An Icy Beginning
Millions of years ago Elkhart was covered by glaciers. The Glaciers moved south, eroding the land collecting glacial drift.
The glaciers eventually began to retreat north, leaving behind their glacial drift. Elkhart is covered in 122 feet of this drift.
9,000 BC - Kettle Lakes
Some parts of the glacier took longer to retreat, settling into clay and forming lakes known as kettle lakes. These lakes have no inlets and are only fed by rainwater. This is how Boot Lake was formed.
After thousands of years, Boot Lake was described by the Indiana Department of Conservation as covering 80 acres and having an average of depth of 4 ft. It had a mud bottom and contained fish. Buffalo, elk, deer, black bear and other animals were said to be found in the areas many wetlands and prairies.
The City of Elkhart purchased the Boot Lake area and began to use two lagoons on the property to disposed of a by-product of the waste-water treatment process, known as sludge.
1970 - 1991
Boot Lake was used as a sludge farm during the 70's and 80's.
The wetlands of Boot Lake were registered as an Indiana Natural Area with The Natural Conservancy and IDNR.
The City realized the need for an environmentally friendly alternative for solid waste disposal and began processing sludge into biosolids that can be used as fertilizer.
1991 - 1994
Over the next 3 years, over 88,000 cubic yards of sludge was removed from Boot Lake.
Elkhart EnviroCorps, an AmeriCorps National Service Organization, was formed to help restore Boot Lake. They removed 40 tons of trash and created 2 miles of hiking trails.
In June of 1995, 20 acres tall grass prairie was planted. In July, Boot lake was officially opened as a nature preserve.
A picnic pavilion shelter was donated by the Associated Builders and Contractors. Elkhart EnviroCorps constructed a compost toilet as a natural means to dispose of human waste.
Boot Lake was named a State Dedicated Nature Preserve.
Elkhart EnviroCorps maintained Boot Lake until 2008 when the program was discontinued.
Boot Lake is 226 acres and has over 3 miles of hiking trails, 60 acres of tall grass prairie, 20 acres of oak savannah and 146 acres of wetlands and woodland areas. It is currently maintained by the City of Elkhart, Elkhart Environmental Division and dedicated volunteers.