Thursday, January 28, 2016

Eyes on a Natural Treasure: Tamarack Nature Preserve

By Sage Passi

Glistening snow beckons us to explore Tamarack Nature Preserve
photo credit: Dana Boyle

Dana Boyle has a real eye for beauty, no matter what season is gracing us. Through the changing rhythms of the year, her photos eloquently draw out the nuances of nature that may elude us.

Cattails reaching toward the fall sky. Only the broad leaf cattail is native
to Minnesota. Narrowleaf and hybrid cattail are non-native and invasive.

photo credit: Dana Boyle

A Tamarack Nature Preserve Field Guide, just completed by Boyle, features an array of stunning images of the different habitats and close-ups of plants that grow in the rich fen and along the woodland trails in this wetland preserve. Her guide is a work of art that captures her skills as a photographer and as an astute observer of the natural world.

Dana and her dog are frequent visitors to Tamarack Nature Preserve.

Marsh Marigold is an early spring arrival.
photo credit: Carrie Magnuson

Sensitive Fern after a summer rain
photo credit: Dana Boyle


The Watershed District is providing a link to this guide on our website so anyone can appreciate and download this resource and use it to become familiar with some of the rich diversity of plant life while strolling through this unique wetland or simply click this link to go directly to the Tamarack Nature Field Guide.

Boyle comments,

“As a 19-year resident, I’ve come to appreciate the amazing biodiversity of the Tamarack Swamp, which is truly a rare community asset that deserves our great respect and continued protection. On daily walks through this special environment, observing migratory warblers and waterfowl, identifying numerous plant species and tracking reptile and mammals, I am reminded that our sophisticated and growing suburb serves as a rich habitat for so many unique living things, offering an opportunity for inspiration from the natural world.”

Calla Lilies grow densely along the edge of the boardwalk.
photo credit: Woodbury Bulletin

A few years ago Dana offered us a hand at several of our Watershed District tours in Tamarack Swamp in Woodbury. Each summer during our public tours, we would draw significant crowds of people who were interested in learning about the unique and diverse plant communities that grow along the boardwalk and trails in the preserve. We would lay out laminated plant photos along the board ahead of the time for the tour.

We hired Jason Husveth, a local plant ecologist, and his staff and engaged other volunteers like Dana, naturalists from nature centers, Master Naturalists and other volunteers to help familiarize the public with the Preserve’s complex of plants and environments.

Jason Husveth, Critical Connections, explains how the PFS ponds
keep sediment and pollutants out of Tamarack wetlands.

For a map to the plant community locations in the Preserve follow this link.

One of our intentions with the tours was to draw attention to the geology, history of land changes in the area and the impacts of increased stormwater on the swamp’s delicate ecosystems, especially those that support the tamaracks. Tamarack trees are rare in the Twin Cities Metro area. They are usually found farther north and need a very specific wetland bog habitat that is sensitive to stormwater and fluctuations in water levels.

Frosty cattails in Tamarack Nature Preserve
photo credit: Dana Boyle 

In pre-settlement times Woodbury was covered in oak savanna, wetlands and prairie. A walk through Tamarack Nature Preserve takes you back to pre-settlement days because the variety and size of plant communities were once widespread in areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin. As land was converted first to agriculture, and later developed for housing in Woodbury and other communities, many wetlands were drained while others received increased stormwater runoff.

During our tours, we were pleased to see that there were so many people who were curious about this unusual oasis in the middle of a suburban community. Around that time we learned that Dana was also leading plant walks through this fine jewel in her own “backyard”.

One day a beautiful emerald green painting arrived in the mail at our office from Dana. This was our first clue about Dana’s talents as an artist. 

Dana's Calla Lily painting

Over time it’s become evident that Dana has a special connection to this place and a strong commitment to sharing her love of nature with others.

A crisp fall walk through Tamarack Nature Preserve
photo credit: Dana Boyle

When she reached out to the Watershed District this summer to get input on the field guide she was creating, I felt privileged to be a witness to her talents as a photographer and writer. Around the same time I was asked by the City of Woodbury for recommendations for their 2015 Environmental Excellence Awards. Woodbury’s award program was developed to recognize businesses, organizations and individuals that are making the city a more sustainable community through innovative programs and practices that demonstrate environmental leadership.

I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I nominated Dana.

At the City Council Meeting on November 18, the City of Woodbury awarded Dana Boyle with the Environmental Excellence Award for Environmental Education and Awareness.

Photo credit: Laurie Oleson
(Connecting Children and Nature)
Dana describes her commitment and interest in engaging other people in learning about this very valuable preserve in her city,

“In order to share this special place with others, I’ve created popular family-friend events called Hidden Bog Tours that were modeled off the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District tours (for which I’ve served as a volunteer guide).
I’ve developed color-field guides to educate people of all ages – both inside and outside our community to one of our region’s natural treasures, giving a new appreciation for Woodbury and for the environment.I appreciate the work that you (the Watershed District) and your colleagues do to make this such a beautiful place, helping us maintain an optimal balance between civic growth and the wilds.”

We want to thank Dana for this labor of love and also offer our appreciation to her son, Brendan Boyle, who contributed his layout skills for the field guide.

Wild Cucumber at twilight
photo credit: Dana Boyle

For a link to the District’s Tamarack Nature Preserve brochure (due for an update soon) and other managed sites around the District go to: and then scroll to Managed Sites and click on Tamarack Nature Preserve.


Key: Yellow - Treatment Systems / Red - Parking Lot / Orange - Trails

Tamarack Nature Preserve is located in Woodbury on Tower Drive north of Valley Creek Road. On Tower Drive, take the second right to the parking lot and trail.

We encourage you to take a stroll through Tamarack Nature
Preserve any time of year to enjoy its wild beauty
 photo credit: Dana Boyle

In case you missed the link above, here is the link to Dana's beautiful field guide:
Tamarack Nature Preserve Field Guide

No comments:

Post a Comment