Madison Lake State Park lies within the Darby Plains of Madison County These plains, before settlement, resembled smaller versions of the Great Plains found in the West Ohio's original landscape, before being altered by man, was about 95 percent forest with the remaining 5 percent comprised of wetlands and prairies In Ohio, there were about 1,000 square miles of prairie encompassing the land During a dry period, about 4,000 years ago, conditions were favorable that allowed prairies to expand eastward into Ohio This extension known as the Prairie Peninsula covered an area east of the Missouri River, south of the Great Lakes and north of the Ohio River. In time, the climate became more humid and more favorable for forest growth The prairie retreated to the Indiana-Illinois border leaving isolated pockets in Ohio Few prairies survive in Ohio as agriculture, woody plants and Eurasian weeds have taken their toll Prairies do still exist along highway and railroad right-of-ways, marsh borders and abandoned cemeteries One of the best examples of existing prairie in Ohio is within the Darby Plains of Madison County Bigelow Cemetery State Nature Preserve near Chuckery contains significant prairie plants including big bluestem, Indian grass and purple coneflower Smith Cemetery Prairie, also of Madison County, contains stiff goldenrod, gray willow and wild petunia Animals that favor the habitat of this area include the woodchuck (groundhog), red fox, ring-necked pheasant, 13-lined ground squirrel and numerous songbirds Kestrels, horned larks, bobolinks and meadowlarks can be spotted in the park The lake supports populations of migrating waterfowl and shorebirds

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