The Dr. George Rieveschl Jr. Creek’s Bend Overlook is the first stop in exploring the 17,000-acre Edge of Appalachia Preserve—Ohio’s largest privately owned protected natural area. With its forests and prairies, streams and waterfalls, the preserve is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the Midwest. More than 100 rare plant and animal species call this preserve home.
This visitors’ center features canoe/kayak access to Ohio Brush Creek as well as two trails: the brief Prairie Garden Trail and the 1.6-mile, round-trip, Joan Jones Portman Trail, which leads through prairie openings to a small rock promontory for a view of the adjacent forested valley.
Visitors are also invited to take time to enjoy the Ohio Brush Creek overlook, and to peruse the interpretive signage, which describes the preserve’s natural history and offers travelers information about other points of interest within the preserve to visit.
Joan Jones Portman Trail
An expansive view of the Ohio Brush Creek Valley rewards visitors who complete the 1.6-mile, round-trip Joan Jones Portman Trail that extends through prairie and up into a forested landscape.
Those passing through the prairie should keep their eyes peeled for shooting star, stiff gentian, rough white lettuce, Indian grass and other plants common to the prairies of the region. Late summer or early fall is perhaps the most rewarding time of year to hike the trail, as the prairie grasses and wildflowers are at their peak.
Also found in the prairie are post oaks—a tree rarely found growing north of Adams County. These trees (which have cross-shaped leaves and a hard, durable wood that made them popular for railroad ties and fence posts) grow in the open on sites with poor, shallow soils.
In early summer evenings, listen for the call of the Chuck-will’s-widow, a nocturnal, ground-nesting bird that is uncommon in Ohio. True to their name, prairie warblers also can be found here, along with the eastern box turtle. Lucky visitors may even catch a glimpse of a fox.
Once through the prairie, visitors enter the woods, where small cliffs of Peebles dolomite (a rock formation) support the red-flowered wild columbine. Chinquapin oak and blue ash are scattered throughout.
The trail ends at Floods Point, a rocky promontory overlooking the beautiful Ohio Brush Creek Valley. Adventuresome hikers eventually will be able to continue on from this promontory and head east on the North Country National Scenic Trail / Buckeye Trail. When complete, this section will allow hiking on a 14-mile trail that will link The Edge of Appalachia Preserve System with the Shawnee State Forest.
Prairie Garden Trail
The brief Prairie Garden Trail showcases a selection of some of the plants that would have greeted early settlers pushing westward through what was once dense Ohio forestland. Islands in a sea of trees, these prairie openings were fairly numerous and scattered throughout the forested hill country of western Adams County. Tall grasses and a host of colorful flowering plants can be seen in the garden.
Ohio Brush Creek Overlook
From the overlook, visitors can view a portion of the 57-mile-long Ohio Brush Creek. Here, warm waters sustain more than 62 species of fish, 30 species of living mussels and 11 reptiles and amphibians. The aquatic diversity of Ohio Brush Creek has been measured by scientists to be some of the best in Ohio.
For those interested in a closer look at the waters of Ohio Brush Creek, there is an access point just south of the overlook to drop in, or take out, a canoe or kayak.
From West Union, in Adams County:
Go east onto State Route 125. Travel east on SR 125 for about 6 miles. Turn right (south) onto Waggoner Riffle Road and continue for about 2 miles to Dr. George Rieveschl Jr. Creek’s Bend Overlook. Parking area is located on the right, behind the wooden fence.