Wellness: Get Outdoors – Biking, Birding, Hiking at Big Marsh
Over the last two decades, hundreds of studies have found a direct relationship between access to nature and good physical and mental health and long-term well-being. Just some of the benefits include lower stress and anxiety; reduced incidences of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure; children doing better in school; lower impacts from ADHD; and improved immune function. A meta-analysis of 140 such studies involving 290 million people from 20 countries by the University of East Anglia in the U.K. confirmed that “spending time in, or living close to, natural green spaces is associated with diverse and significant health benefits,” including most of those listed above.
The world-class bike park at Big Marsh contains numerous unique trails with different levels of difficulties for BMX and off-road cyclists including a 32,000-square-foot paved pump track and both beginner and expert jump lines.
The entire region around Big Marsh and Lake Calumet is vital for wildlife, especially marsh birds, shorebirds, duck and geese as well as other wildlife such as turtles, white-tailed deer, beavers, muskrats and coyotes. Big Marsh Park is home to familiar species like great blue herons, great egrets and mallards, but it’s also home to secretive marsh birds like the threatened least bittern and more than 150 other bird species year-long. For more information about birding visit the Chicago Audubon Society.
When facing the marsh at the overlook adjacent to the parking lot, Beaver Tree Trail is to the left and a trail to the right lead to Deer Bone Pointe. Take Deer Bone Pointe Trail to its western edge and to Paxton Path and Acme Trail to Three Finger Pond. All routes are excellent for hiking, bird watching, trail running, or forest bathing. Forest bathing, sometimes called forest therapy, gives us the opportunity to slow down our mind and body and connect with the forest, and the river. According the Chicago Tribune, “Forest bathing was developed in Japan in the 1980s after the population was experiencing a high amount of health issues primarily related to stress.”
Creative Guides to Experience Nature
Download our easy-to-use guides for exercises for all ages in how to create a nature journal, use sound maps, drawing challenges, how to make a nature slide show, and how to use all four senses to experience the wonder of nature that is all around you at Big Marsh Park.