A Fascinating Walk!


Hi Friends!

It’s a wonderful tradition that began early on, when my husband and I were just getting to know one another! Very often, we found ourselves walking near water, with moments of peaceful silence and interesting conversations about anything and everything. Oh the beautiful places we have walked together! Not the types to sit on a beach, we have strolled along Lake Michigan beaches, the beaches of Waikiki, and along the North Shore of Kauai. Walks along the River Seine, the River Rhein, the Lower Salt River in the Sonoran desert, and the Illinois River hold so many dear memories. Over the years, we have enjoyed walking along rushing waterfalls, meandering creeks, and a quiet marsh. Yet, there has always been another watery destination on our long list of places to walk ~  a bog!

So, Sunday morning, we packed a picnic lunch and drove north quite a distance to the Volo Bog State Natural Area. Our walk was filled with unexpected surprises, lovely views, and new learning. We both agreed that it was one of our more fascinating walks… and I couldn’t wait to share our walk with you!


With our first glimpse of the Volo Bog, we were very curious about the large patches of pink in the distance. It was time to explore!

This bog originated about 12,000 years ago as the Wisconsin glacier crept into northeastern Illinois. As the climate warmed, the ice melted and glacial lakes formed. The trees (in the photo above) mark the edges of the old glacial lake. 


Volo Bog has a floating boardwalk, allowing visitors to view various parts of the bog while walking just above the bog’s surface.

This was our chance to walk just inches above the surface of a bog! We could feel the floating walkway moving gently underfoot with each step. We walked very slowly, as dragonflies and butterflies floated overhead and a chorus of nearby crickets and frogs sang for us. Below the boardwalk, the 50-foot deep bog was filled with plants growing in this unique wetland.


From time to time as we walked, there were views of peaceful, open water, surrounded by cattails and sedges. However, most of the bog is now lush with plant growth.

A bog is a very unique type of wetland. It forms in a glacial lake that has very poor drainage and no inflow of water from streams. Rain water and melting snow fill the bog. A floating mat of peat, which is partially decayed plant matter, began to form long ago at the Volo Bog.  The roots of living plants support this thickening peat layer.


Volo Bog is the only ‘Quaking Bog’ with an open water center in Illinois. Its floating mat of sphagnum moss and other plants is so thick in some places that a person could actually stand on it. However, this would not only damage the bog, but would be incredibly dangerous. The floating boardwalk allows visitors to safely explore the bog.


Cattails turn to seed in mid-August at Volo Bog.

As early as 10,000 years ago, the Native Americans settled in northeastern Illinois. The Volo Bog, a distance from large waterways, would have provided good hunting grounds and places to gather arrowhead roots, cattails, blueberries, and other edible plants.

BogFloraColorful wildflowers were in full bloom throughout the bog and the pollinators were very active on this mid-August day.


The wooden boardwalk leads visitors through four different plant communities at Volo Bog. As we made our way, the changing plant species seemed to take us back through time. Winterberry Holly, Dogwood, and Poison Sumac were among the tall shrubs in this part of the bog. During times of high water from rain and melting snow, some of the Tamarack trees in this area drowned. Ancient ferns also grow in this shady area of the bog.


This diagram shows the different plant zones we observed as we followed the boardwalk (yellow dotted trail) to the ‘eye’ of the Volo Bog.


The ‘eye’ of the Volo Bog is not an ordinary pond. It is 50 feet deep and everything you see is floating… even the Tamarack pine trees in the distance! As the plant layers in the bog continue to grow and decay, scientists predict the open water at the ‘eye’ will be overgrown with vegetation in the next 100-150 years.


Tamarack pine trees grow in this part of the plant community. These unusual pines are deciduous! In Autumn, their needles turn golden yellow and fall onto the peat soil below. The Tamarack trees, with their shallow, spreading roots, float up and down as the water levels change in the bog.

Sphagnum moss carpets the ground in this area of the bog. Native American mothers gathered and dried this moss to line their cradle boards, as a sort of diaper. Early soldiers used dried sphagnum to cover their wounds in the battlefields, since this moss produces acids with antibacterial properties.

BogFaunaThe bog is a wetland habitat for so many animal species.


This circa 1900 dairy barn was renovated to create a wonderful, educational Visitor Center at the Volo Bog.


As a result of our rainy summer, water levels seemed high in this open water area of the bog.


Waterbirds searched for food in the moss-covered water, while a family of turtles took turns sunning on a floating log.


