Photo by Ryan Sanderson in LaPorte, Indiana on December 13, 2014
The LaPorte Lakes lie immediately northwest of downtown LaPorte, Indiana. Although they’re an integral part of the city and its neighborhoods, they are still relatively healthy, and represent one of the best locations in the state for observing loons, grebes, and ducks during spring and fall migrations. This is especially true during inclement weather when birding is most comfortably done from inside a car.
The LaPorte Lakes are an important refuge for lingering winter ducks when the ice begins to melt, usually in early March. In late March and April, Common Goldeneye, Greater Scaup, and Bufflehead are gradually supplanted by Horned Grebes, Lesser Scaup, Redhead, and Canvasbacks–all interspersed within flotillas of thousands of American Coots. Single or pairs of Common Loons are reliably noted in the deeper waters of the lakes in April and May. Gadwall, American Wigeons, Ring-necked Ducks, Northern Shovelers, occasional Black Ducks, and many Blue-winged Teal are prevalent until late May when warmer weather and speed boaters take over Pine Lake.
Pine Lake is the largest of the lakes and is readily observed from its eastern edge (along Pine Lake Avenue), and its south/southwestern edge (along Waverly Road). If one is considerate of private residences, the northwest and southwest areas of the lake can be more closely viewed via Island Drive, which leads out to a peninsula from the west along Houlton Road. Houlton Road is west of the lake between Waverly Road to the south and Pine Lake Road to the north.
Stone Lake, a smaller fishing lake with restricted boating speeds, is located just south of Pine Lake. It can be viewed from several locations, including Soldier’s Memorial Park on the north and east, Lakeshore Drive along the south and southwest shorelines, and a public fishing ramp and parking area at the southwest edge of the lake. Another public parking area can be found at the rustic north edge of Stone Lake, just off of Waverly Avenue near the short connecting canal between Pine and Stone Lakes. A public trail, which extends from the Soldiers’ Memorial Park picnic shelter eastward to homes on the far northwestern edge of the lake, can be productive for woodpeckers and kingfishers. Occasionally, Osprey and hawks can also be seen here.
Clear Lake is located on Truesdell Avenue just east of McDonald’s. This shallow lake is completely surrounded by public roads, making it very easy to access. As such, it is a wonderful spot for observing migrating ducks, grebes, and occasional loons. Over the years it has produced some unusually large counts of species–including over 320 Ruddy Ducks and 150 Pied-billed Grebes.
Fishtrap Lake, located on the northeast corner of Clear Lake, can be viewed (with some difficulty) along its southwest border from McClung Road. Large numbers of Ring-necked Ducks occur in the spring and fall, and Black Terns can often be seen in the spring.
Horseshoe Lake, which is probably better described as a lily-pad-covered pond, is located just to the north of Fishtrap Lake along Severs Road. Severs Road is about 0.25 miles east of SR 39 and about 1 mile east of the intersection of Pine Lake Avenue and Johnson Road (at the northeast corner of Pine Lake). The best access to Horseshoe Lake is from a diagonal railroad crossing that extends in a northwest direction from Severs Road to the western edge of the lake. This lake is best known for hosting the last reported Black Tern nest in Indiana (1997).
Typical Time to Bird Site: 2-3 Hours
Overview: Loons, grebes, ducks, and hawks are all regular at the LaPorte Lakes. Passerines and occasional shorebirds occur in season.
Black Terns are reliably found on Horseshoe and other LaPorte Lakes from late April through June. Their last successful nesting on Horseshoe Lake was in 1995, while an unsuccessful attempt (eggs but no young) occurred as recently as 1997. Black Terns can be seen “cruising” any of the lakes, but especially Fishtrap Lake and Boyd Boulevard “East” Marsh.
Pied-billed Grebe – (19-Jul-1999) Boyd Boulevard “East” Marsh – 2 adults with 4 juveniles and 6 fledglings
Green-winged Teal – (07-Jun-1985) Boyd and Ohio Marsh – 4 adults with 24 downy young
Ruddy Duck – (21-Oct-1984) Clear Lake – 327 individuals present
American Coot – (06-Jun-1993) Boyd Boulevard “East” Marsh – 3 adults with 4 young
Great Egret – (01-Jun-1997), (22-Jun-1997) Boyd Boulevard “East” Marsh – 5 individuals present
Black-crowned Night-Heron – (29-Aug-1985) Boyd and Ohio Marsh
Least Bittern – (6-Jul-1985) Boyd and Ohio Marsh – 2 birds; (01-Jun-1988), (14-Jul-1988) Horseshoe Lake
Long-billed Dowitcher – (15-31-Oct-1985) Boyd and Ohio Marsh
Osprey – (31-Oct-1985) Clear Lake ; (15-Nov-1985) Pine Lake
Yellow-headed Blackbird – (01-Jun-93) Boyd Boulevard “East” Marsh – male
General site information
Ownership: City of LaPorte, IN; LaPorte Parks Department: 219-326-9600; LaPorte Chamber of Commerce: 219-362-3178
Hours: Summer hours at Soldiers’ Memorial Park are dawn to 10:00 pm. There are no hours for other times of the year.
