Alex Palmer's Natural History Notes and Thoughts

Thoughts and reflections on various social and environmental issues, as well as naturalist observations from the great outdoors.

Come take a hike! A Photo-hike of an Ohio Appalachian nature preserve

Has it been a busy week for you?  Has the news and all the recent politics got you down?  Is the dog barking too loud?  Well rather than joining a church or eating excessive amounts of chocolate, I would like to invite you on a short but rejuvenating journey through the mixed hardwood forests of the Appalachian Foothills in southern Ohio.  Our “virtual hike” will take us through the Earl H. Barnhart Buzzards Roost Nature Preserve, owned and operated by the Ross County Park District and located near Chillicothe, OH (see Map 1).

Map 1: Location of the Buzzards Roost Nature Preserve, indicated by the red circle with the green arrow on this satellite map. Please click on the map to enlarge.

Map 2: Glacial Map of Ohio. Published by ODNR Division of Geological Survey and retrieved 17 August 2011 from <; Please click to enlarge.

This nature preserve is located on a geological interface of unglaciated Allegheny Plateau, an area of hilly land that comes off of the Appalachian Mountains, and the glaciated Allegheny Plateau, hilly land that has been impacted by the last glacial period (about 10,000 years ago).  To the northwest of this preserve (as in only a few miles!) starts the outwash plains of the Midwest (you know, all of those flat cornfields?), and Map 2 shows how South-Central Ohio is where many of these regions meet.

As you enter the preserve, you are greeted by a large White Oak (Quercus alba) standing somewhat awkwardly in a mixed mesophytic Allegheny forest (See Photo A for the white oak and Photo B for the forest.  Mixed implies various different over-story trees, such as Tulip Trees (Liriodendron tulipiefera), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), red oak (Quercus ribra), and Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) to name just a few.  That fancy word’mesophytic’ means that the soil is intermediate in terms of how much water it has and how acidic it is.  And I’m saying that these woods are ‘Allegheny’ in that, despite being located at the base of the Appalachian Mountains, are more typical of regions just to the north with respect to what plants are present there.

Photo A: White oak sprawled out in a shaded area of woods at the Earl H. Barnhart Buzzard's Roost Nature Preserve on a warm summer day in June, 2011.

Photo B: Mixed mesophytic forest at Earl H. Barnhart Buzzard's Roost Nature Preserve as seen from the South Point Lookout Trail in August 2011.

Let’s head down the trail a bit now.  We’ll start off on the South Point Lookout Trail and head deeper into the park.  The trail starts off fairly easy as it utilized a service drive (see photos C and D below).

Photo C

Photo D

I then came to an open field where the Ross County Park District is working on developing a nature education building from a farm house that was recently restored (Photo E).  Also, next door is a beautiufl picnic shelter that can be reserved for groups and however else (Photo F).  This shelter also has restrooms with flush toilets when on reserve!

Photo E: Nature Education building at Buzzard's Roost.

Photo F: Reservable picnic shelter at the Buzzard Roost Nature Preserve.

The trail then turns off of the service road and begins heading into the woods.  As walked into the forest canopy, the air temperature became cooler.  I noticed off in the woods was another opening…only this time it wasn’t another grassy field.  Instead, it was the breathtaking Paint Creek Gorge (see Photo G), a 300 foot deep ravine with nearly vertical cliffs of the Berea sandstone (see Photo H) that winds through the Appalachian Foothills:

Photo G: Paint Creek Gorge.

Photo H: A Berea sandstone cliff overlooking the Paint Creek Gorge.

Photo I

After taking in the rather unexpected view,  I walked back to the nature education building via a field of bright yellow goldenrod (Salidago spp.) (see photo I) and made one last final stop.  It was a memorial plaque to the folks who donated the land to the park district, and it gave me a reason to come here that goes beyond just any old afternoon hike in the park:

Photo J: Plaque commemorating Earl H. Barnhart and his wife, who donated the land to the Ross County Park District.

Thank you for joining me.


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