Photo of Bald Eagles in Tree at Sunset courtesy of Jim Sullivan.
Wabashiki Fish & Wildlife Area (FWA) opened in 2010. Wabashiki is the Native Indian name for the Wabash River. The Wabashiki FWA contains 2,700 acres along the west bank of the Wabash River between Terre Haute and West Terre Haute. Most of the property is located within the river floodplain. Many portions of the property offer excellent bird watching opportunities for many species of birds.
Activity by wetland-dependent birds in Wabashiki fluctuates with the rise and fall of Wabash River and available water within the floodplain. Flooding of the Wabashiki property begins when the river crests at or above 14’0”. Receding floodwaters trap large numbers of fish. Slowly shrinking pools of water often remain for many weeks to months into the summer and sometimes fall. Stranded fish are especially attractive to herons, egrets and eagles.
Dewey Point Trailhead, is the most visited site in Wabashiki FWA. A birding scope is recommended to aid in viewing birds from the overlook. If you don’t own a scope you may use a public scope provided at the roofed overlook shelter. Scan the cottonwood trees and snags for eagles, cormorants, great blue herons and more. The height of bird activity at Dewey Point usually occurs during late summer. During idea conditions, well over 100 egrets and 18+ bald eagles have been recorded in a single scan from the overlook. The pond of water one-quarter mile to the southeast of Dewey Point overlook is named Ellis Pond. In 2012, the first river otter sighting in Vigo County in over 60 years occurred here at Ellis Pond. Bird activity is usually concentrated in the area of Ellis Pond. Directions to the Dewey Point Trailhead and all Wabashiki FWA locations are provided below.
A newly established seven mile trail can now be accessed at either the Dewey Point Trailhead or River Levee Trailhead (see description for River Levee Trailhead in next paragraph). The trail follows the Wabashiki central perimeter property roughly bordering the Wabash River, Interstate 70, and the southeast section of West Terre Haute. The trail consists of asphalt, crushed limestone, and dirt. The trail is used daily by hikers, bike riders, and birders, as well as by three area high schools’ and Indiana State University’s cross country and track teams. Note that during flood events some parts of the trail become impassable. Near the mid-point of the trail it twice passes underneath Interstate 70. For more information on the Wabashiki trail and a trail map see https://www.traillink.com/trail/wabashiki-trail/.
The River Levee Trailhead is the preferred birding starting point for most birders. This trailhead is located just across the Wabash River, southwest of the Vigo County Courthouse. By parking at the River Levee Trailhead and following the trail south, you gain access to Wabashiki’s western and interior areas. The trail follows the Wabash River in a mostly straight line for approximately two miles south to Interstate 70 before turning west. The levee is only 50-75 yards from the west bank of the river. On either side is a narrow forest of silver maple, cottonwood, and other floodplain trees, along with vines, tangles, and shrubs. This is an excellent place to see migrant songbirds in April-May and September-October: warblers, vireos, kinglets, tanagers, flycatchers, cuckoos, and orioles. In summer (when often mosquito ridden), it supports Northern Parulas, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Baltimore Orioles, and other riparian species. The first mile is best in migration and makes for a good two-hour outing, round-trip; further south noise from the interstate increases.
The River Levee Trail also provides the easiest access to specially constructed shallow wetland impoundments. Walk one mile south on the levee trail, then turn west on a trail leading to the (seasonal) wetlands. When water is present, the impoundments often attract good numbers of shorebirds and waterfowl. The impoundment property also becomes resting areas for shorebirds that seek out mudflats during the spring and fall flights. In years when a large lake persists through summer, American White Pelicans sometimes spend several days here.
The open areas north of the impoundments rise just enough in elevation that the field stays dry in all except the most severe floods. The grasslands here often produce grasshopper sparrows. Lark Sparrows nest in the field in years the land doesn’t flood. In these open areas, keep an eye on the sky to see various species of birds on the move. During prime habitat conditions, activity is everywhere.
The Wabash River itself attracts several bird species. The two Wabash River bridges just west of the Vigo County Courthouse,
support a large summer breeding population of cliff sparrows. Their jug-shaped mud nests are visible under the protected bridge decking year-around. During the winter, scan the river for various species of waterfowl. The annual Wabash Valley Audubon Christmas Bird Counts have recorded scoters, mergansers and multiple species of ducks on the river.
The wooded floodplains within Wabashiki hosts several additional bird species. The flooded bottomland forest system supports habitat for nesting Hooded Mergansers, Prothonotary Warbler, and all the expected woodpecker species. Experiencing flooded Wabashiki’s backwaters by kayak is a great way to see these and many other bird species.
