100-year-old tulip stands, flowing springs and a 30-foot waterfall makes Pennywort Cliffs an awe-inspiring experience. Walk through the Conservancy planted walnut plantation, and admire the tulip stands which are more than 36 inches in diameter and still growing. While well-defined trails are easily followed, what is found off the beaten path is stunning. Two constantly flowing springs meet and make their way over a 30-foot waterfall before reaching Big Creek, Jefferson County's largest creek. The Cliffs are also one of the first classified forests in Indiana (1931).
Interior Low Plateau
The Nature Conservancy
The Conservancy protects forests along the stream corridor and other forested sites nearby by acquiring land from willing sellers and working with private landowners to manage their timber through the Forest Bank. Conservation targets at the site include the Midwest moist limestone and Dolostone cliff community as well as the American water pennywort.
When is the best time to visit Pennywort Cliffs? Any day! Throughout the year, wildflowers - like wood anemone, Mayapple, Jack-in-the-pulpit and Virginia Bluebells - can be found on the forest floor. Visitors in July and August might get a glimpse of the American water pennywort, the wildflower for which the preserve was named. Look for it at the base of the limestone cliffs overlooking Big Creek (on the east boundary of the site). This preserve is nestled in the Muscatatuck Flats and Canyons Natural Section of Indiana and offers a glimpse of its namesake with forest “flats” that hold water much of the year and a deep canyon along Big Creek. A variety of tree species including ash, oak and tulip poplar create a gorgeous canopy. In autumn, the forest is painted by the yellow of the tulip, orange sassafras and red gum leaves. Winter has its own offerings as well when large patches of ground-cedar and partridgeberry are easily seen. As the generous previous owner, Mary Clashman, once stated, “Pennywort Cliffs is truly a natural cathedral."
The easy to moderate terrain and existing roads at the preserve will make for a pleasant hike. Just make sure to bring insect repellent for mosquitoes, ticks and flies. Please read the Conservancy's Preserve Visitation Guidelines for more information.
From Madison, travel north on S.R. 7 to S.R. 250. Turn west on S.R. 250 and continue traveling for 3.4 miles through Lancaster to C.R. 800 W. Turn south on C.R. 800 W and travel 1.4 miles to the preserve and park alongside the road at the beginning of the trailhead. Google map of Pennywort Cliffs