A remnant of Indiana’s earliest settlers is now preserved along the Panhandle Pathway recreational trail south of Winamac along U.S. 35.
The 3.5 acre portion of the original Prairie Peninsula starts at County Road 400 South and goes north for 6/10 of a mile. The spot will serve as an informational and educational habitat along the trail, which sits in the bed of the former Pennsylvania Railroad. The spot was covered by railroad beds in the 1860s but has been reclaimed by nature in the decade since the railway has been vacated. The ability of the native vegetation to grow and tolerate harsh conditions, combined with their deep root system, have allowed them to thrive once again. The small area contains more than 38 species of native plants. They tend to protect the ecosystem by keeping soil from eroding and filtering water which flows into streams and rivers from silt deposits and pesticides. They also provide a habitat for birds, butterflies and wildlife.
At one time 15 percent of Indiana was covered by such prairie lands, but now only 1 percent remains. Friends of the Panhandle Pathway volunteers dedicated the land during a ceremony Tuesday evening. The 22-mile trail parallels U.S. 35 and runs from Winamac to Kenneth in the former railroad bed.