This was Footpaths’s first outing in the Dayton, Ohio area. What attracted me to Twin Creek Metropark, and the Twin Valley Trail in particular, was the mention of Hopewell Indian mounds or earthworks. The photographer and I enjoy history, so its presence on a hike is an added bonus.
The first part of the trail enters what appears to be an old farm pasture undergoing succession. The mostly gravel trail is flanked by Redcedars and a variety of large shrubs.
In the sunnier areas along the trail there were abundant colonies of Spotted Knapweed, a cousin of the Cornflower.
I love this photo that shows the detail of the flower head and supporting stem.
The flowers were nourishing countless pollinators on this hot August day.
The companion plants included the pastel blue chicory.
But interestingly there was a single plant of a white Chicory.
All in all the pink, pastel blue, and white provided a relaxing tone to the pathway.
It was in this area that we came across this Eastern Box Turtle, reminiscent of one of the most frequent encounters with wildlife from my childhood.
If you look closely it has a mass, perhaps a cyst of some kind, at the angle of its right jaw.
Shortly the trail open into a meadow full of grasses, wildflowers like Ironweed, and unfortunately a large number of the invasive shrub Autumn Olive.
Amongst this rather routine plant life we found a couple of different dogwood shrub species: Gray Dogwood(Cornus racemosa) and Roughleaf Dogwood (Cornus drummondi). You can identify all members of the Dogwood family by the the way the last set of lateral veins of the leaf always make a convex lens shape as they arc toward the leaf tip. See the yellow circle below.
While these shrubs are not uncommon, you have to pay attention to find them. They are frequently nestled in amongst other plants at the edge of a wood.
You can differentiate between the two Dogwood shrubs by the feel of the leaf. The Roughleaf Dogwood has a coarseness to the touch caused by thick hairs on the upper side. Both have fine white hairs on the lower surface. The tactile difference between the two is obvious.
Both species have similar white berries that are held upright and to me resemble eyeballs.
Unfortunately these are the type of native plants that are out competed by invasive plants like Autumn Olive, the Ornamental Pears, and Bush Honeysuckle.
Soon the trail entered a Red Oak, White Oak, Sugar Maple and Hickory wood were we saw two trees with interesting ring like scars way up on their trunks.
I have reached out to a horticulturalist for an explanation but have none to date.
It was in this area of the trail where we encountered the Hopewell Indian earthworks. It was underwhelming in height, generally about 2 feet high in the sections we saw. You can see a portion of it in the distance above the red arrow in this photo.
It was lengthy however, running along a ridge top in an arc shape. According to plaques on the trail, that although this is referred to as Carlisle Fort, it is felt that it was more of a ceremonial location rather than a fortification. Apparently the rather agriculturally based Hopewell peoples would come in from the surrounding area for group functions.
One interesting item that I learned while researching for this article was that the name “Hopewell” was applied by a researcher who coined the name in the 1890’s while studying a mound in Ross County, Ohio. The mound group was named after Mordecai Hopewell, whose family owned the property where the earthworks were located. What the various groups of peoples now classified as Hopewellian called themselves is unknown.
In the dark wood it was difficult to see this Fowler’s Toad. He blended in with the trail surface.
From here the trail descends a significant grade utilizing switchbacks and enters a creekside meadow. The trail is perched above Twin Creek, giving us one of our most picturesque views of the day.
This creek is considered one of the most ecologically rich streams in Ohio, hosting much wildlife, including 12 species of freshwater mussels. From our viewpoint, about 15 feet above the water, we could see many active fish including this red finned beauty which I am unable to identify to species. If you look closely you will see at least 3 good sized fish in this photo, all probably approaching 12 inches.
This turtle was sunning itself in the middle of the creek.
The bench in the title photo was positioned on the bluff overlooking the stream. I could have spent a lot of time there.
The creekside field was full of flowers and pollinators.
Field Thistle – just starting to put on its show.
Tall Tickseed – a member of the coreopsis family.
Eastern Tailed Blue – in flight with wings open
Eastern Tailed Blue – with wings folded while stationary and feeding.
As the trail departs the valley, you have to climb back up the hill to the old pastureland. This trail is not quite as steep as the one that descended into the valley, and is again shaded by old hardwoods. The remainder of the trail works its way through the succession field, that continued to feature flowers, butterflies, and birds.
In summary, Twin Creeks Metropark is a very good, large park. Its mix of 10 trails offers many unique experiences and we are looking forward to a trip back. Its trail markings are second to none for clarity and quality.
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Photo credits to Peggy Juengling Burns.
Location – 45 miles north of Downtown Cincinnati in Franklin/Germantown, Ohio
Parking – Large asphalt lot
Facilities – Porto-let
Trail Conditions – a mix of gravel, exposed dirt, and mowed meadow. The paths are wide and footing is good. I would recommend that where the trail branches to head down to the creek that you veer right as that will allow you to take the less steep grade back up. Our hike on the pink trail on the map, with a couple of side excursions, totaled about 2.5 miles.
Print Map Link –
Benches – Several noted.
Picnic Tables – At the trailhead.
Kids – kids 6 and over should do well here
Dogs – Welcomed on a leash
Suggested Paired Hikes – There are 9 other trails in the park.