Boot Lake Nature Preserve

Boot LakeHistory

In 1972, the City of Elkhart purchased a 160 acre property now known as Boot Lake Nature Preserve (BLNP). This property was originally used as a dumping ground for the sludge produced by the City of Elkhart's Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). The sludge was dumped into lagoons where it accumulated. The area was also illegally used as a dumping ground.

In 1990, the WWTP upgraded its equipment and began to produce treated biosolids. This new system of treatment allowed the WWTP to stop using BLNP as part of its operations. However, the city needed to remedy the environmental liability created by the City sludge farm.

The City conducted an extensive clean-up of the site to remove the sludge. In 1994, the City of Elkhart was chosen to administer an AmeriCorps National Service Program known locally as Elkhart “EnviroCorps”. During its first year, EnviroCorps' major objective was the transformation of this environmental liability into an environmental asset. After the removal of more than 70,000 pounds of trash, the development of walking trails, and the construction of a 108 foot plastic lumber boardwalk, EnviroCorps and the City of Elkhart officially opened Boot Lake Nature Preserve on July 3, 1995.

In 2000, the City of Elkhart acquired an additional 66 acres on the north side of the property through funding from the Indiana Heritage Trust Fund. This additional property borders the northwestern edge of Boot Lake and also contains a large forest and savannah areas.

In 2003, Boot Lake Nature Preserve was established as a state dedicated nature preserve, an honor for the site and the City of Elkhart.

Growing has not stopped at Boot Lake Nature Preserve.  In the spring of 2010, thanks in part to funding from the Indiana Heritage Trust Fund and a donation from the Drexler family the City of Elkhart added an additional 70 acres of woodland and wetland to the site.

Today the preserve consists of 60 acres of native tallgrass prairie, approximately 20 acres of savannah, the City tree nursery, woodlands, and of course, a wetland -- Boot Lake. The Preserve is an exceptional place for students and the public to learn more about our precious environment and its intricate ecosystems. Boot Lake Nature Preserve is handicapped accessible. It should be noted that Boot Lake Nature Preserve is not a park, but a nature preserve. However, there is a picnic pavilion that may be used by individuals and groups.

This environmental triumph serves as an important lesson; it is never too late to correct mistakes. Creativity and environmental awareness has transformed this former sludge farm into an opportunity to educate the public. 

Boot Lake Nature Preserve Trails:

Boot Lake Nature Preserve has approximately 4 miles of trails leading visitors throughout the preserve and the various habitats.  Approximately 2 miles of those trails are ADA accessible.  

 Click here for a copy of the Trail Map.

Prairie at Boot Lake Nature Preserve
Indiana Division of Nature Preserves

Contact Us

Boot Lake Nature Preserve
Williams Ln
Elkhart, IN 46514
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  • Phone:  (574) 875-7422
  • Staff Directory

Elkhart Environmental Center

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