What is Fox Island?

Fox Island is a 605 acre park owned by the people of Allen County (Indiana) and operated by the Allen County Park and Recreation Board. The park contains the largest contiguous forest in the county, and 270 acres of the park are dedicated and protected as part of the Indiana State Nature Preserve System. Six miles of marked trails through the preserve enable visitors to enjoy the beauty of the park.

What will we find at the marsh?

The seasonal marsh is a remnant of an old glacial sluice with one of the lowest ground levels in Allen County. An elevated observation deck located in the marsh enables visitors to watch for deer, muskrat, beaver, and numerous waterfowl. A short elevated boardwalk over part of the marsh makes it possible for closer observation of aquatic life during the wet seasons. The marsh may be completely dry if there is not sufficient rainfall.

What can we find along Fox Island Trails?

The Fox Island Preserve trails will take the nature enthusiast through a wetland forest, dune forest, marshland, pine plantation, successional fields, and along some seasonal ponds. The wildflower displays are exceptional with over 180 kinds growing there. The bird life is extensive and diverse because of abundant food, water, and cover; over 200 kinds have been identified. Over 40 species of trees grow in the forest. The observant and quiet hiker will certainly find much more. At the Nature Center, you will find the following helpful Fox Island nature publications:

  • March Trail Guide
  • Tree Trail Guide
  • Geology of Fox Island
  • Foxwood Trail Guide
  • Trails of Fox Island
  • Geogarden Guide
  • Geogarden Boulders
  • Geology of the Fox Island Geogarden
  • Skunk Cabbage Trail
  • Fox Island

Why is there a sand dune at Fox Island?

Geologists tell us that about 14,000 years ago a lobe of the Wisconsin Glacier extended from the Northeast to what is now Fort Wayne. The two rivers which formed from the melted waters of the glacier’s front edge were to become what we now call the St. Joseph and St. Mary’s Rivers. When these early rivers met at Fort Wayne, their waters rolled along a mile-wide glacial sluice to meet the Wabash River just west of Huntington. As the glacier melted, a large mass of water accumulated to the east of a long moraine created by the glacier lobe on the on its last push forward. Geologists now call this ancient large lake, Lake Maumee.

When a break occurred in the moraine at what is now New Haven, much more water was to roll down the sluice during the non-freezing months. During the winters, when the flow was low in the sluice, winter winds piled up several large drifts of fine sands. Most of these piles are gone now, but the best remaining example of such a sluice dune in the entire Midwest is at Fox Island. Fox Island’s dune extends the length of the park, and, at its highest, is forty feet above the marsh.

How deep is the lake?

The lake at the west end of the park was made when soil was “borrowed” to construct overpasses for highway I-69. The lake is 25 feet deep at its deepest point. The water comes from springs and is unusually clear and clean. It is stocked with bass, bluegill, channel catfish, and crappie. The edges of the lake offer you an opportunity to explore aquatic life and habitat and to search for animal tracks.

May we pick flowers at Fox Island?

State law strictly prohibits the removal of wildflowers, and well as most other natural items, from the nature preserve.

What is the history of Fox Island?

Since the time of the glaciers, Fox Island has had many uses by man. Archeological evidence indicates that the land was used by Indians. The remains of home sites from frontier days have been discovered. Fox Island was part of a well-used portage traveled by the French, English, and the Indians as they ranged from Lake Erie to the Wabash and Mississippi Rivers. At a later time, the lumber in the area was harvested. It was also used as a family farm. The pine trees are a remnant of a Christmas tree farm. At one time, Fox Island was the Fort Wayne Beagle Club.

The land at Fox Island was misused and abused in a variety of ways prior to 1971. In 1971, in an effort to preserve this unique area, the land was purchased as Allen County’s first park and nature preserve. Many volunteer hours by many dedicated volunteers started it on its way to recovery. The forces of nature have cooperated dramatically to rehabilitate Fox Island.

Is the park open in the winter?

Yes. You will find many advantages to visiting the park in the winter. You will have an excellent opportunity to study plants and their seeds, to observe tree silhouettes, and to search out the winter homes of animals. Snow cover allows you to observe animal tracks and to see the forest in a totally new dimension.

With four inches of snow on the ground, Fox Island becomes a pristine winter wonderland. Cross country skis provide visitors with very easy access to the trails witch are unsurpassed for good skiing.

Ski equipment may be rented at the Park’s Observation Building. Some trails are reserved for hikers.

What is the Fox Island Alliance?

The operation of the park and its educational activities are enhanced by many volunteers who are members of the Fox Island Alliance. Members participate by acting as trailguides for school groups (training provided), helping to design and improve trails, planning and carrying out educational workshops and developing educational materials for Fox Island, enhancing the Nature Center and Education Building, and working with the cross country ski rental program.

You need not be a volunteer to belong to the Fox Island Alliance. Many people help support the Alliance Nature Programs solely by virtue of their membership and/or financial assistance.


The material in this brochure was prepared by Robert Weber, naturalist and botanist, and Barbara Davies, Alliance Trailguide. Both Weber and Davies are long-time board members of the Fox Island Alliance. 1987. Rev 5/92. Publication #3.