Fern Cliff Nature Preserve

Father’s Day trip to Fern Cliff Nature Preserve in Putnam County west of Greencastle.

The Details: Triangular property of 157 acres along Snake Creek. Owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy. Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1980, and State Nature Preserve in 1988. Most of the preserve is upland forest with a wide variety of trees.

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Gray Petaltail dragonfly

What’s so special? Steep sandstone cliffs reminiscent of Turkey Run and Shades State Parks to the north are home to rare ferns and mosses. “The view from above is amazing. Just make sure to watch your step.” (trails.com)

Getting there: Be sure to see the directions on The Nature Conservancy’s website. Getting there isn’t hard, but the directions are complex.

The entrance to the preserve is difficult to find. Once you’re on the right road (CR 375 S), the preserve is on your right almost immediately. The 1-2 car pull-off is about 1 mile ahead. If you turn south again, you’ve gone too far.
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Our experience: The 3/4 mile trail is narrow and lined with poison ivy for the first half. Wear long pants if you’re sensitive. The wood’s canopy is high (especially the tulip trees), and the undergrowth is surprisingly dense.

The trail leads across a small backbone to a large rocky outcrop. There were a couple of very steep paths that led down toward the creek. One even had a couple of steps, but they were choked with forest debris and may have been more of hindrance than help.
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It was a nice trip, but I really didn’t want the boy to head down the steep slope to the creek. Thankfully, neither did he! He and mom stayed above while I explored below. I’ll need to head back with someone who wouldn’t mind scrambling down and exploring the creek area.

Extra reading: DNR brochure (http://goo.gl/xQeGVO)

Check out the Indiana Outdoors Community for more.

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Ebony Jewelwing damselfly
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