Volo Bog State Natural Area – The Outer Ring

I wrote this piece for my hardscape construction class. I had to choose a location with hardscape, which this does, even though its a nature preserve. Volo Bog has much to offer visitors with its unique biodiversity and beautiful landscape features.The inner circle can be viewed here.

ImageVolo bog was formed when large chunks of glacial ice broke off the Wisconsinian glacier about 6,000 years ago. This large mass of ice melted and originally formed a steep-sided lake. Sphagnum moss began to grow in the basin, and over many years, began to fill the bog in. Because of the acidic nature of the moss and poor drainage, special acid-loving plants began to inhabit the area such as: leatherleafs, orchids, and tamaracks.



The bog was not known to outsiders until it was mentioned in a field study published by W.G. Waterman of Northwestern University in 1921.  The bog’s original name was Sayer Bog, after the owner, a dairy farmer George Sayer. The Natural Conservancy bought the 47.5-acre bog in 1958, and donated it to University of Illinois who served as custodian from 1958 -1970.  With much public support in 1970, the university transferred the bog to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Shortly after the transfer, the state began buying surrounding land to reach the 1,150 acres it is today. Many of the bog’s landscape features center upon the natural diversity of a bog. Native plants were used in all the planting beds, encouraging native insects and animals to inhabit them.  Most of the hardscape materials used here are natural. The crushed limestone paths and floating wooden walkways in the park make for a rustic-type design. Upon entering the preserve, the Volo Bog sign is situated in a semi-circular, retaining wall.  The wall is four courses, constructed of pre-cast, concrete blocks, with a cap. The sign has three posts securing the boxed-out frame.

ImageThe visitor center opened in 1980, utilizing one of the dairy barns built in the early 1900’s. It was renovated in 1996, and now has a second floor with a library and interactive learning activities.

One of the most beautiful hardscapes at the bog is the 900-gallon pond outside the visitor center, which was built in 2004. The Friends of Volo Bog raised the funds and George Wilkinson from Krystal Water Gardens did the design and construction.  The pond includes a stream, waterfall, and a butterfly puddle. The berm is 18 inches and constructed of Wisconsin Glacier boulders. Gravel was placed at the south end of the pond, for the benefit of butterflies and insects requiring calmer waters.

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The bog is known for its creaky, floating walkways.  The walkways around the main bog portion are wooden, with Styrofoam bricks attached underneath. Each 10 foot (approximately) section is then connected with a pin-type pivot-point. Poles are sunk into the bog and a collar to the plank to keep the walkway in place sideways, but allow for high and low water levels. Most of the boardwalk is three feet wide, but deeper into the more sensitive parts of the bog, the path narrows to 18 inches.  Safety rails also appear on the path where the planks may sway more with seasonally higher waters.  Various areas contain larger wooden sections where views of the bog are at their most beautiful.  Other parts of the bog contained fiberglass type (Superdeck®) walkways. Stacy Iwanick, the naturalist on staff at the Volo Bog, had this to say about the walkways, “The only bad things about having the walkway are the occasional pieces of the Styrofoam floating in the bog, and the path allows for invasives, such as purple loosestrife, to enter the bog.”

The bog has a wonderful diversity of birds, and has built many viewing decks for visitors to see them. These wooden decks are all approximately ten feet high, with stairs and rails.  Some contain signage with plant or animal information.  As some of these decks are on the shores of water features, the author would assume that there are deeper footings to mitigate ground water levels.

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I would encourage everyone to go see Volo Bog, with its wonderful biodiversity and attractive landscape features. I also have a follow-up story with ‘The Inner Circle‘!
© Ilex Farrell ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

3 thoughts on “Volo Bog State Natural Area – The Outer Ring

  1. Pingback: Volo Bog State Natural Area – The Inner Circle | Midwestern Plants

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