The bog is a beautiful, fragile ecosystem that we must carefully preserve.

As we walked along the boardwalk, observing the variety of plants and animals that make their homes in this habitat, my thoughts turned to my own garden. Years ago, as I added new flower beds, I would occasionally buy a large bag of peat moss to mix into the soil. Never again!!

Most of our commercially harvested (actually, it is ‘mined’) peat in North America comes from Canadian sphagnum moss. Our walk reminded me once again that bogs are fragile wetlands that must be preserved! There are much better (and cheaper) alternatives to amend the soil in our gardens ~ local leaf mold compost, wood chips, composted garden waste, and green kitchen compost. Continued use of these plant materials will keep my garden a healthier, more responsible little patch of nature for years to come!

Thanks so much for stopping to visit today!

This is my 100th post at Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes… 

and your visits and thoughtful comments are always such a treat for me!


Enjoy your week!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Do you enjoy walking near water, too?  Please tell us about your favorite places to walk…




37 thoughts on “A Fascinating Walk!

  1. Dawn! This was a wonderful read! Thank you for educating me, too, on the origins of peat. I’m with you! Never again! I’ll be sure to add this journey to our list of must-go places. Congratulations on 100 entries! You are a true gift.

    • Oh, Louise! You are so sweet! Thank you! I never dreamed that a bog could be so lush and beautiful. It was truly a lovely place to take a walk! There is a large park with covered picnic tables, near the Visitor Center. I think you would really enjoy a walk along the boardwalk. It’s definitely ‘Morning Science’… any time of day! Thanks so much for stopping to visit, Louise! ♡

  2. What a wonderful and informational post. I have never heard of this bog and it was fascinating how it was formed and the nature that thrives there. You always educate us with the most interesting bits of information.
    Thank you, Dawn.

    • Big hugs, Karen! The bog wasn’t anything like what I expected. There is so much happening at a bog. I’m sure it is beautiful in every season. I’m so happy that we were there to see the summer blossoms! I’m so glad you learned something new here today. (Once a teacher, always a teacher! 🙂 ) Thank you for being such a special part of our blog, Karen! ♡

  3. Congratulations, Dawn on 100 posts on your lovely blog! I always learn something when I come here. Today is a good example. I would enjoy a walk through this interesting bog. Walking is a wonderful way to connect with nature and of course with our loved ones. Grayden and I have walked for years for exercise and to enjoy nature. The Volo Bog looks to be quite large and so full of plant and animal life. As a gardener, I have not used peat and will not use it. You are so right that compost is a wonderful addition to all of our gardens. We must be good stewards of our earth. Happy walking, dear Dawn. ♥

    • Heartfelt thanks, Martha Ellen! Wouldn’t it be fun if we could all walk together? Just imagine the adventures! We try to walk for exercise, but one of us (me!) keeps stopping to take photos!:) Walking in nature always gladdens the heart. Whenever we walk near water, I always feel a sense of peace and calm. We noticed an amazing variety of plant and animal life during our walk at the Volo Bog. It was positively musical with the bees buzzing, birds singing, frogs croaking, and crickets chirping! Gentle breezes kept the flowers and grasses dancing along to nature’s music. I’m so proud of you for never using peat in your garden. Long ago, I used it twice to amend the soil in new garden beds. Since then, I have been using compost instead… and the garden seems much happier! Thank you for being such a special part of our little blog, my friend! Hope you are having cooler days, so that you and Grayden can take nice, long walks together! ♡

  4. I love that you spend your precious time together walking near water and discovering new places. What a fascinating place to visit. I liked seeing the zones. The wildflowers are gorgeous and so is the other wildlife. Aren’t turtles the cutest? I never knew that moss had healing properties. And I also didn’t know it was ‘mined’ and presented an environmental concern. Wow! thanks for sharing your beautiful photos and expertise, Dawn. I’m going to share this on my GardeningNirvana Facebook page.

    • Such a sweet thing to say, Alys! Thank you! I learned so much about bogs from our time in the Visitor Center before we set out to walk on the boardwalk at Volo Bog. They even had a model bog that we could walk across to ‘experience’ the squishy, firmness of actually walking on the peat and vegetation of a Quaking Bog. We watched the turtles swimming and climbing on the fallen log to sun bathe for quite a while. Thanks so much for sharing on your FB page. It’s important to find alternate ways to amend our soil, so that we can preserve our wetlands! Thank you for always being a part of our conversation here, Alys! ♡

  5. I’d love to walk along that path, it looks so peaceful… and yes, there’s no need to add peat moss to gardens when we have many other options that are just as good for the soil. Beautiful post!

