Spotlight – Moraine Nature Preserve  Submitted byJohn Bacone Moraine Nature Preserve, located near Valparaiso in Porter County, is aptly named. It sits upon the Valparaiso Moraine, which was the terminal moraine formed by the southern edge of the Lake Michigan lobe of Wisconsinan glaciations. The preserve contains a number of natural communities that one might expect on morainal topography that consists of rolling ridges, steep hills, and wetlands. Here one can find small kettle ponds, muck pockets, potholes, marshes, seeps, swamp forests, ravine forests, and upland forests. Most of the preserve is forested, dominated by old second growth. The ravine forests are dominated by beech and sugar maple trees, with a rich wildflower understory. The drier uplands are dominated by several species of oak and hickory. There are several areas of former farm fields, in varying stages of succession. These fields were recently planted to trees, in the hopes that eventually the preserve will be a large closed canopy forest, so valuable to forest-interior breeding birds. One swamp contains a dense growth of buttonbush, edged with willows. The largest pond has a near complete cover of spatterdock. Blue-wing teal, wood ducks, and great blue herons are commonly sighted. Moraine Nature Preserve began with a donation of 193 acres from John and Mary Loiuse Womer.  Over the years, thanks to other donations, and acquisitions from willing sellers, it has grown to almost 900 acres in size. A parking lot and trail system provide access for visitors, and hiking is enjoyable in all seasons. More information can be found on the Division of Nature Preserves’