Open to the Public
Why You Should Visit
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
Owned & Managed By
The Nature Conservancy
Department of Nature Preserves
What The Nature Conservancy is Doing/has Done
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 species control and trail maintenance are typical stewardship activities.
What to See: Plants and Animals
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.
Cedar Bluffs is a place that teems with an old and established kind of natural abundance. All around you, wherever you look, you'll find yourself surrounded by a startling array of life. And underlying this growth, you'll see the tell-tale signs of millions of years of geologic activity. The trail itself meanders through flattened slabs of limestone, punctuated by trees, mosses, and iron-rich soil. Every square foot of this preserve is its own complex ecosystem and the juxtaposition of millions-of-years-old limestone walls with flourishing plant and animal life make it feel as though you're stepping back through time.
The hiking trail begins at the preserve sign and follows a narrow access route before entering the southwest corner of the preserve. Visitors MUST use this marked access trail from Ketcham Road into the preserve or they will be trespassing on private property. A small information sign is located just inside the preserve boundary. For your safety and for the protection of this preserve, please follow all the rules posted beneath the sign. Follow the marked hiking trail until you reach the banks of Clear Creek. The marked trail ends here. At this point, access to the bluffs involves scrambling across the rocky shoreline of Clear Creek downstream to where Cedar Bluff comes to a point. Travel around the point and look for a heavily-used route ascending up the backside of the steep bluff. Once on top of the bluff an unmarked pathway will lead you to an overlook. When leaving the bluff-top forest, remember to re-trace your steps back down the steep bluffs to Clear Creek. You are trespassing on private property if you walk down the hill from the bluff-top to the road. Click for a PDF of a map of Cedar Bluffs.
CAUTION: the rocks along Clear Creek and along the rocky bluff are extremely slippery when wet. Hike at your own risk. 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 worn pathways 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.