Wetlands are the part of the landscape that naturally collects and stores water. They are defined as areas where the soil is saturated with water for enough of the year to give it wetland-type soil (‘hydric soil’) with wetland-type plants.

Prior to European settlement, 24% of Indiana was wetland. By the 1980’s, Indiana had lost 85% of its wetlands to make way for roads, buildings, and farms.

Wetlands are an essential part of a healthy ecosystem and the state’s water supply for so many reasons:

  • They store excess stormwater, which reduces flooding.
  • While it’s stored, the water is soaking in to recharge groundwater.
  • They store 1 – 1.5 million gallons of water per acre.
  • The water stored in wetlands seeps out during the dry season to maintain streamflows.
  • Wetlands slow stormwater making it less erosive.
  • Wetlands purify water.
  • They provide habitat for 50% of Indiana’s species with small or declining populations.
  • Wetlands are one of the most biologically productive ecosystems.

Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources estimated the economic value of wetland functions and a group of professors from Indiana universities issued a brief on the value of wetlands in 2021.

There are many types of wetlands: bogs, dune and swale, fens, cypress swamps, pothole wetlands, seeps, marshes, swamps, forested fens, sedge meadows, and more. Enjoy the photos of Indiana wetlands below. Visit wetlands with this guide to Indiana’s publicly accessible wetlands from the Indiana Land Protection Alliance.

Wetland protection went down a lot from 2020 to 2024 with changes in Indiana and US law. Learn more about steps you can take to protect Indiana’s isolated wetlands, and watch our webinars on how to watchdog water and wetland permits

Plants from Indiana’s wetlands