Water cascades over large rocks down a waterfall surrounded by forest dappled with sunlight.
Edge of Appalachia Cedar Falls along the Helen C. Black Trail. © Rick Conner

Places We Protect

John and Marion Becker Cedar Falls Preserve

Ohio

Discover rare northern white cedar trees, a remarkable spectrum of wildflowers, dramatic cliffs, huge boulders and, of course, Cedar Falls.

Opened in summer 2020, the Helen C. Black Trail at the John and Marion Becker Cedar Falls Preserve offers visitors an exceptional opportunity to explore a special area of The Edge of Appalachia Preserve System.

Cedar Falls is a 15-foot cascade over a series of limestone ledges. Like many waterfalls in southern Ohio, the falls are best viewed in spring or after a hard rain, when water flow is the strongest.

Below the falls, Cedar Run has carved a deep gorge flanked on either side by cliffs up to 70 feet high. Although rare in a human lifetime, occasionally sections of this cliff face break off in one spectacular event. Evidence of this can be found along the trail as it moves through the “boulder field,” which is comprised of huge slump blocks of Peebles dolomite that have broken off from the cliffs above.

With its dramatic cliffs and huge boulders, the boulder field is rugged but, ironically, also one of the most fragile areas along the trail. In spring, carpets of lush wildflowers cover the ground and the rocks, their growth nurtured by the cool, moist and sheltered environment of the narrow gorge. Over long periods of time, crevices in the boulders and the surrounding talus slope have accumulated soil, allowing a diversity of wildflowers to colonize the forest floor. These delicate plants flower from March through May (prior to the emergence of deciduous tree leaves), when temperatures are moderate, soil is moist, and sunlight is readily available.

In the spring keep an eye out for: bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), bulblet bladder fern (Cystopteris bulbifera), crested dwarf iris (Iris cristata), bishop’s cap (Mitella diphylla), wood poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum), large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), rue anemone (Anemonella thalictroides), wild ginger (Asarum canadense), wild geranium (Geranium maculatum), and twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla).

Also found in the moist microclimate of the gorge is a small stand of northern white cedar that has survived since the end of the last ice age, more than 14,000 years ago. Northern white cedar is one of the longest-living trees in the Eastern U.S., with some specimens known to be more than 1,500 years old.

Helen C. Black Trail Virtual Naturalist Hike Explore the Helen C. Black Trail with TNC Ohio Appalachian Forests Project Manager, Martin McAllister, and Edge of Appalachia Preserve Naturalist, Rich McCarty. Walk along the trail with them as they point out natural features and historical markings.

The three-mile, round-trip trail to Cedar Falls begins placidly among a grove of eastern red cedar trees and ends at a dramatic overlook perched on the edge of a cliff above the falls. Along the way, visitors will experience diverse deciduous forest, cross several rocky tributary streams and pass through the boulder field—a narrow area of Cedar Run gorge where massive blocks of Peebles Dolomite have fallen from nearby cliffs.

This hike is strenuous in some areas, and the 70-foot cliffs are impressive but very hazardous without caution. Direct access to the falls is strictly prohibited. For safety reasons, visitors must stay on the trail at all times.

The following activities are NOT permitted at Cedar Falls Preserve:

  • Pets of any kind (service animals are permitted)
  • Biking and mountain biking
  • Camping
  • Driving an ATV or off-road vehicle
  • Cooking or campfires
  • Horseback riding
  • Hunting
  • Picking flowers, berries, nuts or mushrooms
  • Removing any part of the natural landscape
  • Rock climbing
  • Snowmobiling

Please note that there are no facilities of any kind on the trail.

We need your help protecting the natural treasures of Ohio’s Appalachian foothills.