Words by Matthew Merchant
Tom S. Cooperrider-Kent Bog State Nature Preserve
Kent, Portage County
In Brief: It’s a bog. Yes, a bog. It’s similar to a swamp, but it’s the most wonderfully peaceful swamp you will visit near Kent State.
If you’ve been on campus for a couple of semesters you have probably heard about “the bog.” It’s one of those places around Kent that professors reference that students have no idea about, especially because, well, it’s a bog.
When you think of a bog, you probably think of a swamp. Now, swamps might not sound very interesting or appealing to college students, but the Kent Bog actually is pretty cool. First off, it’s right down the road from campus. Second, it’s a beautifully serene place that is totally surreal and otherworldly. It’s such a unique place to visit and explore, even if it is for only an hour.
The park itself is located about seven minutes (drive time) south of campus off Route 43. The park is open from sun up to sun down, even if the gates are closed; just park in a space outside the gate and head in. As always, make sure to check the signs at the trail marker before doing anything else. If there are any warnings, closures or trail dangers, they will be posted.
The Boardwalk Trail makes a complete loop through the preserve and passes through meadowland, woods, marshes and the actual bog. I would recommend taking the righthand path and following the trail counter-clockwise. The trail is constructed from raised boardwalk that seems to hover over the ground, made from eco-friendly recycled wood and plastics.
What makes the Kent Bog an important part of the area and such a cool place is the ecological value of the area. According to the website for the preserve, the bog is home to the largest and southernmost stand of tamarack trees in the United States. (A stand, for those who aren’t familiar with tree terms, is just a large area of trees of the same species.) Tamaracks are a type of pine tree. It is also home to several species of sphagnum moss, commonly used in ornamental baskets and plants to make them look more natural.
If you can’t seem to get excited about the ecological side of the preserve, you might be interested in the atmosphere. When you walk through the wooded area of the park, look into the distance as the boardwalk winds its way through, darting in between the trees. If you took the right pathway, you will pass through a denser forest section of trees, mostly gray birch and oaks. You will come to a point, though, where the trees begin to disappear and the sky will open up, revealing the marshy area of the preserve.
Take the time to marvel at the serenity of the area. You can sit down on one of the benches along the boardwalk and watch birds flying overhead, hear the frogs and toads croaking and even the water shifting under the ground. It sounds crazy, but the whole marshland comes to life if you stop and listen and watch. Look for turtles, as well; they are all over the wetlands. If you go on a nice day, the sky just seems to bubble over your head, creating an entirely different world around you.
Also, take time to snap pictures and read the informational placards along the way. There is a lot of history behind the preserve. In short: Thousands of years ago the ice sheet that covered the entirety of northeast Ohio, called the Wisconsin Glacier, began to melt and slide northward. In the process, a large chunk of ice – say, almost 50 acres wide – broke off and stayed in Kent, Ohio. (It probably thought that was the cool thing to do.)
When the ice began to melt, a large, bowl-shaped hole was formed and the water, of course, stayed and formed a lake. Over time, plants took over, and because of the rainy weather in northeast Ohio, the water rarely dried up. The problem was that dead plants and water, when combined for thousands of years, make a mushy, muddy area. We call it a bog. It’s really a interesting environmental area, in my opinion. I definitely recommend taking some friends and enjoying the well-kept trail and area.
No pets are allowed for the sake of preserving the area.