Bog Walk

Today I took a Bog Walk with a naturalist at Lake Bemidji State Park. The highlight of the walk for me was the carnivorous plants and orchids. A bog is formed when a lake slowly fills with plant debris. Sphagnum moss, as well as other plants, grow out from the lake’s edge. Plants decay slowly in bogs, because flooding prevents a healthy flow of oxygen from the atmosphere. Bog soils are oxygen and nutrient poor, and are much more acidic than other soils. All bogs take hundreds or thousands of years to develop. Bogs are ecologically important because they absorb great amounts of precipitation. They prevent flooding and absorb runoff.

For thousands of years, people have regarded bogs as spiritual or haunted places. Their spongy and sometimes slow-burning soil created mysteries for Bronze Age and Iron Age societies. Perhaps the most lasting testament to ancient reverence for bogs are bog bodies. Bog bodies are the remains of people who died in bogs or were placed there after their deaths. More than a thousand bog bodies have been found throughout northern Europe. The low-oxygen, acidic soil of bogs preserve bog bodies remarkably well. Remains more than a thousand years old retain their skin, internal organs, and even beard stubble. Unique hairstyles and tattoos are clearly visible.

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