By: John Griffee
It’s easy to miss Brandywine Creek Nature Park. The small parking lot sits along South Third Street near Niles, plain-looking, and simple to overlook, made more difficult with the pavement caked in fresh snowfall.
Brandywine Creek is similar to many small parks that are dotted all across the country in the lack of presentation. There is no large welcome area, expansive parking, or entrances; just a sign that says the name of the park beside the lot that looks like a turnoff.
To dismiss Brandywine Creek as just another small out of the way park is to make the mistake that deprives so many people of seeing what’s out there. Shrouded behind the looming army of sycamore trees is a wonderful path looping alongside the creek.
Despite the sub-zero windchills, the trees overlooking the river were filled with countless American Robins and the occasional Eastern Bluebird. The robins darted from tree to tree, scavenging for any berries that remained untouched. As if it were a Disney film, there was fluttering life at arm’s length all along the trail.
A wintry walk through Brandywine Creek will leave any hiker in shock at the sheer amount of activity present. While winter is seen as the quiet cold stretch of the year where not much is out there, the avian life has yet to die down. Red-bellied Woodpeckers crack on exposed trees, filling the woods with the distant sound of nature’s jackhammers. The robins refused to be forgotten, loudly moving about in the brush and smaller berry-bearing trees.
Small birds nests are nestled near the tops of pockets of brush, topped with a layer of snow like icing on a cupcake. The creek has refused to ice over, the subtle but constant whirring of the stream has become the background noise to the birds’ songs. Flanked by the seemingly endless banks of snow, Brandywine Creek is the source that brings all the wildlife together.
Brandywine Creek Nature Park is not a large path, full of facilities or observatories, but it serves its purpose just as effectively as a state park might. It showcases the life abounding within and hints at the natural history. A sycamore resembling almost a bench can be found on the trail, signs of another force causing the tree to grow around it.
Near the end of the loop, the walkway opens up near a golden-colored wooden deck, flanked by a rusted bridge overhead of the creek. The bridge is part of the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail, a biking trail meant to replace a section of an abandoned railroad. The bike path stretches from Riverfront Park and Plymouth Park to Brandywine Creek Nature Park.
Brandywine Creek serves as a reminder that some of the greatest parks may remain uncrowded or never receive due attention. That little lot tucked away off a busy street may hide a gem that becomes the daily walk for those nearby. Never judge a book by its cover, and never judge a park by its entrance.
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