Baker Swamp is a large wetland that developed in the course of the preglacial Marietta River, the main tributary of the preglacial Teays River in southeastern Ohio. The site was formerly a shallow lake which became impounded by a downstream blockage of the Teays River during a glacial advance. The sediments deposited on the lake bed form the area’s poorly-drained soils of today. These impermeable soils and the activity of beaver in the area have contributed to the formation of Baker Swamp.
Baker Swamp lies in the Western Allegheny Plateau Ecoregion and today consists of approximately 180 acres of shallow open-water wetland and cattail marsh. About 50 acres of buttonbush-alder shrub swamp occupy the southern portion of this preserve. Swamp forests occur to the east and north of the open-water zone. Timber cutting has reduced the dominance of pin oak, and the fast-growing red maple is the dominant species of this pin oak-red maple swamp forest today.
Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
Baker Swamp is probably the largest and best remaining example of a Teays-stage wetland in Ohio. It includes Ohio’s best example of a submergent marsh and one of the largest buttonbush shrub swamps. The primary determinant of water level at the site is beaver activity. Large standing dead trees in the swamp indicate that the current open water zone was covered by swamp forest 30-40 years ago. Beaver moved in after that forest was cut, subsequently raising the water level. The preserve is a haven for many wetland bird species, amphibians, and other aquatic fauna.
Some examples of species that are protected at this site inlude: Birds & Other Animals: Prothonotary warbler, Sora rail, Virginia rail, Beaver, Lake Chubsucker; Plants: Lance-leaved violet, Short's hedge-hyssop, Long-beaked arrowhead,Hyssop skullcap, Virginia meadow-beauty; Trees: Slippery elm, White ash, River birch, Swamp white oak.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The primary goal at Baker Swamp is to protect the representative wetland communities within this remnant Teays River ecosystem. Because of its small size, the wetlands are vulnerable to disturbance from surrounding land uses. Loss of beavers through trapping and other wetland altering activities could seriously degrade the wetland habitat on this preserve. Illegal refuse dumping also poses a threat.
Currently the protected acreage is small, making additional land acquisition of wetlands and associated upland buffer critical to the long term preservation of this site. Stewardship of the site involves monitoring the preserve for water level changes, weed invasions, and human disturbance.