Fall activities include free parks, Indiana fishing, and hay rides

Birds are on the move, as are monarch butterflies, which you can see flitting south along Lake Michigan beaches and even on some highways. And it was about time, wasn’t it, because Thursday, September 22 marks the first day of autumn?

It also means there are tons of ways to take advantage of the first balmy days of fall over the next week or two, from free admission to parks to free fishing, birds, hay riding, hiking, night biking and finding creatures.

It’s too early for the broad fall colors, but you can spot a few isolated tree leaves that have changed color. More likely, you will see meadows and fields turning gold and rusty while gold and purple flowers will still bloom.

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How to watch birds

Local Audubon Society Education Chair Melissa Gunter will host a free interactive adult birding and identification workshop from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. September 22 at the Harris Branch Library, 51446 Elm Road, Granger. Register in a link in this column online.

Boot Lake Grassland Hike

Join a naturalist for a guided hike at 6 p.m. September 23 through the prairie and lake/wetland of Boot Lake Nature Preserve in Elkhart while discussing the various unique prairie plants and their roles. The naturalist will also give a brief introduction to the history of Boot Lake. The hike will take about an hour and a half. The hike is free but registration is required before September 22 at https://elkhartcountyparks.org/events/prairie-hike-9-23-22/.

Free fishing

September 24 is the last free fishing day of the year in Indiana, where you can fish any public water without a license or trout/salmon stamp. Rules such as bag and size limits still apply. Licenses are normally required if you are 18 or older.

Free parks

All national parks in the United States will offer free admission on September 24 in honor of National Public Lands Day, including Indiana Dunes National Park. Indiana State Parks will offer free admission to all of its parks a day later on September 25, including Potato Creek.

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Plant dune grasses

Help plant marram grass, which is essential for dune stabilization, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. CDT September 24 at Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton as part of a National Wildlife Day service project. public lands. Meet on the west side of the beach pavilion. Long pants, garden gloves and your own drinking water are recommended.

Find the bugs

Woodlawn Nature Center, 604 Woodlawn Ave., Elkhart, invites families to come at 5 p.m. Sept. 24 to look for bugs under rocks, logs, and different micro-ecosystems, then hang out by a campfire and a lit sheet to attract more insects. Cost is $3 for ages 3 and up, $10 per family of four. Register before September 23 in a link in this column online.

LaPorte County Reserve

A new state-dedicated nature preserve in LaPorte County, Sebert Woods County Park, will be dedicated at 10 a.m. CDT on September 24 as Indiana Department of Natural Resources personnel lead a guided hike on a new half-mile dirt trail. The park, with plant species normally found in the north, is at 3608 W. County Road 925 North, Michigan City (the road runs west from Indiana 39 south of the Michigan border ). It is in front of a trail at Wintergreen Woods Nature Reserve.

Night community bike ride

Dress up your bike with glow sticks, reflectors and lights and join this nighttime bike ride with a police escort through Lake Winona and Warsaw on September 24. It starts at 7:30 p.m. from the Gordon Health and Wellness Center, 100 Publishers Drive, Winona Lac. Donations of any amount are requested; net proceeds will go to a person or family in need. Register in a EventBrite.com link in this column online.

Hike on the Elbel

Join a hike led by a city naturalist on September 25 through the forested uplands near the wetlands at Elbel Park Golf Course, 26595 Auten Road in South Bend. Meet behind the clubhouse a little before 3 p.m. The hike will continue until 4:30 p.m. Parts of the hike are on steep and possibly slippery hills. Wear sturdy shoes.

pumpkin birds

An Elkhart County Parks naturalist will lead a birding walk at 6 p.m. Sept. 27 on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail from the County Road 43 parking lot, east of Middlebury. To register and find a card for this Middlebury Public Library event, find a link in this column online.

Harry Potter and Other Hay Rides in Bendix

Bendix Woods County Park in New Carlisle will host a Harry Potter-themed hay ride at 1 p.m. on October 2, as young riders will each receive a handcrafted wand ahead of time and end with an “enchanted drink.” near a fire. The cost is $10 per person. Register before September 28 at 574-654-3155. Other hay rides are planned: public rides at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 9, disability-friendly rides between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. Oct. 15, free Family Passport to Play rides between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Nov. 5 and walks with dogs from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 6. Details on sjcparks.org.

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Bendix Deer Hunt

October 7 is the deadline to apply for Controlled Deer Hunts at Bendix Woods County Park in New Carlisle, which will be held November 19-20. The park will be closed to the public on these days. Hunting helps protect the high-quality ecosystem in the park’s state-dedicated nature reserve. Three hunters and a substitute will be selected by lottery. Hunters must have a bonus Indiana license without antlers. For more details and hunter application forms, visit www.sjcparks.org.

Become a river watcher

A free workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on October 8 at St. Patrick’s County Park in South Bend will train and certify you to be part of the state Hoosier Riverwatch program, where volunteers help monitor the quality of streams and rivers. Bring a lunch bag. Register before September 30 on sjcparks.org.

Find columnist Joseph Dits on Facebook at SBTOutdoorAdventures or 574-235-6158 or [email protected].

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