Fen habitats are America’s most diverse habitat for vegetation, and many rare plants are found in fens. A fen is a type of wetland formed when water bubbles up from an underlying aquifer via an Artesian well or seep. In the case of Gallagher Fen, the water emerges from a hillside seep because two aquifers intersect nearby increasing the underground water pressure. Since the water is emerging from deep within the earth through limestone gravel dumped by glaciers during the last Ice Age, the water is very alkaline and very cold, about 56 degrees year round.
Although it is a wetland, it is difficult for many plants to absorb the very cold water. So ironically drought-tolerant prairie plants thrive in fen meadows. Many of the plants found in local fens moved into the area when there were glacially fed lakes in Ohio. As the glaciers retreated these plants were unable to tolerate the warmer weather, and they disappeared from Ohio, but pockets of them remained in these scattered fens. Outside of Ohio’s fens you would have to go to northern habitats like northern Michigan or Minnesota to find other representatives of these plant communities.
A boardwalk leads visitors around the edge of Gallagher Fen.
Glen Helen began when alumnus Hugh Taylor Birch donated a wooded glen to Antioch College in 1925 in memory of his daughter, Helen. The college continued to acquire adjacent land over the years, and the Glen Helen Nature Preserve now encompasses 1000 acres and 25 miles of hiking trails. The preserve is managed by the Glen Helen Ecology Institute. Within the preserve there is a yellow spring that has given its name to the town where the college and preserve are located. The preserve also includes limestone cliffs, waterfalls, 400-year old trees, 69 species of wildflowers, 153 species of birds, a Hopewell Indian mound and much more.
At a separate entrance to the preserve there is a Raptor Center that admits about 150 to 200 injured birds per year. The Raptor Center is able to rehabilitate about half of these birds to the point where they can be released back to the wild. Birds that are permanently handicapped live in large, outdoor cages on the premises.
One of the cascades on Birch Creek; the footbridge above the falls connects the Inman Trail on the left with the Birch Creek Trail on the right.
The Stratford Woods State Nature Preserve is privately owned and operated by a non-profit organization, the Stratford Ecological Center. Education is the primary mission of the Center. Seven nearby counties send their children to Stratford on field trips where they learn about nature and farming. In the summer the Ecological Center offers a popular Farm Camp for kids. During the growing season there’s also a Nature Club for youngsters in which they learn to tend the Giving Garden. In the first year of cultivation, 660 pounds of organically-grown produce harvested from the Giving Garden were donated to a local food bank. The Center also offers several internship programs for young adults. In a typical year, about 3500 school children participate in field trips at Stratford Ecological Center which also sees about 8000 other visitors.
Kids on a field trip.
Since farming is such an important focus of the Center, let’s take a look at the farm.
Hoover Reservoir supplies the city of Columbus with its drinking water. At eight different sites around the reservoir is the Hoover Reservoir Park. It is a great recreational resource for residents and tourists, and it is important sanctuary for birds as well. Today I’m going to focus on one of the lesser known sites of this park: Hoover Meadows.
The seed heads of this grass were way over my head.
Rock Stalls Natural Sanctuary is a private preserve that is owned and operated by Camp Akita, but the management of Camp Akita also allows access to the general public. So this past Sunday Bob and I decided to stop by and see what we had been missing.
Photo of Deb photographing the falls at Rock Stalls, Feb. 17, 2013.
Bird watching is just one of the attractions of Blendon Woods Metro Park. The park features two observation shelters near Thoreau Lake. In addition the rear of the Nature Center has windows that look out on a number of bird feeders.
There is a spotting scope in each of the two shelters.
A cliff and slump block catch the morning light at Lake Vesuvius.
This past September we visited Lake Vesuvius in Wayne National Forest. We followed the Lakeshore Trail counter-clockwise around the lake. This trail is supposed to be 8 miles long. The first mile had us traveling past a number of cliffs and outcroppings; if you were to just go a mile and then turn around, you’d have a very scenic hike of moderate difficulty. You’d even get to see the cliff and watery slump block pictured above.
The Rhinoceros Tree.
I wonder how it got that name.
Lawrence Woods State Nature Preserve is located in Hardin County, and at 1,035 acres it is the largest woods having mature trees in the area. The nearest metropolitan area is Columbus, Ohio and for residents there it would take an hour to an hour-and-a-half to drive to Lawrence Woods. It’s 4 miles from Kenton, Ohio, and the woods seems to be very popular with the local people. While I was visiting in late October I saw people of all ages strolling the boardwalk. The woods is adjacent to large meadows.
One of many bridges.
December 1st was an unusually warm and sunny day for Ohio… shirt-sleeve weather really. We decided to take advantage of the sunny weather by visiting the 502-acre Marie J. Desonier State Nature Preserve in Athens County. The preserve is known for its hills and deep ravines.
Lake Hope State is a great place to get away from the crowds and enjoy peace and quiet is a scenic natural setting. Lake Hope is located in Vinton County just southeast of the Hocking Hills. In the 19th century it was a major iron producing and processing region at the heart of the American industrial revolution. Today many of the towns centered around the mines and iron furnaces are gone. It is a sparsely populated region of Ohio with an economy based on agriculture, forestry, and tourism.