Places We Protect

Big Walnut


Big Walnut
Big Walnut Creek Big Walnut Creek runs through Big Walnut Nature Preserve in Putnam County, Indiana. © Timothy Metz

Big Walnut is a large forest that provides extensive habitat for diverse plant life.



Why You Should Visit

Big Walnut Preserve in Putnam County is a dazzling scenic area situated among the rolling hills and steep ravines of Big Walnut Creek Valley. Since being dedicated as a National Natural Landmark in 1985, the preserve has been co-managed by the Conservancy and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Nature Preserves (DNP). This successful partnership has protected more than 2,600 acres and has ensured the long-term viability of this biologically important natural area.

What The Nature Conservancy is Doing/has Done

Through constructive partnering, the Conservancy and DNP have produced effective management and reforestation efforts in Big Walnut Preserve. Over the past three years, the effort to preserve several thousand contiguous acres of protected interior forests has been applied by planting thousands of tree seedlings in old fields and pastures. Both the Conservancy and DNP staff, along with scores of volunteers, have planted more than 125,000 red oak, shellbark hickory, and black walnut seedlings throughout 180 acres of Big Walnut Preserve. Also, recent land acquisitions have helped to protect local plants, animals, and natural communities, which in return help to maintain the water quality of Big Walnut Creek.

With DNP managing most of the southern portion and the Conservancy working primarily in the north, both organizations have proved that they can successfully collaborate their efforts to manage the site and maximize the integrity of the entire preserve.

This work is done in partnership with the Indiana Heritage Trust, Land, and Water Conservation Fund, Indiana Department of Transportation and Central Indiana Land Trust, Inc.




Open year-round from dawn to dusk.


2,697 acres

Explore our work in this region

What to See: Plants and Animals

With beautiful, virgin, glacial-relic stands of eastern hemlock and Canada yew flourishing on cool, north-facing slopes, it’s no surprise that this area was designated as a national natural landmark in 1968. Exceptionally large trees, including the largest known hemlock trees in Indiana, are scattered across the preserve along with one of the few remaining stands of a beech, sugar maple, tulip, poplar climax forest growing in west-central Indiana.

Spring brings a carpet of wildflowers including spring beauties, anemones, Virginia bluebells, and large-flowered trilliums, and the emergence of Cerulean/Worm-eating/Hooded Warblers and Great Blue Herons. The rare-plant seekers won't be disappointed at Big Walnut either; eastern hemlock, Canada hew, Clinton's woodfern, Goldie's fern, and bristly sarsaparilla among other uncommon plants can be found this amazing preserve.

A one-mile loop trail through a portion of the northern part of Big Walnut was completed in the summer of 2002. It is a moderate hike on the Tall Timbers Trail, but be careful as it is often wet. Parking is available at the trailhead.

For More Information

Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Nature Preserves