The cliffs of an old quarry Remains of a lock in the narrowest part of the gorge. In google earth it looks like this (the horizontal FOV is ~ 2 miles)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.
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.
One of the nicer ones located near the head of the valley (10.5 cbh x 142.6'): And the measurements: 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.