Saturday, July 6, 2013

Miami Whitewater Forest County Park: Tallgrass Prairie Trail (Blog Hike #426)

Trail: Tallgrass Prairie Trail
Hike Location: Miami Whitewater Forest
Geographic Location: east of Harrison, OH
Length: 0.7 miles
Difficulty: 2/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: June 2013
Overview: A short loop featuring a restored tallgrass prairie.

Directions to the trailhead: Near the Indiana state line, take I-74 to Dry Fork Road (exit 3).  Exit and go north on Dry Fork Rd.  Drive Dry Fork Rd. 1 mile to West Road and turn right on West Rd.  Drive West Rd. 0.2 miles to Timberlakes Drive and turn right on Timberlakes Dr.  Drive Timberlakes Dr. 1.3 miles to the trailhead parking area on the right.

The hike: For my general comments on Miami Whitewater Forest, see the Oakleaf/Badlands Trails blog entry.  The Tallgrass Prairie Trail is the shortest of the three nature trails at Miami Whitewater Forest, but it is also the only trail in the park to feature a restored tallgrass prairie, a habitat that once covered large sections of Ohio.  Despite the trail’s name, it actually travels most of its distance through shady broadleaf forest.  Thus, this trail remains comfortable to hike on warm July/August days when the prairie wildflowers are at their peak.           
Trailhead: Tallgrass Prairie Trail
            The gravel trail starts across the road at a sign that reads “Tallgrass Prairie Trail” and enters the mature forest.  Almost immediately the trail forks to form its loop.  To get to the tallgrass prairie quickly, I chose to angle right here and use the left trail as my return route.
            The trail dips through a somewhat steep wooded ravine and, at 0.15 miles, enters the heart of the tallgrass prairie.  Upon entering the prairie, the gravel trail surface changes to grass undergirded by some cement blocks that keep the dirt surface firm after a rain.  Many unusual plants live in the prairie, including purple coneflower, big bluestem, Indian grass, and black-eyed Susan.  An interpretive sign helps you identify these plants.  Take some time in the prairie to see how many you and find.
Hiking through the tallgrass prairie
After spending a couple hundred feet in the prairie, the trail returns to the shady forest, and the trail surface turns back to gravel.  As you dip through the ravine on the return trip, you might expect to quickly close the loop.  Instead, the trail meanders through the forest on an angular course cutting no corners.
Hiking through the woods on gravel trail
At 0.5 miles, you use a boardwalk to cross a wetter area of forest.  I most recently hiked this trail just before sunset, and the bright yellow tape on the edge of the boardwalk helped me stay on the trail in low-light conditions.  Past the boardwalk, the trail rises slightly to close the loop, where a right turn is required to return to the trailhead and complete the hike.

2 comments:

  1. What kind of wildlife lives in that area? Do you have any pictures of a coneflower? That sounds pretty cool looking.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Hiking Tim,

      Thanks for the comment, and I'm sorry this reply took so long. I have a good excuse: I have been on the trail! You will see where in a couple of weeks. Hint: think big pair of waterfalls.

      Tallgrass prairies are great places for wildlife viewing. Whitetail deer are the most commonly sighted: they like to feed in the prairie and then duck in the forest when potential trouble approaches. Go early in the morning or late in the evening to maximize your chances of seeing one.

      Purple coneflower is one of my favorite prairie plants. They put on a nice display of color when in bloom. Here is a link with some pictures:

      http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=ECPU

      See you on the trail,

      David, aka The Mathprofhiker

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