Wabashiki FWA south of Interstate 70 provides many additional birding opportunities. Park at any of three designated parking locations: Tatlock Road Parking Lot, Switzer/Certain Road Parking Lot, or State Line Parking Lot. No established trails are provided south of Interstate 70. Habitat in these areas is a mix of fields and forests. Birds recently found here include Whip-poor-will and Harris’s Sparrow.
While not on the Wabashiki property itself, there are many other birding hotspots in the area. Many of these birding locations extend north and south of Wabashiki FWA along the Wabash River. The Healthy Rivers Initiative (HRI) program is helping to restore habitat along the river. HRI is part of an effort to protect 43,000 acres of floodplain land along a 94-mile Wabash River corridor from Shades State Park to Fairbanks Landing FWA. The HRI is the largest land preservation initiative ever to be undertaken in Indiana. This project will conserve key wetland habitats for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent fish and wildlife. These wetlands will serve many functions of importance to society such as attenuating the impacts of flooding, improving water quality and providing areas for outdoor recreation.
Additional birding locations near Wabashiki FWA include: Brazil Lagoons, Chinook Mine, Dobbs Park, J.I. Case Wetland, Peregrine Falcons and nest box which is installed on top of the roof of the Sycamore Building located at 6th and Ohio in Terre Haute, Pfizer Pond, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, Turtle Creek Reservoir, and Universal Mine.
Typical Time to Bird the Wabashiki Site: 2-3 Hours.
Wabashiki FWA is a great location for observing grassland and water birds. Shorebirds, while not abundant, can usually be found here when water levels are right. Families of passerines to be expected are: woodpeckers, flycatchers, vireos, swallows, wrens, thrushes, warblers, and sparrows.
American White Pelican
Eastern Screech Owls
Clay Colored Sparrow
Little Blue Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
GENERAL SITE INFORMATION
Wabashiki FWA is managed by Deer Creek FWA. Deer Creek FWA is west of Putnamville, Indiana (Putnam County) off of U.S. 40. Deer Creek office hours are Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m to 2 p.m. 765-653-0453. Mailing address: 2001 West County Road 600 South, Greencastle, Indiana 46135.
Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department 812-462-3392
Vigo County Visitors Center 800-366-3043
Please report any emergencies to the Vigo County Sherrif’s Department or dial 911.
For a map of the property, along with further rules and regulations, please visit here.
A property map is also available at all Wabashiki FWA Hunter Check-in locations.
As with all Fish and Wildlife Areas in Indiana, there is no charge for entry.
Access and Restrictions
Access to Wabashiki FWA requires the simple process of completing a permit. Permit cards are available at Hunter Check-in Stations located at Dewey Point and State Line Parking lot. Follow the simple permit instructions and leave the completed permit in designated drop boxes found in the Check-in Station. Activities requiring a permit include: Hunting, Bird Watching, Sight-Seeing, Nature Hike, Berry Picking, Nut Gathering, Mushroom Hunting, and Photography.
Several of the birds visiting Wabashiki FWA are endangered, threatened or rare. All visitors should be careful not to disturb birds. Be sure to observe any restricted areas due to nesting or construction. Access to some areas may be limited at some times during the year. Wear orange clothing and use caution during hunting seasons.
Modern facilities are available at Dewey Point Trailhead,110 East National Road/U.S. 150, West Terre Haute. Facilities are also available in Terre Haute and West Terre Haute.
Accommodations are available in Terre Haute, IN.
Grassy areas may harbor chiggers and ticks.
Flat. Waterproof footwear may be required.
All seasons can be rewarding depending on the birds of interest. Depending upon water levels, waterfowl are generally present October through April, whereas herons and egrets can be found May through September. Shorebirds first appear March through May, then return to the area in early July through November. The spring passerine flight occurs in early April through mid-May, while the fall flight takes place in September through October.