    • Thanks, Meg! I know you would enjoy a walk through the Volo Bog, too. We found it fascinating! It’s not too far south of you… near McHenry, IL, if you are ever in that area. Have you visited any bogs in Wisconsin? It’s so important to preserve our wetlands. Reminding gardeners to avoid peat is a good start! So happy that you stopped to visit today, Meg! Wishing you happy days in your garden! ♡

  6. The Volo Bog has been on my list to visit for some time now, Dawn. Your wonderful description and vivid photos compel me to go soon.
    I have always had trouble imagining the floating walkway and appreciate your post for explaining it so well. The Volo Bog is truly a living museum, isn’t it?
    Was there a picnic area for you to enjoy your lunch?

    • Oh, Penny! It was so different from what I was expecting to see! You will love visiting Volo Bog! Be sure to start in the Visitor Center. There are great displays upstairs, where you can try walking on a faux Quaking Bog. The floating walkway that takes you through all four bog zones to the ‘eye’ is .5 miles. There are other pretty trails on land, as well. I’m sure it would be pretty any time of year, but it is gorgeous right now! Amazingly, there were no mosquitoes in sight. All of the insects must be eating them! There is a nice park, with covered picnic tables, right next to the parking lot. I’m so happy that we finally have a fascinating walking place to share with you, Penny! 🙂 You always share the best places with us! Enjoy your week, my friend! ♡

      • Thank you for all this input, Dawn, and for your encouragement. The Volo Bog has always sounded intriguing to me, and you have not only confirmed that it is, but, that it is quite “doable”. Hope you are having a nice weekend.

  7. Thanks for taking me along on your walk. I’ve never heard of floating walkways. It was definitely alive with flora and fauna. Was that purple loosestrife blooming? Invasive or natural?

    • Our pleasure, Marcia! There was beauty all around us as we walked. From the overlook at the beginning of our walk, we could see large patches of pink. I was so curious for an up close peek! It looks like Loosestrife, which grows quickly and thrives in moist, wet areas. I’m hoping that it is the non-invasive variety, but I’m not certain. I will try to find out more about it! Hope you are having a nice week, Marcia! Thanks so much for stopping to visit today! ♡

  8. Very nice tour of Volo Bog. Another place I am hoping to visit. I have been to a quaking bog before. It was up in northern Wisconsin and some of the vegetation was different. The tamaracks were there and other places in the area of the bog. There was no walkway, the bog was shallow and it did move when you walked on it. That was a good forty years ago and they may have installed a walkway since. It was on private property and owned by a friend and neighbor of my father’s older sister who lived nearby. There were few visitors to that one, and the owner of the property was making sure it was protected. Thanks for the lovely photos too.
    If you ever have the chance do visit the Mississippi Palisades State Park, it’s just north of Savanna, Illinois. there’s a long stretch of raised road down the middle of the river as the bridge to Iowa only goes halfway and there’s a little town on low islands at the end of the road and another halfway bridge into Iowa. There are bald eagles at Mississippi Palisades and a nice platform overlook where you can see up and down river.

    • Hi, Aquila! It’s so nice to hear about another bog up in northern Wisconsin. I really hope that it remains a protected wetland area. The Volo Bog is now managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, with support from local conservation groups. There are no entry fees. On weekends, there are guided tours available at certain times of day. There is also a nice picnic area near the parking lot. The Volo Bog is popular with local schools for field trips. It’s such a great opportunity to teach future generations about the importance of preservation. Thank you so much for telling us about the Mississippi Palisades State Park. It sounds like such a beautiful place to visit. I would love to check it out! I’m so happy that you stopped to visit today and shared your thoughts with us, Aquila! ♡

      • I suspect the bog in Wisconsin is also being protected. It was on private property and, after checking some maps, it now seems it is part of the Nicolet National Forest. It was not easy to find and not something the owners made any attempt to advertise so wasn’t well known. Thanks for the further info about Volo. Autumn is a great time to visit Mississippi Palisades, make sure you drive some of the back roads as there are some stunning views especially when there is fall color. You might even get to see a flock of wild turkeys on the bluff itself.

