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June 7, 2013

Emmons Pond Bog is pretty easy to enjoy

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The Daily Star

---- — Last week in the "What’s Happening?" part of this column, I mentioned that Dr. Kudish was speaking at Balsam Lake Mountain about peat bogs.

I later remembered that there is a sphagnum peat bog in this area as the Emmons Pond Bog is just off of Swart Hollow Road on White Hill Road.

Bogs such as this were formed when the glaciers receded about 11,000 years ago. Usually having no inlet, these glacial pots filled with water but were only maintained by rainfall. Rain is very low in nutrients, so only mosses and other small plants could grow. As they died off, the water became more acidic. The sphagnum moss created a floating mat around the pond over the centuries.

Sphagnum moss can absorb more than 25 times its weight in water and blocks out sunlight in much of the pond. The water in these bogs turns into the color of tea.

In 1970, the Nature Conservancy purchased the 140 acres of land that contained the bog. Their purpose is to conserve wild places.

Sometime in the late 1980s, I made my first visit to Emmons Pond. My wife and I went there again Wednesday and found that things have changed quite a bit. It seems that sometime since my first visit, beavers had moved in and dammed up the outlet. This dramatically raised the water level and increased the size of the pond, thus killing many of the surrounding trees.

Years before, there was a boardwalk out on the bog where you could observe the extremely fragile environment. I remembered there were clusters of pitcher plants along the boardwalk, so I had hoped to photograph them Wednesday.

The pitcher plant is a unique plant that eats insects. It’s carnivorous. It has deep-folded leaves and resembles a tall, narrow vase. The plant holds a sweet-smelling liquid that attracts flies and other insects. When the insects go in and attempt to sip the sweet nectar, they cannot get back out and are slowly dissolved by the plant.

I guess that with the rising water at the bog, the boardwalk has disappeared, but we enjoyed the walk on the woodland trail around the bog and watched an abundance of wildlife. Blue herons landed in the dead trees, ducks and geese swam in the open water and deer wandered the trail.

One of these days, we’ll hike Balsam Lake Mountain and check out the bogs that remain as they were thousands of years ago.

If you want to check out Emmons Bog, go to Southside Drive and turn up Swart Hollow Road. Once at the top of the mountain, turn left onto White Hill Road and continue for about a mile. The parking area is on the left and a sign marks the preserve. The trail is just a path through the deep grass but is easy to follow. The pond is down the hill just a short ways.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at robrockway@hotmail.com.