Iowa’s rarest type of wetland, fens are a special type of wetland that depend on spring flow, instead of just surface water, to constantly saturate the soil. This perpetual saturation limits decomposition in the soil, so thick, buoyant muck or peat soil can accumulate over thousands of years. The water at this fen tends to be alkaline and calcium-rich and supports specialized “calciphile” plants like grass-of-Parnassus and sterile sedge.
Gray-Hart Preserve is one of the largest fen wetlands in the state and hosts a multitude of rare fen plants. TNC was able to protect this property due, in part, to the generous support of Marilyn Mihall, who named the preserve in honor of her parents.
Shortly after establishing Gray-Hart Preserve, TNC collaborated with Fayette County Conservation Board to seed an access lane to provide public access. More recently, the Anna Beal Intern Crew has worked to remove encroaching shrubs and trees, as well as remove old barbed wire fence that bisected the fen.