Nature Notes

Squishy Sounds at the Quaking Bog (Fieldtrip to Theodore Wirth Park)

Editor’s Note: We know that staying connected to nature is important, especially as we cope with a global pandemic. Since the Arboretum is temporarily closed to visitors (including walkers), our Minnesota Master Naturalist volunteers are finding other ways to share their observations of the natural world. We wish to open our gates to public soon, but until then, we hope you are all finding ways to enjoy nature. Find Arboretum COVID-19-related updates and information here. 

By Sydney Chandler

Although the Arboretum’s Bog is currently inaccessible (along with the rest of the Arboretum grounds), there’s another great local bog to explore!

Quaking Bog from Above

The Quaking Bog, part of the network of trails at Theodore Wirth Park, is a spongy and floating system of mud, grasses, roots, fallen leaves, and lingering ice chunks. The floating boardwalk wanders through the bog, and, in many places, appears to be swallowed into the bog itself! Each step is slightly uneasy . . . the floating walkway moves slightly as bodyweight transfers along the path, water seeps up through gaps in the plastic, and the clinging moss flexes with the influence of human weight. But tentative footsteps have silver linings: being extra quiet in this space means it’s easier to hear geese calling, to hear the squishing of muddy water, to hear squirrels rustling in the leaves, and to notice cardinals jumping to new perches in the trees.

Boardwalk Into the Bog

Looking closer at foot-level, there are intricate small plants emerging from the woven mess of last season’s grasses and leaves. Roots twist out of the moss and dive back into the muddy mass like giant green earthworms. The smell of this fresh wet mud is a wonderful blast of springtime. It’s a smell filled with layers of decomposition, healthy soil, melted snow, and it hints the new growth that will emerge in spring.

Roots, Grasses, and Moss

The Theodore Wirth Park Quaking Bog, like the Arboretum Bog, feels like an escape into another word. There are amazing sights, sounds, and smells to notice in adventures big and small!

From the Bog Trail

Sydney Chandler is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.

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