The Nature Conservancy is celebrating 50 years of protecting and developing nature areas in the United States. One of those areas is located right here in Putnam County and has been a popular spot for nature lovers for over 100 years.
Called Fern Cliff, this well-known and much-treasured preserve has long been a refuge for Putnam County residents as well as DePauw students. Steep, forested sandstone cliffs, lush wooded ravines and a profusion of ferns and bryophytes characterize this preserve that is located a few miles west of town.
Long before it was a protected preserve, it was a very popular spot for out-of-town visitors as well.
An excerpt from the DePauw University Pictorial History describes Fern Cliff in the 1800s as "An equally long and pleasurable ride took one to the Cliffs of Fern, near the Fern Station of the Vandalia Railroad about 12 miles west of Greencastle. The large sandstone cliffs covered with rare giant ferns and moss with good cold spring water available along with the virgin hardwood forest, wild flowers, and meandering creek attracted students to the spot for recreation as well as for botany field trips. At one time it became so popular that the railroad ran excursion trains to it from Terre Haute and Indianapolis."
Here in Indiana, the Nature Conservancy got its start in 1959. Their first acquisition took place a year later at nearby Pine Hills in Montgomery County. This reserve features unique hogsback ridges or "backbones" with drop-offs of 70 to 125 feet on both sides of the narrow trail that are truly remarkable.
The rugged hills, deep gorges and massive sandstone bluffs are covered with scattered stands of evergreens mixed with hardwood trees. Five miles of clear streams wind through the preserve, flowing past long stretches of overhanging cliffs and treacherous rock slides. The great variety of terrain provides habitat for many beautiful wildflowers, lush fern and rare plants.
Since protecting this 600-acre jewel, the Nature Conservancy has come a long way in conserving Indiana's lands and waters for all the species that need a healthy environment to survive. In the past 50 years, they have helped to protect over 67,000 plus acres at 187 sites throughout the United States.
The Nature Conservancy grew from a small professional association of ecologists looking to turn their knowledge of nature into positive action for conservation. Since its incorporation in 1951 in the District of Columbia, it has grown to be the largest conservation organization in the world with programs in all 50 states and in more than 30 countries on six continents.
"We invite you to help celebrate our 50 years of conservation in Indiana with a number of special golden anniversary events will take place in 2009 and 2010. From hikes to open houses, we hope you will join us in celebrating 50 years of conservation in Indiana," said Mary McConnell, Indiana State Director of the Nature Conservancy.
For information about the 50th anniversary celebration visit the Nature Conservancy Web sit at www.nature.org.