Fees: Soldiers’ Memorial Park charges $3.00 per car in the summer only.
Restrooms: The facilities at Soldiers’ Memorial Park are seasonal and close well before waterfowl migration season. Additional indoor restrooms are available at the many restaurants and businesses located along Pine Lake Avenue.
Lodging: Ample Lodging is available in LaPorte.
Special Considerations: Traffic: Please be careful and courteous when stopping along McClung Drive and south Stone and Pine Lakes.
Temporal Considerations: The most productive birding occurs during waterfowl migration seasons: March through May, and again October through December. Cold, rainy days seem to produce the best birds on the LaPorte Lakes.
LaPorte County Convention and Visitors BureauInformation on LaPorte County parks, restaurants, and accommodation
Author: Dick Plank
Editor: Darel Heitkamp
Photo by: Ryan Sanderson
LaPorte County, Indiana
DeLorme Page 19, Grid C-12; Page 20, Grid C-1
GPS: 41º 37′ 10.23″ N
86º 44′ 39.8″ W
From the North: From the Indiana Toll Road (I-80/90), exit south onto SR 39 at exit #49. Go south on SR 39 for 2.5 miles to where it unites with US 35 to form Pine Lake Avenue (at the Dairy Queen). Take Pine Lake Avenue south for 1.2 miles to Truesdell Avenue, which is the stoplight at the McDonald’s . This “center point” for the LaPorte Lakes is only 0.7 miles north of the County Courthouse, which is located at the junction of US 35, SR 39, and SR 2.
From the East: Take SR 2 west from South Bend to the LaPorte County Courthouse at the junction SR 2, US 35, and SR 39. The McDonald’s is located 0.7 miles north of the courthouse on Pine Lake Avenue (US 35/SR 39).
From the South: Take US 35 north all the way to the city of LaPorte and the LaPorte County Courthouse. Proceed north on Pine Lake Avenue (US 35/SR 39) for 0.7 miles to the McDonald’s at Truesdell Avenue.
From the West: Take US 2 east into downtown LaPorte. From the LaPorte County Courthouse (at the junction SR 2, US 35, and SR 39), proceed north on Pine Lake Avenue (US 35/SR 39) for 0.7 miles to the McDonald’s at Truesdell Avenue.
From the downtown McDonald’s to the Various Lakes: Pine Lake can be reached by going north on Pine Lake Avenue for 0.45 miles, then turning left (west) onto Waverly Road. Additionally, the lake can be accessed by continuing north on Pine Lake Avenue (the lake will appear on the west side of the road). To reach Stone Lake , go north on Pine Lake Avenue for 0.3 miles to the entrance to Soldiers’ Memorial Park. Turn left (west) onto the park road, then take Lake Shore Drive along the south and west borders of the lake. Clear Lake is east on Truesdell Avenue, 0.45 miles from McDonald’s. This lake is quite easily viewed around its entire border. Fishtrap Lake is further east on Truesdell Avenue–0.9 miles from McDonald’s–and is poorly viewed from its west border along McClung Avenue north. It is best seen, however, from this west end. Lilly Lake is southwest of the McDonald’s parking lot.Horseshoe Lake is just north of the northwest part of Fishtrap Lake. Although this little lake is difficult to see, it represents the last Indiana nesting site for Black Terns. It is best approached from the west on Severs Avenue via a diagonal railroad crossing located some 0.45 miles east of US 35 and 0.9 miles east of SR 39. Severs Road originates from Pine Lake Avenue at a stoplight about 0.6 miles north of the US 35 & SR 39 intersection. To reach the lake from Severs Road, pull off and park in the gravel at the railroad crossing, then walk along the tracks in a northwest direction. The railroad tracks run along the west edge of the lake. The Boyd Boulevard “East” Marsh is located on Boyd Boulevard, 1.6 miles east of the courthouse on SR 2 (Lincolnway East). From SR 2, turn right (south) onto Boyd Boulevard, then continue south for 0.45 miles to the marsh–which is easily visible on the east side of the road. The Boyd and Ohio Marsh is located on Boyd Boulevard 1.0 mile south of the junction of Boyd and SR 2. Park at the railroad crossing located 0.4 miles south of the intersection of Boyd and Ohio Street–across the road from a GTE facility. To access the marsh, walk northeast along this railroad crossing.
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