Author: Marty L. Jones
Editor: Barbara Adderley, Peter Scott
Photo: Jim Sullivan
Vigo County, Indiana
DeLorme Page 42, Grid E-4 and Grid F-4
GPS: 39º 28′ 0.81″ N
87º 26′ 33.45″ W
North of Interstate 70, there are four designated parking areas to access Wabashiki FWA:
- Dewey Point Parking Lot: From the Vigo County Courthouse in Terre Haute, take U.S. 150/National Road/Cherry Street westbound for 1.2 miles. Dewey Point Trailhead will be on your left just as you begin to enter the town of West Terre Haute. The Dewey Point asphalt parking lot holds 14 vehicles, two buses and two handicapped spaces. Dewey Point also has a modern restroom facility, a picnic shelter and native landscaping. Parking Lot GPS Coordinates: 39.4668939, -87.4426255 (39°28’0.8184″, -87°26’33.4536″): 110 National Road, West Terre Haute, IN 47885
- River Levee Trail Parking Lot: From the Vigo County Courthouse in Terre Haute, take U.S. 150/National Road/Cherry Street westbound for, 0.4 miles. Immediately after crossing the Wabash River bridge, turn left onto Schley Place. Drive south on Schley Place for one block then turn left on Taylor Drive. Drive one block on Taylor then turn right on Sampson Place. Follow Sampson Place south for four blocks until it ends at a gravel parking lot. Parking is available for eleven vehicles. Parking Lot GPS Coordinates: 39.4606978, -87.4219763 (39°27’38.5128″, -87°25’19.1136″): 457 South Sampson Place, West Terre Haute, IN 47885
- South 6th and Cherry Grove Parking Lot: To access from Dewey Point Parking Lot, drive west on U.S. 150/National Road 0.4 miles and turn left on South 6th Street. Follow South 6th Street for 0.6 miles or until you arrive at the river levee. Take the gravel road over the levee and park anywhere near the pond. Multiple vehicle parking is available. Parking Lot GPS Coordinates:39.4552488, -87.4492924 (39°27’18.8964″, -87°26’57.4506″): 500–598 W Cherry Grove Ave, West Terre Haute, IN 47885
- Marion Heights Parking Lot: The small town of Marion Heights is 2.0 miles north of West Terre Haute on U.S. 150. From northbound U.S. 150 in Marion Heights, turn right on Michaels Avenue. Go four blocks on Michaels Avenue to “T”, then turn right at the “T” onto Barnhardt Road. Drive 100 feet to the parking lot on your left/east of the road. The parking lot is an unmaintained overgrown grass lot. Limited parking available. GPS Coordinates:39.4938425, -87.4433378 (39°29’37.8342″, -87°26’36.0162″):2201 Barnhardt Rd, West Terre Haute, IN 47885
South of Interstate 70, there are three designated parking areas to access Wabashiki FWA:
- Tatlock Road Parking Lot: From Dewey Point Trailhead, drive U.S. 150/National Road west for 1.2 miles. Turn left on Darwin Road following signs that read “To East I-70”. Continue driving Darwin Road, crossing over I-70, for a total of 2.8 miles. Turn left on a gravel drive leading to Tatlock Road Parking Lot. The driveway will be on your left and is directly across Darwin Road from New Hope Cemetery. Adjacent to the Tatlock Road Parking Lot is a green and white metal pole barn. This pole barn is somewhat hidden from Darwin Road, but is visible once you turn off of Darwin Road and onto the driveway. Park adjacent to the pole barn. Parking Lot GPS Coordinates: 39.4243928, -87.4841677 (39°25’27.8148″, -87°29’3.0042″): Tatlock Rd, 3400 Darwin Rd, West Terre Haute, IN 47885
- Certain/Switzer Road Parking Lot: From Tatlock Road Parking Lot return to Darwin Road. Turn left on Darwin. Go a short distance down the hill. Just after crossing Clear Creek bridge turn left on Certain Road. Drive 0.7 miles to the parking lot entrance on your left. Gravel lot has parking available for up to six vehicles. Parking Lot GPS Coordinates: 39.4139462, -87.4907892 (39°24’50.2056″, -87°29’26.8404”): 3900-4200 Certain Rd, West Terre Haute, IN 47885
- State Line Parking Lot: From Certain/Switzer Road Parking Lot return to Certain Road. Upon exiting the parking lot, turn left where Certain Road will become Switzer Road. Follow SwitzerRoad for 0.4 miles to Darwin Road. Turn left on Darwin Road. Proceed past the Duke Substation on your left, the NIPSCO Generating Station, and then veer left at the “Y” in road. Approximately one-half mile past the “Y” in the road you will find State Line Parking Lot on your left. The gravel lot has parking available for six vehicles. Parking Lot GPS Coordinates: 39.3936410, -87.5225659 (39°23’37.1076″, -87°31’21.2370”): 6300 Darwin Rd, West Terre Haute, IN 47885
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Indiana Audubon Society's mission is to stimulate interest in birds and their protection; to serve the needs of youth, civic, church, schools and other groups by providing information concerning birds; and to educate the public concerning the necessity for conserving and preserving Indiana's natural heritage, its unique flora and fauna.