A marsh, also called a "wetland," is one of our most important habitats. Marshes probably support more life than any other type of habitat. They are also essential to keeping our environment clean.

Below are some characteristics of marshes:


The best known characteristic of a wetland, water levels change constantly in a marsh. One or more sources of water feeds a marsh, usually a river or several smaller streams. As water comes into the marsh it settles into the soil and is later absorbed by plants. While most of the marsh remains fairly shallow, it holds some water year round.


Plants are one of the most important parts of a wetland. Aquatic plants specialize in living in a wet environment, and a marsh is full of these. Plenty of other, non-aquatic plants grow in a marsh as well, since a marsh is really a "transition", or middle-ground between a water habitat and a land habitat. Aquatic plants found in a marsh include duckweeds, lilypads, cattails, bulrushes, reeds, pondweeds, and arrowheads. Water-loving shrubs and trees include willows, alders, sycamores, buttonbush, and swamp rose. You only need to find a dry spot to see the usual grasses, wildflowers, and trees found in other habitats.


Most of the soil in a marsh is wet for the majority of the year, making it mud. This moist soil is great for certain types of plants and animals.


Any animal that likes a wet environment is likely to be found in a marsh. This includes many species of frogs, toads, turtles, snakes, mammals, birds and insects. Some of these animals are only found in a marsh. Some birds that love a marsh environment include wading birds, such as Great Blue Herons; waterfowl, including Mallards and Canada Geese; and fishng birds, like Belted Kingfishers and Bald Eagles. Common insects include dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, and diving beetles. Some mammals, like beaver and muskrats, may live in a marsh full-time; while others, such as fox, deer, and raccoons, visit frequently.

Dead Snags:

Dead snags are what's left of trees that have died, but are still standing. They make good perches for birds and often rise straight up out of the water or mud. These old trunks are from trees that died when their roots were drowned in water in a flood, or when beavers built a new dam that flooded an area.

Fallen Trees:

Old logs make great basking spots for turtles and snakes. They also provide animals such as herons and raccoons a hunting perch.

Beaver Lodges and Muskrat Houses:

Besides being homes for these mammals, lodges and houses are used by other animals. Geese may nest on them, turtles may lay eggs on them, and reptiles may bask on them.

Crayfish Burrows:

Looking like miniature "chimneys," crayfish burrows rise up a few inches from the soil. The burrow itself goes below the water level, and crayfish share their homes with tiny creatures, such as copepods.


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