have been harvested, glacial landforms are easy to spot as we travel the country roads.”

The day will include slide-illustrated lectures, short hikes and driving. In the morning, Yoder plans to show the group Merry Lea’s esker and peat deposits as well as nearby agricultural areas that illustrate how human beings have made use of Indiana’s glacial heritage. The group will drive by an abandoned peppermint still and down Noble County’s famous Onion Avenue to see Long Swamp, an area that was drained for onion and peppermint farming.

The tour group will then head southeast to see Noble County’s Mississinewa and Salamonie Moraines and visit the Eel River Sluiceway and Cedar Creek Tunnel Valley in northern Allen County.  

One afternoon highlight will be a visit to a small gravel pit on The Yoder Farm, Huntertown. There, participants can practice their rock identification and learn how the size and orientation of deposits tell much about water flow at the edge of a melting glacier. This area is also the site of ongoing studies by Dr. Mike Prentice and a team from the Indiana Geological Survey because it includes the Huntertown aquifer, a major water source for residents of the Fort Wayne area.

Prentice studies glaciers in the Antarctic and Greenland and he has been employing his understanding of these modern glaciers to interpret what took place to create the deposits found near the Cedar Creek.

To register for Merry Lea’s geology tour, call 260-799-5869 or email jenniferhs@goshen.edu by November 1. The fee is $30 per person and includes a guidebook, hot beverages and transportation for the first 13 people. Bring a sack lunch.

Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College is a 1,189-acre nature preserve located in central Noble County, midway between Fort Wayne and Goshen. Merry Lea’s landscape includes a diversity of forest, prairie and wetland ecosystems. The center provides environmental education to people of all ages, including over 7,000 school children each year. Merry Lea was created with the assistance of the Nature Conservancy and the generosity of Lee A. and Mary Jane Rieth. To learn more, visit their website at www.goshen.edu/merrylea.

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