For those in search of a more advanced Steuben adventure, Woodland Bog is the place to go. It’s another treasure hidden just off the beaten path. In fact, if you blink you’ll literally miss the small sign on the north side of the road just off 100 N. This trek isn’t for the beginner, those with little energy, or the directionally challenged. Just to reach the bog, visitors must hike a quarter mile back following a fence through a field. Yes, those are country directions, but there really isn’t any other kind when you get out into the “wilds” of Steuben!
When you come to the place that looks a little like the Haunted Forest from the Wizard of Oz, you’ll know you’ve reached the entrance to Woodland Bog. Why would anyone want to do such a thing? Because this is a very special bog. For starters it’s incredibly old. Whereas most bogs are lakes that have grown over with peat moss, Woodland Bog has past that point and, as its name suggests, has transitioned back into a wooded area. It still has a slightly spongy peat floor, which can be muddy at times. Make sure to wear footwear you don’t care if you ruin.
Bogs, which can also be called fens, muskegs, quagmires or just plain mires, are really important parts of the ecosystem. They help with lowering greenhouse emissions by naturally storing carbon dioxide. A famous bog in Russia was recently calculated to remove 52 teragrams of carbon annually from the atmosphere. They can also be great natural preservation “bins” for archeologists. Human remains such as the Haraldskaer Woman and Lindow Man have been found fully preserved in European bogs. Not to mention a 5 thousand year old Neolithic farming area, including huts and field walls was found fully preserved under a bog in Ireland’s County Mayo. In the US plenty of Native American artifacts have been found in bogs.
Steuben’s little Woodland Bog most likely doesn’t contain any dead bodies under it,at lest not human, but it does boast a wide variety of trees from big tooth aspen, to pin oak, and the reds, elm, maple, and osier dogwood, not to mention swamp white oak and tamaracks—a benchmark of true bogs. But some of the coolest features of the bog are the cinnamon and royal ferns. The plants grow up to six feet tall. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you were in the tropics! (Wait until midsummer to see.)
The trails are not maintained, which adds to the jungle-like atmosphere. But if you’re up for an adventure, there’s plenty to jump over, climb through, and discover in this ancient wonder.
Just take US 20 east from Angola to 100 E and turn north. At 100 N turn east and drive 1.4 miles to the preserve. There’s a 10-foot easement next to the sign on the
left side of the road to pull off and park.
Erika Celeste is an award-winning journalist who has worked in radio, print, television, and marketing. She owns and operates New Moon Media Group where she’s written several documentaries and books.