Nature walks shouldn’t end with the arrival of winter

By Shawndra Miller, Central Indiana Land Trust communications manager

The arrival of winter turns nature monochromatic, leaving what might seem like a bleak landscape. The leaves have turned and mostly fallen, and most native plants go dormant.

But take a closer look. Winter’s impending arrival doesn’t have to mean the end of nature walks.

Nature preserves are a great place to connect with the peace of the season. Whether it’s the stately old growth forest of Meltzer Woods in Shelbyville or the easily accessible Oliver’s Woods in the Keystone at the Crossing area, exploring the woods in winter offers its own delights.

From the red berries of the native wahoo to the frilly yellow blooms of witch hazel, the season brings intense color variations. Later in the winter, Eastern skunk cabbage emerges from the muck like a promise of spring.

When it comes to trees, autumn tends to get all the glory. But tree appreciation in winter can be a quiet, meditative affair. Without leaves clinging to their crowns, trees reveal their uniqueness and beauty in other ways: The fringed acorns of a burr oak. The thorns of a honey locust. The distinctive “alligator bark” of a persimmon tree.

For the third year, Central Indiana Land Trust is offering a winter tree ID outing at Oliver’s Woods. This nature preserve along the White River has many beautiful mature trees. It is well-loved for its views of the river and the potential for spotting bald eagles and other wildlife.

White River Steward, Grace van Kan, will be joined by volunteer docents in leading the walk the morning of Saturday, Dec. 9. Participants will walk an easy 0.6-mile trail to explore the riverine nature preserve and welcome the turning of the season.

While the event is free, preregistration is required at

The preserve is open to the public from dawn to dusk for family outings or more solitary rambles.

Headquartered in the Old Northside, the Central Indiana Land Trust stewards nature preserves throughout the central third of the state. For more information or to pre-register for events, visit

PHOTO ABOVE: The wahoo (left) and witch hazel plants are among those which provide color during this time of year.