The Lost River, a large sinking and subterranean stream, and an intricate cave system are the main attractions at the Orangeville Rise and Wesley Chapel Gulf. The Lost River begins as a normal river in western Washington County, but as it meanders into Orange County, the water begins to sink into "swallow holes" in the riverbed. Eventually it disappears entirely into a vast system of water-carved passages and caves. The Lost River is only at surface level as a dry bed for 23 of its 85 mile length. Only a few times each year does the Lost River fill its dry bed as runoff exceeds the capacity of the many swallow holes that usually siphon off its flow. Orangeville Rise and Wesley Chapel Gulf are two areas where Hoosier can witness the wonderment of the Lost River.
Interior Low Plateau
3 Acres (Orangeville Rise)
455 Acres (Wesley Chapel Gulf)
State Nature Preserve, 1975 (Orangeville Rise)
National Natural Landmark, 1972 (Orangeville Rise)
The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Forest Service (Wesley Chapel Gulf) and Indiana Karst Conservancy (Orangeville Rise)
In order to preserve the Lost River and protect the cave system, the Conservancy works to secure the lands overlying the caves between Wesley Chapel Gulf and Orangeville Rise to ensure development does not threaten the fragile ecosystem. Protecting viable cave restricted species, maintaining the water quality and quantity supplying the cave system are other conservation concerns.
At Orangeville Rise, a large spring - the second largest in Indiana - is a major tributary of the Lost River. Here the Lost River comes to the surface at the base of a low cliff forming sizable streams. The Orangeville Rise drains 30 square miles north of Orangeville where the water emerges from a cave into a rock-walled pit. The stream runs south to merge with the Lost River. The region is also known for its karst features such as sinkholes, caves, and underground streams.
The Wesley Chapel Gulf offers a rare, more subterranean view of the Lost River. Here the river flows 60 - 150 feet beneath the surface. The preserve also protects a vast cave system found in Orange County. Miles of twisting passages at multiple levels makes these caves a unique and fragile but also dangerous. Recreational caving is not permitted.
The cave community also provides crucial habitat to at least 25 species - three of which were new to scientists when first discovered. Cave beetles, blind crickets, blind cavefish and blind crayfish are just a few examples of species found underground.
The easy to moderate terrain and existing trails at the preserve will make for a peaceful hike around the preserves. Although it may be tempting, no recreational caving is permitted on Conservancy preserves. The cave complex is not only fragile but dangerous with its twisting channels, vertical shafts and common flash floods. Please read the Conservancy's Preserve Visitation Guidelines for more information.
Orangeville Rise: From Bedford, travel south on S.R. 37 approximately 11 miles to Orleans. Continue south on S.R. 37 an additional 2.4 miles and turn right (west) on C.R. 500 N. Travel approximately 5 miles to C.R. 500 W and turn left. Continue about 0.4 mile to Orangeville and park in the pulloff on the south side of Orangeville.
Wesley Chapel Gulf: From Bedford, travel south on S.R. 37 approximately 11 miles to Orleans. Continue south on S.R. 37 an additional 2 miles and turn right (west) on C.R. 500 N. Travel 3.5 miles to the intersection with C.R. 350 W and turn left (south). Continue roughly 0.3 mile to the parking area on the left side of the road.