Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

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Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

Post by Rand » Sat Jan 15, 2011 11:05 pm

For a general overview I'll just quote the ODNR website:
The prime feature of this preserve is a narrow, east-west gorge cut by the Licking River through the famous Black Hand sandstone formation. It also boasts the only bike trail in Ohio's state nature preserve system; more than 4 miles of bike trail wind through the preserve.

The preserve is rich in natural as well as early Ohio history.The name Blackhand, for which the preserve is named, originated from a dark, hand-shaped Indian petroglyph which was engraved on the face of a massive sandstone cliff along the north side of the river. The engraving was destroyed in 1828 when canal builders dynamited the cliff face, during construction of the Ohio-Erie Canal, which runs through the gorge. Sections of the canal towpaths and canal locks may be seen from the trails along the river.

The dry hilltops are dominated by oak-hickory mature woods along with Virginia pine and mountain laurel. Yellow birch, cherry birch and eastern hemlock grow on northerly exposures. It is an excellent site for viewing woodland spring wildflowers.
The cliffs of an old quarry
Screen shot 2011-01-15 at 10.59.19 PM.jpg
Remains of a lock in the narrowest part of the gorge.
Screen shot 2011-01-15 at 10.59.49 PM.jpg
In google earth it looks like this (the horizontal FOV is ~ 2 miles)
Blackhand map.jpg
Walking through the paved bicycle trail at the bottom of the gorge, the impression one gets is of an average forest on protected land in Ohio. i.e. an even aged stand hosting trees 7'-9' cbh and 80'-110' feet tall. Tuliptrees with an understory of hemlock dominate the lower slopes, grading into red oaks and finally drier white-oak hickory along the lip. Midway through the gorge there are a few older trees, but of only slightly larger size due to the steep slopes. Nothing outstanding caught my eye until I stumbled onto the side valley circled on the map. Here a northward flowing stream cuts a wide notch into the gorge slope, hosting a dense stand of young tuliptrees along it's gently sloping bottom.
Screen shot 2011-01-15 at 11.01.15 PM.jpg
One of the nicer ones located near the head of the valley (10.5 cbh x 142.6'):
Screen shot 2011-01-15 at 11.00.54 PM.jpg
And the measurements:
blackhand survey all.jpg
blackhand survey rucker.jpg
Against all odds, the 152' sycamore weasiles it's way to the top of the list. This the tallest sycamore I've found in ohio, eeking past the 151' found in the Old Mans cave.

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Will Blozan
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Re: Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

Post by Will Blozan » Sun Jan 16, 2011 9:15 am


WOW! Awesome sycamore and aspen. The sycamore as a species may prove to be similar to tuliptree as far as a wide span of tall trees throughout the east (-20 feet).


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Re: Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

Post by edfrank » Sun Jan 16, 2011 12:48 pm


The tallest we have found in PA and in the Northeast in general is 148.7 on Baker Island in the Allegheny River Island Wilderness. Fantastic sycamore! So you have a the tallest in the region.

"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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Re: Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

Post by dbhguru » Sun Jan 16, 2011 4:37 pm


Ohio is beginning to speak with a commanding voice through the efforts of you and Steve. We're all anxious to see what the two of you find as your search widens.

Robert T. Leverett
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James Parton
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Re: Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

Post by James Parton » Sun Jan 16, 2011 7:33 pm

152.2 on the sycamore! Cool.
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Steve Galehouse
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Re: Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

Post by Steve Galehouse » Sun Jan 16, 2011 9:36 pm


Great report---the pics must have been taken in April, based on the Ohio buckeye leaving out in the second photo. I wish we had pines and mountain-laurel up here in the north. I'll have to check out the area if I ever get close to Nerk.

every plant is native somewhere

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Re: Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

Post by Rand » Mon Jan 17, 2011 1:40 pm


Yup, the date on the pictures are april 10, 2010. The large flower trilliums were also putting on a nice display:
Screen shot 2011-01-17 at 1.14.27 PM.jpg
Screen shot 2011-01-17 at 1.14.41 PM.jpg
A lonely Chestnut sapling is also present, gamely growing toward the light after the demise of the neighboring red oak.
(the oak is ~ 2' diameter in the picture and broke off at ground level just a few years ago)
Screen shot 2011-01-17 at 1.15.34 PM.jpg
Screen shot 2011-01-17 at 1.37.19 PM.jpg
We'll see how long it lasts.

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