Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

Lindsay Wilderness

I lived in Bonaparte five* years ago.  I could follow the old railroad right-of-way that led from my property through the brush to Christy Creek.  At the creek bank, a tangle of vines nearly covered the remains of an old railroad trestle.  Across the creek on the north side of the trestle pier, dense forest reserve presented a perfect playground for wild animals, while a beaten path ventured south a few yards into the baseball field parking lot. 

Observed from my deck across Matt Mitchell’s hay field, the gorgeous panoply of timbered hills made me feel quite at home.  After all, the rich, colorful, hilly landscape reminded me of my former home in the Ozarks where I had dwelt and taught school for half a decade.  The spectacular wooded setting next to Bonaparte happens to be called Lindsay Wilderness, which is managed by Van Buren County Conservation. 

Almost like clockwork from early summer until snowfall, I watched several deer in late evening silently amble out of the wild to graze in Matt’s field.  If the breeze was behind them, they approached as they foraged right up to my fenced yard.  Just when they seemed to be getting a bit brave, they would sense a human presence and quickly the scene changed.  Once their normal timid nature was triggered, from a safe distance of a couple hundred feet the animals abruptly came to a complete halt, sniffed  the air, stood perfectly still for a few seconds, and then as if propelled like a soundless shot from a cannon, they suddenly bolted and darted away.  Each scampered off in a fury, bouncing into the brush along the creek, into oblivion.  In the woods they found a secure haven—a habitat where they blended into the environment, hidden from view.

The expanse is part of 9,000 acres in Van Buren County that is laid aside for nature.  Lindsay Wilderness itself comprises 200 acres.  To the east is another strand of 60 acres called Reno Timber, and beyond that is an extension of Shimek Forest bordered by several privately owned wooded growths.

In the area next to Bonaparte, the park land is dissected by trails so that visitors can take long walks, hunt for mushrooms, or watch birds and other wildlife.  There are some groves of native timber in this reserve, but most of it is labeled as second growth.  Butternut, sugar maple, walnut, redbud and patches of hawthorn are found near Christy Creek, along with wild raspberry, blackberry, gooseberry, dogwood, hazel brush and plenty of poison ivy.  Christy Creek borders Bonaparte’s ball field before emptying into the Des Moines River.  The creek bed is usually almost dry in summer and offers a rocky corridor through the vine-entangled forest.

This unit known as Lindsay Wilderness was donated in 1982 by sisters Margorie M. Lindsay and Faye Miller Dawson.    In addition to being a park, the acres of wild, thick, twisted undergrowth and timber terrain serves as public hunting grounds during various open seasons for stalking prey.  All in all, it is a delightful area of Van Buren County. 

*We owned 1 Vale View Circle, Bonaparte, in 2002-2003.  Information about Lindsay Wilderness from website /lindsay.htm

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick