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Nearby nature spots offer winter fun

Monday, January 11, 2010

Whitney Morrill and Judy Aikman didn't let a little snow stop them from taking their weekly walk at the DePauw Nature Park Friday afternoon.
GREENCASTLE -- Every Friday, rain, sunshine or snow, Whitney Morrill and Judy Aikman take a walk at the DePauw Nature Park. The recent snowstorm in Putnam County didn't deter them this week.

Like many local residents, the two women look for interesting places to walk or hike. There are numerous places to find winter fun less than an hour's drive from Putnam County.

One of the most accessible spots is a favorite of the two women -- the DePauw Nature Park, located just minutes west of Greencastle on West Walnut Street.

The Nature Park is an abandoned limestone quarry developed into a park setting with several miles of trails, a variety of habitats, bodies of water, cliffs and unpredictable terrain.

There are trails around the top and bottom of the quarry, creekside and through beautiful wooded areas. Plenty of parking is available, and pets are welcome as long as they are on a leash, as there are coyotes in the park.

A group of cardinals were having a fine time flitting around in the snow at the DePauw Nature Park Friday afternoon. The park is home to numerous birds and animals and is located just west of Greencastle.
There are other hidden secrets in the county. The Nature Conservancy in Indiana has three preserves in Putnam County. They include Hall Woods, Big Walnut and Fern Cliff.

Hall Woods

Hall Woods offers 128 acres of deep woods rich with trees and lush undergrowth of wildflower-covered slopes and glistening streams full of life. The vast white oak-dominated woods are also home to silver maple, sycamore, buckeye and tulip trees that tower over sassafras, dogwood, beech and spicebush trees.

Visitors will also find streams and deep ravines full of aquatic life like smallmouth bass and other species of fish. Various birds like the belted kingfisher, Louisiana waterthrush and swallows fly through the preserve filling it with song.

To get to Hall Woods from Greencastle, travel north on S.R. 43 approximately 9.5 miles to U.S. 36 and turn right (east). Go through Bainbridge and continue another 0.5 mile. Take the angling county road to the southeast. Travel slightly over 0.5 mile to the preserve with the parking area on the left side of the road.

Big Walnut Preserve

Big Walnut Preserve is a dazzling scenic area situated among the rolling hills and steep ravines of Big Walnut Creek Valley. Since 1985, the preserve has been co-managed by the Conservancy and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Nature Preserves (DNP). This successful partnership has protected more than 2,600 acres and has ensured the long-term viability of this biologically important natural area.

With beautiful, virgin, glacial-relic stands of eastern hemlock and Canada yew flourishing on cool, north facing slopes, it's no surprise that this area was designated as a national natural landmark in 1968. Exceptionally large trees, including the largest known hemlock trees in Indiana, are scattered across the preserve along with one of the few remaining stands of a beech, sugar maple, tulip, poplar forests growing in west central Indiana. Various species of warblers and the Great Blue heron make their home here.

To get to Big Walnut, take U.S. 36 two miles west of Groveland to County Rd. 500 E. Turn right (north) and continue for one mile to County Rd. 800 N. Turn right (east), then take the first left, and continue for one mile until you reach the "T" intersection (County Rd. 900 N). Turn left (west), go approximately 0.8 miles (you will pass Coffman Cemetery) until you see the small parking area on your left.

Fern Cliff

Fern Cliff has long been a popular Indiana refuge. Steep, forested, sandstone cliffs, lush wooded ravines, and a profusion of ferns and bryophytes characterize the preserve. It's this unique vegetation that makes the preserve a botanists' floral paradise.

To get there from the southeast corner of the county courthouse, go south on Jackson one block to Walnut Street. Go west (right) on Walnut (which becomes County Rd. 125 S) approximately four miles. Turn south on County Rd. 500 W (which will become 525 W, 550 W and 600 W) approximately three miles to County Rd. 375 S. Turn west (right) to the Fern Cliff entrance (approximately one mile).

From U.S. 40, go north on County Rd. 625 W through Pleasant Garden and Reelsville to County Rd. 650 W (approximately one mile). Turn right on County Rd. 650 W (becomes County Rd. 625 W) and proceed (approximately two miles) to a dead end at County Rd. 500 S. Turn east (right) on County Rd. 500 S to County Rd. 600 W (approximately 0.2 mile). Turn north (left) on County Rd. 600 W. After approximately 1.4 miles, County Rd. 600 N will turn west and become County Rd. 375 S. Proceed west on County Rd. 375 S for approximately one mile to the Fern Cliff entrance.

Pine Hills

In nearby Montgomery County you will find Indiana's first dedicated nature preserve, Pine Hills. It is a remarkable example of the natural beauty our state has to offer.

In this preserve, hogback ridges with steep drop-offs; craggy hills, deep gorges and extensive sandstone bluffs are covered with stands of evergreens and hardwood trees.

Groves of northern relict hemlock, white pine, Canada yews, old-growth oak, hickory forests and virgin beech/maple woods make Pine Hills one of Indiana's finest woodlands. Five miles of clear streams flow past overhanging cliffs and treacherous rock slides around the several steep backbones -- like the Devil's Backbone, Turkey Backbone and Mill Cut Backbone -- which have drop-offs of 70 to 125 feet. The variety of terrain provides habitat for various species of wildflowers, ferns and other rare plants.

To get to Pine Hills, follow the directions below to Shades State Park. From Shades proceed east on C.R. 800 S and turn left on S.R. 234 W. Continue traveling north (the road doglegs to the north) to a marked lot on the left (west) side of the road roughly 0.25 mile past the Shades State Park entrance.

Shades State Park

Shades State Park is a primitive area with plenty of hiking trails, picnic areas and shelters. The beautiful sandstone cliffs overlooking Sugar Creek and numerous shady ravines provide a glorious backdrop especially in winter.

You will find Shades by going north on US 231 Turn right onto US 234 and follow the signs; 234 turns north just before the entrance to Shades.

McCormick's Creek State Park

McCormick's Creek State Park near Spencer offers unique limestone formations and scenic waterfalls. This park is Indiana's first state park.

Hike through the thick wooded area or roam leisurely through the magnificent canyon surrounded by high cliffs. You'll notice the well-manicured grounds that were planted by the original owner and are being preserved to sustain the tranquil environment he created.

Trails include a hike to Wolf's Cave, scenic waterfalls and a lovely inn for overnight stays.

You'll find this park along the White River, 14 miles northwest of Bloomington. To get there from Putnam County take US 231 S to Spencer and turn left onto US 46 E. You'll see the park entrance just after crossing White River.

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I didn't think you were allowed at Fern Cliff anymore?????

-- Posted by senior'08 on Mon, Jan 11, 2010, at 10:13 AM

Indiana always had some beutiful landscapes.

-- Posted by exhoosier2 on Mon, Jan 11, 2010, at 10:31 AM

Great article. As we are somewhat new to Putnam Co. I particularly liked the directions to the various parks. I am a naturalist and photographer so the article on the front page of the paper was perfect for drawing my attention.

Thanks for writing this article!

-- Posted by rimmer1 on Mon, Jan 11, 2010, at 10:18 PM

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