Our morning hike in Brown County, Ohio took less time than anticipated and we were looking for another venue that offered a different habitat. I recalled that this Ohio State Nature Preserve was nearby and that when we there a year ago we could not complete all the trails due to standing water. I thought that we could revisit the preserve to traverse the Wetland Trail that we missed earlier.
The irony is that this preserve, for the most part, is a wetland in its entirety. It is on a flood plane between the Ohio River and some of its backwaters.
The Wetland Trail is just off the parking area. While we did not see a lot of wildlife we could sense its presence – we could hear numerous birds calling from the shoreline shrubbery, and this turtle was sunning itself on a log.
After the short Wetland Trail we decided to take on the rest of the preserve since Caroline had not been here before. We headed across the flood plane.
Our first notable observation was this Rufus Sided Towhee. He danced in the shade along the path before he perched on this dead tree, giving just enough light for a photograph on this overcast day.
Soon we passed along a wet meadow that featured some nice wildflowers including these: Swamp Milkweed and Joe-Pye-Weed.
But I was more excited to see the Indian Hemp as I had been reading about it recently in the book Iwigara, The Kinship of Plants and People, American Indian Ethnobotanical Traditions and Science. The red stems and the opposite branching are the identifying characteristics.
It is a pollinator favorite and has these characteristic “string bean” seed pods.
Dainty white flowers are clustered at the end of its branches.
Occuring in all the lower 48 United States, it was used extensively by Native American cultures. Strong fibers from the plant were woven into rope that was used for fishing nets, bow strings, baskets, and clothing.
As we left the wet meadow we entered some woods that bordered the backwaters. One interesting observation there were the two species of Buckeyes that were literally side by side.
The spiny projections on this Buckeye husk tells me that this is an Ohio Buckeye. The number of spines seen on the husks is quite variable.
Nearby we had these nuts, without the spines on the husks, which were on a Yellow Buckeye.
Soon we were able to visit the three bird blinds that overlook the backwaters. At the second one Caroline took the outstanding shot of the flying Great Blue Heron in the title photo. When we looked at the image more closely we noted that something was by the Heron’s head. We magnified the image and saw this – a Dragonfly, photographed from at least 120 feet away.
From one of the blinds we could also view some of the tall native Rose Mallow that stood on the far bank of the backwater. It is in the Hibiscus genus and is the parent plant for the numerous perennial hibiscus varieties seen in ornamental gardens.
On our way back to our vehicle we saw several interesting things. The first of these was what I referred to as “snake spit” as a kid in the outdoors. To the day of this hike I never really investigated what it was.
It is actually the excretion of Spittlebug larvae, which are common throughout the Eastern U.S. The larvae are in amongst the bubbles, which is a mixture of air and urine, and they feed on the sap of the plant. I used to see it all the time while blackberry picking as a kid.
The other thing that we saw was a large grouping of Frostweed that was being savagely eaten by something.
The word used is “skeletonized”, where the leaf veins are left intact. Mostly likely the work of insect larvae.
One interesting insect that we saw on the bluff above the river was this Mayfly with its dramatically long two tails.
Along the route we walked through a small Pawpaw thicket, and again noted a lack of maturing Pawpaw fruits. We have gone all summer without seeing a Pawpaw on a tree. I suspect that they were lost to the same late spring freeze that decimated the local peach crop.
Lastly, just before we left the riverside wood, we found ourselves beneath a mature Black Walnut tree that gave the mega-fern appearance that I love. Kentucky Coffee Tree can give this same effect.
In summary, this short jaunt at Crooked Run delivered more than we expected. There were no dramatic vistas or unusual sightings, but rather just fun observations on the interplay of the species found here.
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Photo credits to Caroline Burns Grizzle.
Location – 521 County Park Road, Chilo, OH, about 36 miles from downtown Cincinnati.
Parking – large paved lot that is shared with the Chilo Lock 34 Museum Park.
Trail Conditions – bare dirt but in good shape. The terrain is flat and therefore would rate as easy. The trails total a mile in length.
Print Map Link – None. There are many intersecting trails so take photo at trailhead.
Benches – None.
Picnic Tables – many at the park.
Kids – 3 and over.
Dogs – prohibited.
Suggested Paired Hikes – Kobe Hollow Nature Preserve is 15 miles east on State Route 52 . Also, on this same campus there is the excellent Chilo Lock 34 Park and River Museum with both indoor and outdoor displays, as well as great Ohio River views.