Limberlost Swamp

Coordinates: 40°36′00″N 84°56′50″W / 40.60000°N 84.94722°W / 40.60000; -84.94722
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40°36′00″N 84°56′50″W / 40.60000°N 84.94722°W / 40.60000; -84.94722

Deilephila lineata - Illustration of the Book "Moths of the Limberlost"

The Limberlost Swamp in the eastern part of the present-day U.S. state of Indiana was a large, nationally known wetlands region with streams that flowed into the Wabash River. It originally covered 13,000 acres (53 km2) of present-day Adams and Jay counties. Parts of it were known as the Loblolly Marsh, based on a word by local Native Americans for the sulphur smell of the marsh gas. The wetlands had mixed vegetation and supported a rich biodiversity, significant for local and migrating birds and insects, as well as other animals and life.

European Americans drained the Limberlost for agricultural development early in the 20th century, destroying the rich habitat. Since 1997, parts of it have been restored. Observers have documented a return of insects, birds, and wildlife of all sorts to the restored area of wetlands. Approximately 1,500 acres (6.1 km2) had been restored as of 2015. Several groups supported purchase of lands for what is now known as the Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve, which was turned over to the state and is held by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Origin of name[edit]

According to the History of Jay County by M.W. Montgomery, published in 1864, the name Limberlost came from the following event:

A man named James Miller, while hunting along the banks of the swamp, became lost. After various fruitless efforts to find his way home, in which he would always come around to the place of starting, he determined to go in a straight course, and so, every few rods he would blaze a tree. While doing this, he was found by friends. Being an agile man, he was known as 'limber Jim,' and, after this, the stream was called 'Limberlost.'

The Indiana State Museum contends, "The swamp received its name from the fate of 'Limber Jim' Corbus, who went hunting in the swamp and never returned. When the locals asked where Jim Corbus was, the familiar cry was 'Limber's lost!'"[1]

Draining, development, and restoration[edit]

After being drained from 1888 to 1910 by a steam-powered dredge, the area was cultivated as farmland for 80 years.[2] In 1991, local citizen Ken Brunswick established "Limberlost Swamp Remembered," a group organized to restore some of the wetlands, because of their importance as habitat. The work has included removing or blocking drainage tiles, allowing water back on the land, and planting native species of trees, bushes and flowers. As of 2015, The Loblolly Marsh had been entered into Indiana's Wetland Reserve Program by five owners; it was purchased with funds from The Indiana Heritage Trust, ACRES Land Trust, Ropchan Foundation, M.E. Raker Foundation, and Friends of the Limberlost/Limberlost Swamp Remembered Committee.[3]

An alternate name for the area was Loblolly Marsh. This name has been said to have been derived from a Miami language word for "stinking river," related to the sulfur smell of marsh gas[4]). However, the Oxford English Dictionary says that "loblolly" means a thick gruel or porridge, and that it occurs in the US as a colloquialism for a mud-hole. One quotation given by the OED, from The Log of a Cowboy by the Western writer Andy Adams, is "His ineffectual struggles caused him to sink farther to the flanks in the loblolly which the tramping of the cattle had caused."

Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve

The restored marsh has already attracted numerous species of insects, birds, and animals as the first major section has been restored. The 428-acre restoration project was dedicated as the Loblolly Marsh Wetland Preserve in 1997.[4] Activists have included students from Ball State University, who participated in restoration activities, such as planting native habitat. Approximately 1,500 acres (6.1 km2) have been purchased and restored.[5]

As of 2015, the Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve is held by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. It has a parking area and walking trails, including Veronica’s Trail--0.25 mile wheelchair-accessible wooden boardwalk built to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The preserve's floodplains connect to the Wabash River and support river bulrush, sedges, prairie cord grass, burr reed and cattails. The upland area contains a 25-acre mature woodland of hardwood trees.[6]

Representation in media[edit]

  • Indiana-born author Gene Stratton-Porter helped make the Limberlost Swamp famous in the early 20th century. She lived for years on its periphery and lobbied unsuccessfully against its ongoing destruction. The swamp served as the setting for two of her novels, Freckles (1904) and A Girl of the Limberlost (1909). Her novel The Harvester (1911) includes the names of many of the plants found in the swamp around the time the book was written. Stratton-Porter was also an accomplished artist and wildlife photographer who specialized in making close-up photographs of the birds and moths in their natural habitat. Several of her nonfiction nature books, including Moths of the Limberlost (1912), feature the swamp's wildlife. Her residences in the area became the laboratories for her research. They are preserved today as the Limberlost Cabin, the Limberlost State Historic Site in Geneva, and the Cabin at Wildflower Woods. The Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites operates Stratton-Porter's former homes as state historic sites, which are open to the public.[7][8]
  • Romance of the Limberlost (1938) is an American moving picture based on Stratton-Porter's writings and directed by William Nigh, and starring Jean Parker and Eric Linden.[9] It is set in Indiana's Limberlost region in 1905.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Land of the Limberlost", Indiana State Museum, accessed 27 February 2015
  2. ^ "Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  3. ^ "Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  4. ^ a b "Limberlost and Found" Archived 2015-02-27 at the Wayback Machine, Audubon Magazine, accessed 27 Feb 2015
  5. ^ "Limberlost Restoration" Archived 2012-12-05 at the Wayback Machine, Our Land, Our Literature, Ball State University, accessed 7 January 2012
  6. ^ "Loblolly Marsh Nature Preserve" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  7. ^ "Authors: Gene Stratton-Porter". Our Land, Our Literature. Ball State University. Archived from the original on July 8, 2003. Retrieved July 26, 2017. See also: Archived January 11, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Gugin, Linda C., and James E. St. Clair, eds. (2015). Indiana's 200: The People Who Shaped the Hoosier State. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press. pp. 333–35. ISBN 978-0-87195-387-2. {{cite book}}: |author= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) See also: Long, Judith Reick (1990). Gene Stratton-Porter: Novelist and Naturalist. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. ISBN 0871950529.
  9. ^ Romance of the Limberlost at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata

External links[edit]