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Little Salt Fork Marsh harbors numerous unusual salt-tolerant plants and animals, including the rare Salt Creek tiger beetle. It is also an important resting and feeding spot for migratory water birds. The salt marshes of Lancaster and Saunders counties are Nebraska’s most rare and most threatened natural community. Very little of the saline wetlands remain in the Salt Creek and Little Salt Creek drainages near Lincoln, Nebraska.
The ecology is heavily dependent upon the saline hydrology. The function of that hydrology is still not fully understood. The salts appear to come from deep (200 feet below the surface) groundwater sources, but the process by which the salt rises to the surface is largely unknown.
The Conservancy acquired the original 59 acres at Little Salt Fork Marsh in 1994, and another 40 acres in 1996, with the intent of restoring the hydrology in this portion of the Little Salt Creek watershed.
In 1996, Burlington Northern Santa Fe purchased an additional 80 acres adjacent to Little Salt Fork Marsh and implemented the restoration of the wetlands on the three contiguous tracts that now comprise the preserve. It also gave funds to the Conservancy to purchase additional property in the area and to increase the Nebraska Stewardship Endowment. This project was the first effort in Nebraska to create what is called a wetland mitigation bank.
The plants that inhabit the saline marshes and meadows are adapted to the high concentrations of salts present in the soil and water. They form plant communities found nowhere else in the state. Some of these plant species include saltwort, sea blite, inland saltgrass, prairie bulrush, and saltmarsh aster. At slightly higher elevations and lower salt concentrations other native plants, including Western wheatgrass, spearscale, and marsh elder are able to survive.
This preserve is free to visit and open to the public. No dogs, please, as they can be disruptive to wildlife.