NICHES and Nature Conservancy preserves, Tippecanoe County parks, and public access sites form a string of publicly accessible lands between West Lafayette and Attica along the Wabash River. Our family visited several last Thursday. After visiting Ross Hills County Park, we headed up the road to the rocky outcrops of Black Rock Nature Preserve.
Black Rock Nature Preserve is a 45 acre NICHES preserve dominated by a black rock bluff rising 100 feet above the Wabash River. The short trail leads from the parking lot past the top of the outcrops, down the side of the outcrops, to the rock shelters beneath.
According to the owner, NICHES Land Trust, the site has interesting history associated with it. In 1811, Tecumseh’s brother, The Prophet, stationed warriors on the rock to watch for William Henry Harrison’s forces moving up the river. Those warriors forced Harrison’s troops to march overland. In 1838, the forced relocation of the Potawatomi, known as the Trail of Death, camped near Black Rock.
In the early 20th century many sites along the Wabash including Black Rock became sites for picnics and dances for residents of Lafayette, West Lafayette, and Purdue. My father-in-law remembers being able to drive a car out to the top of the outcrop to survey the river in the 1960s. Both would be difficult now due to the growth of the surrounding woods.
The most interesting part of the visit was our “tour guide.” When I opened the car door in the small parking lot, the first thing I saw was a large black and white border collie. He apparently lived at the farm across the road and decided to say hello when he saw our car. He led the way down the trail, tried to discourage us from getting too close the edge, showed us the best way to descend the slope, and disappeared once we were back on the path to our car.