Wing Haven Nature Preserve
Wing Haven is a large ACRES preserve comprised of at least three disjunct parcels that protect or partially protect several members of the Seven Sisters, a small constellation of lakes in central Steuben County. Trails totaling nearly two miles explore parts of the middle parcel; the south-central portion of that same parcel contains several buildings used by the resident caretakers. Interstate 69 is not far away and when the wind is from the west, highway noise is audible. Nevertheless, this is an attractive and interesting destination.
You can enter the trail system from either end of the parking area, which is at the bottom of a small figure eight with two connecting trails. The path to the west leads up to what may be the highest point in the preserve, but don’t expect views. I generally go east, bearing left at the first junction to follow along the rim of a small ravine. Bear right at the next two junctions and the trail will begin to descend through a rich wood, heading toward Little Gentian Lake An extensive pawpaw patch fills the understory across large areas closer to the lake.
Follow the side trail north to the shores of Little Gentian Lake, which takes its name from the fringed gentian plants that occur here. Fringed gentian bloom late in the summer; the impossibly blue flowers have frilly or fringed outer edges. A short dock extends into the lake; the shore is undeveloped, which probably accounts for the very clear water. Return to the main trail; it will soon rise toward a century-old log building that once served as the former owner’s art studio. It is now a visitor or event center of sorts, though only open on special occasions.
From here you can head east to explore trails that pass through more open areas, including recent woods, meadows, and a prairie-like area that surrounds a small pond. Though not my favorite part of the preserve, the eastern portions do offer different habitats and species. If you head south from the visitor center, you’ll soon enter a small ravine. Short footbridges repeatedly cross the small creek that wends its way along the bottom of the ravine. You’ll encounter nice wildflower displays in the spring (check the ravine sides for hepatica), as well as several species of fern. A short stair leads up and out of the ravine, not far from the parking area.
TRAIL MAP (Click to enlarge)