      • Many thanks, Aquila! The Mississippi Palisades are definitely on our list now. It sounds like it would be so lovely in Autumn. Whenever we make the trip, I promise to share photos here! I’m very glad to hear that the Wisconsin bog is now part of the Nicolet National Forest. It’s sure to be a protected wetland for years to come! Thanks for stopping back again, Aquila! ♡

  9. What a fabulous photographer you have become. You have a real eye for the shot. The floating walkway is such a wonderful way to be part of the environment. I adore anything near water. It is meditative. Walks along the beach are a favorite. I do that at least once a month no matter the weather. Thanks for sharing, as always.

    • You are too kind, dear Anne! My ‘secret’ is to take lots of photos… and choose my favorites when I look at them on my laptop! Photos have always been so important to me, as I try to capture the small moments that make each day special!

      Walking near water truly does feel like meditation. Kindred spirits! You are so blessed to be able to walk along the beaches of the Pacific Ocean so often. May the waves carry away any worries of the day…

      We think of our California friends each day as the terrible fires continue to grow. It’s so devastating and heartbreaking!!!! We are also keeping all of the brave firefighters in our thoughts, as well. Stay safe, dear friend. ♡

  10. I thoroughly enjoyed this post Dawn and taking a walk with you through these different landscapes. I definitely learned a bit more about bogs too, your posts are always so informational and your pictures always tell a story. I love reading posts centered around nature, and this definitely held my interest all the way through. Congratulations on the 100th post! May we continue to enjoy many many more of them.

    • Heartfelt thanks, dear Loretta! There is nothing better than walking in nature… especially near water! It was fascinating to explore the Volo Bog, and to learn so much about bogs as I wrote this post. I always strive to make each post accurate. You never know when someone will come upon this post while doing their homework research! 🙂 I try my best to weave factual information into my personal stories. (Once a teacher, always a teacher! 🙂 ) I’m so glad that we connected through the wonderful world of blogging, Loretta! I always learn so much from your posts, too. Thanks so much for always being here! ♡

    • Oh, Lisa! I thought of you as we were walking. You would LOVE the Volo Bog!! It was so fascinating… not at all what I was expecting to see there. On the outskirts of the bog, there was a prairie. As we hiked along the trail to higher ground, I kept stopping to examine the grasses up close. Of course, I was searching for sideoats! 😊 I tried to take a closeup photo, just to check with you. No luck! The native grasses were dancing in the summer breezes.

      Your camping adventure looked wonderful! Such a fun way to celebrate your anniversary! Hope you will keep sharing photos! Thanks so much for stopping to visit today, Lisa! 💗

  11. I enjoy a good bog, swamp, and wetland, so much. I love the floating walkway as it allows so many to view and experience areas that normally we don’t get to explore while at the same time containing where we do walk to protect the environment.
    Both your essay and your photos are just excellent. Thank you so very much for sharing this gorgeous walk. 🐞

    • Welcome, JoHanna! Many thanks for your very kind words. Visiting the bog was just fascinating! Standing on the floating walkway in the midst of so much beauty is something I will always remember. The sounds of nature that day were a symphony! I’m sure it is lovely throughout the seasons… but I’m really happy that our first visit was in the summertime! Thanks so much for visiting and joining in the conversation here, JoHanna! ♡

    • My pleasure, Ginnie! The Volo Bog is such a fascinating place to visit. The floating walkway led us to the ‘eye’ of the bog through several different plant zones. I’ve never seen so many dragonflies! It was such a peaceful place! I’m so happy that you stopped to visit today, Ginnie! Hope you had a chance to enjoy our beautiful weather the past three days. 💗

  12. Dawn, I loved this post! The bog certainly is a beautiful place. It reminded me of a vacation hubby and I took in Canada where we visited a marsh. A bit different, but similar in many ways. We walked along boardwalks and canoed through the wetlands, sighting similar creatures.

    • Isn’t it amazing to visit such peaceful places near the water, Jann? Your vacation visit to the Canadian marsh sounded just beautiful. Years ago, we enjoyed walking along a marsh. Canoeing through the wetlands must be such a special memory! Wishing you a wonderful weekend, Jann! We are enjoying summer showers this morning. So good for the garden! ♡

    • Many thanks, Karen! The Volo Bog was filled with surprises for me. I never dreamed that a bog would be so lovely! I think we will want to visit again during each season to see all of the changes throughout the year. So happy that you stopped to visit. Wishing you a wonderful weekend, Karen! ♡

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