Featuring a 75-foot high limestone bluff and gnarled red cedars clinging to cliffs, Cedar Bluffs Preserve provides a stunning display of species adaptation and survival in a harsh environment. At its eastern end, the bluff narrows and drops off into a rock-walled valley cut by a small tributary stream of Clear Creek. This canyon protects a lavish spring wildflower display and exhibits remarkable rock formations.
Interior Low Plateau
State Nature Preserve, 1976
The Nature Conservancy
Department of Nature Preserves
The Conservancy constantly works to protect, restore and reduce threats to the limestone bluffs and dry, mesic upland forest. In 2003, a split rail fence was installed to hinder vistors from going off-trail and allow areas to revegetate. Invasive specie control and trail maintenance are typical stewardship activities.
As the name suggests, red cedar is the most common tree, sharing this rocky spot with white, black, and scarlet oaks. The bluffs are characterized by thin soils and southern exposure, and support only those species well adapted for very dry conditions. Many of the species found on these bluffs are more typical of dry prairies, including flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata), nodding onion (Allium cernuum) and hoary puccoon (Lithospermum canescens). Visit in the spring when wildflowers are out in spectacular display.
While the preserve is open to the public, there is only one access route into the preserve. Visitors MUST use the marked access route from Ketcham Road into the preserve or they will be in trespass. There is a rather rugged trail, and visitors must remain on the trail because of potential erosion problems. Return along the same trail! Please do not go west from the Bluff across private property to the road. The preserve may only be visited from dawn to dusk.
Despite the hardiness of the plants found at this preserve, they are still very vulnerable to trampling. Help protect the native vegetation by staying on the marked trail at all times. Also, please keep in mind that as in all nature preserves, rock climbing, rappelling and campfires are prohibited at Cedar Bluffs. For more information please consult the Conservancy’s Preserves Visitation Guidelines.
Take State Road 37 south past Bloomington. A few miles south of town watch for Smithville Road and turn right. Within a mile you will come to a stop sign at a "T" intersection. Turn left and then immediately turn right onto Ketcham Road. Take Ketcham Road for approximately 2.5 miles; you will see Cedar Bluffs Road to your left but continue past it for another 0.5 mile. The Cedar Bluffs Nature Preserve sign is visible on the left side of the road, just past a power line right-of-way. Park on the north side of the road (the same side as the preserve sign). To avoid trespassing on adjacent property, please stay on the trail.