Why You Should Visit
Big Walnut Preserve is a dazzling scenic area situated among the rolling hills and steep ravines of Big Walnut Creek Valley. Since 1985, the preserve has been co-managed by the Conservancy and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Nature Preserves (DNP). This successful partnership has protected more than 2600 acres and has ensured the long-term viability of this biologically important natural area.
North Central Tillplain
National Natural Landmark, 1985
Owned & Managed By
The Nature Conservancy & DNR Division of Nature Preserves
Indiana Heritage Trust, Land and Water Conservation Fund, Indiana Department of Transportation and Central Indiana Land Trust, Inc.
What The Nature Conservancy is Doing/has Done
Through constructive partnering, the Conservancy and DNP have produced effective management and reforestation efforts in Big Walnut Preserve. Over the past three years, the effort to preserve several thousand contiguous acres of protected interior forests has been applied by planting thousands of tree seedlings in old fields and pastures. Both the Conservancy and DNP staff, along with scores of volunteers, have planted more than 125,000 red oak, shellbark hickory, and black walnut seedlings throughout 180 acres of Big Walnut Preserve. Also, recent land acquisitions have helped to protect local plants, animals, and natural communities, which in return help to maintain the water quality of Big Walnut Creek.
With DNP managing most of the southern portion and the Conservancy working primarily in the north, both organizations have proved that they can successfully collaborate their efforts to manage the site and maximize the integrity of the entire preserve.
What to See: Plants and Animals
With beautiful, virgin, glacial-relic stands of eastern hemlock and Canada yew flourishing on cool, north facing slopes, it’s no surprise that this area was designated as a national natural landmark in 1968. Exceptionally large trees, including the largest known hemlock trees in Indiana, are scattered across the preserve along with one of the few remaining stands of a beech, sugar maple, tulip, poplar climax forest growing in west central Indiana.
Spring brings a carpet of wildflowers including spring beauties, anemones, Virginia bluebells and large-flowered trilliums, and the emergence of Cerulean/Worm-eating/Hooded Warblers and Great Blue Herons. The rare-plant seekers won't be disappointed at Big Walnut either; eastern hemlock, Canada hew, Clinton's woodfern, Goldie's fern and bristly sarsaparilla among other uncommon plants can be found this amazing preserve.
A one-mile loop trail through a portion of the northern part of Big Walnut was completed in the summer of 2002. It is a moderate hike on the Tall Timbers Trail, but be careful as it is often wet. Parking is available at the trailhead. For more information please consult the Conservancy’s Preserves Visitation Guidelines.
For More Information
From Indianapolis, travel west on U.S. 36 to Bainbridge. Turn right (north) on North Washington Street (the intersection is the only stoplight in town). Continue on this road as it curves right (CR 800 N) and then left (CR 250 E) to North Putnam High School. At the first gravel road after the high school (CR 950 N), turn right (east). Continue for 1 mile to the Tall Timbers Trail parking lot on the right.