NIPSCO Savanna is a diverse mix of savanna, prairie and wetland communities. In 1995, as part of the North American Waterfowl Plan, NiSource generously donated 650 acres to The Nature Conservancy. We retained 221 acres of the savanna in hopes of restoring and enhancing the black oak barren and sand prairie communities. The remaining 429 acres were transferred to the DNR's Division of Fish and Wildlife; the primarily agricultural field is now called Aukiki Wetland Conservation area. Restoration and management work continues at NIPSCO Savanna with anticipation of the return of native species to the area.
Central Tallgrass Prairie
221 Acres (NIPSCO Savanna)
429 Acres (Aukiki)
162 Acres (NiSource Property)
The Nature Conservancy, Division of Fish & Wildlife and NiSource
North America Wetland Conservation Act
The Nature Conservancy staff and volunteers have manually removed much of the wooden understory in order to reduce the canopy cover at NIPSCO. We have also been working with the DNR and NiSource to coordinate prescribed burns as to enhance the mosaic of oak barrens and prairie. Unlike the wildfire of April 2002 where 70 acres of mature black and white oaks were killed by the fire, prescribed burns rarely kill mature trees because they are ignited carefully in perfect weather conditions that would limit fire intensity.
In DNR-owned Aukiki, 200 acres of the farm field were planted with warm season grasses in order to provide wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities. The Division of Fish and Wildlife, partnered with Ducks Unlimited, created wetland areas to provide breeding and migration habitat for waterfowl along the Kankakee River.
The dominant woody species is the black oak which offers shade to Pennsylvania sedge, blazing star, puccoon and wild lupine. In the dry sand prairie portion of the preserve, little bluestem grass is the dominant specie and shares it other species such as rough dropseed, dwarf dandelion, prickly pear and flowering spurge.
The black oak barrens and sand prairie communities also provide crucial habitat to rare or threatened species such as grassland-dependent skippers, ornate box turtles and the plain pocket gopher.
The easy terrain and wondrous scenes will make for a sweet hike in the savanna. Make sure to respect the private land that surrounds the preserve and do not trespass. NisSource donated 650 acres to The Nature Conservancy - 221 acres make up the savanna while the rest is primarily agricultural land called Aukiki - but the center of the property remains under NiSource control. A management agreement was made between the Conservancy and NiSource to ensure appropriate ecological management was used on the land.
Directions to Aukiki parking lot: From Rensselaer, travel north on U.S. 231 approximately 17.5 miles to the intersection with S.R. 10. Turn east (right) on S.R. 10 and travel approximately 5 miles to S.R. 49. Turn left (north) on S.R. 49 and travel about 2.5 miles to C.R. 1500 N. Turn right and withing 0.5 mile watch for a wooden DNR sign and parking lot on the north side of the road.
The open portion of the savanna runs north of the parking lot. Please respect the private property owned well field to the east and do not trespass.