Posted in Park review, Southwestern Ohio

Davis Memorial State Nature Preserve

Davis Memorial State Nature Preserve is one of the more interesting geological sites in Ohio. There are six fault lines in Adams County. Surprisingly, one of these fault lines is visible within the preserve. In addition Adams County is one of the few places in Ohio where you can observe rock outcroppings made of dolomite (sometimes called dolostone). Dolomite and limestone are both said to be calcareous due to their high calcium content, and both are alkaline. They even resemble each other visually. However unlike limestone, dolomite has a high magnesium content. The alkaline, magnesium-rich soil found in Davis Memorial supports 15 species of plant that are rarely found in our state which makes it interesting to naturalists.

Boardwalk by calcareous cliff on the Sullivantia Loop Trail

Getting Oriented

There are three trails from which to choose. Two are loop trails, each about a half mile in length. The Buckeye Trail also passes through the length of the preserve (north to south). During our May visit, we decided to hike the two loop trails. Below is a GPS trace of our hike (available online at Google Maps).

GPS trace of our hike showing two loop trails
Main entrance — Sullivantia Loop Trail

The main entrance is the one to the north. There is an impressive, stone-masonry kiosk just off the parking lot. As you can see in the photo below, the trail head is just behind it and to the left.

This trail is named after a rare plant that grows in the park, Ohio sullivantii, also known as “coolwort”.

Very posh kiosk

A portion the trail is boardwalk which eventually follows along a dolomite cliff face.

Boardwalk (to prevent slips when it is wet, it is covered with chicken wire)
Boardwalk passing a small cliff covered with greenery
Bob standing by the cliff to give you an idea of its size

The plant which is the trail’s namesake was growing on the side of the cliff. It prefers to grow on moist, partially shaded calcareous cliff faces which is why it is a rare plant since few areas meet these requirements. It blooms in June (about a month after our visit) and produces clusters of tiny white flowers.

Ohio sullivantii, also known as coolwort

After this the boardwalk ended, and we continued on the dirt trail.

Dirt trail through the woods
Dirt trail passing by green ledge
There is a dolomite outcropping to the right
You can tell that it is Greenfield dolomite because it has horizontal fractures. This sometimes causes the dolomite to have a brick-like appearance.
Foot bridge

After completing the Sullivantia Loop Trail we hopped in the car and drove to the south entrance.

South entrance — Agave Ridge Trail

The parking lot is smaller than at the main entrance, and the trail starts right in front of your parking spot.

Parking lot for the south entrance
Trailhead just beyond the parking lot

Shortly after entering the trailhead, the trail forks. The left fork is the Buckeye Trail, but for this trip we chose the right fork and hiked the Agave Ridge Trail.

For this trip we just did the Agave Ridge Trail which is a loop.
Trail through woods
Agave Ridge Trail — Fault line

This is the trail that passes the fault line. As you approach the creek, Cedar Fork, there is a sign explaining the location of the fault line which is visible in the creek. The dolomite outcropping pictured below is to the left of the fault line.

The fault line is near this Peebles dolomite outcropping

To the right of the fault line is fractured-looking Greenfield Dolomite.

Greenfield Dolomite on other side of fault line.

Now if you look down at the bed of the creek, you can see the fault line. The sign explains that it is only visible when the water is clear. Lucky for us, it was clear while we were visiting. Although you can only see the fault line in the creek bed, the fault line is actually six miles long.

The fault line runs across the small creek known as Cedar Fork.
Closer look at the fault line

According to the sign, whenever the bedrock is cracked like this, it’s called a joint. However, when the bedrock on one side of the joint moves with respect to the other side, the joint becomes a fault line.

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly

Because we were there in May, there were a number of plants and wildflowers that caught my eye.

Northern white cedar

The evergreen tree above is most commonly found in eastern Canada and the northern United States. During the last advance of glaciers into what’s now the United States, a lot of northern tree species moved south in front of the glaciers. When the glaciers retreated, some of these northern tree species stayed behind in pocket habitats that continuted to support the species.

Northern Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum)
Virginia Grape Fern (Botrychium virginianum)

The above fern is called a “grape” fern because the structure at the top of the plant resembles a bunch of green grapes. For more on ferns, see our post, Basic Fern Identification.

This fern ally is known as ground pine.

The “leaves” of the plant above looks a lot like the needles of the northern white pine; that’s how it got one of its common names, ground pine. However, it is totally unrelated to pines. It is a primitive plant that reproduces via spores just like ferns do, and for that reason it is called a fern ally. Because these particular spores are very high in fat, it turns out they can be ignited. Photographers once used the spores to take early flash photos by burning them. For more information on that, see our post, Ground Cedar and Its Combustible Spores. We also published a video where Bob walks through a large patch of these plants when the spores were fully developed and ready to be released. So many spores flew into the air, it looked like smoke! To see that check out our post, Kicking up clouds of spores.

Below are a few of the wildflower that we saw.

Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchum angustifolium)
Yellow Star Grass (Hypoxis hirsuta)
Seneca snakeroot (Polygala senega)
Smooth Phlox (Phlox glaberrima)
Venus’ pride (Houstonia purpurea L. var. purpurea)
Yellow Star Grass (Hypoxis hirsuta)

We also noticed the large, orange mushroom below.

Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus cincinnatus)

We enjoyed our short hike, and it was interesting getting to see an Ohio fault line. When I am in the neighborhood again, I would like to try hiking the segment of the Buckeye Trail that passes through the preserve.

Additional information

Main (north) entrance for the Davis Memorial State Nature Preserve
  • Address: 3590 Davis Rd, Peebles, OH 45660 (according to Google Maps)
  • GPS Coordinates: 38.940133,-83.3541143
  • Google Maps: View on map or get directions
South entrance for the Davis Memorial State Nature Preserve
  • Directions: From the Main entrance, go east on Davis Road for about 490 feet, then turn right to continue on Davis Road for about a half mile. The south parking lot will be on your right.
  • GPS Coordinates: 38.934254,-83.3579222
  • Google Maps: View on map or get directions

More on Adams County

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

3 thoughts on “Davis Memorial State Nature Preserve

Leave a Reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.

Complete the following sentence by typing either real or spam:
My comment is ...