Places We Protect

Edge of Appalachia Preserve System

Ohio

The Richard and Lucile Durrell Edge of Appalachia Preserve System encompasses over 20,000 acres in beautiful southern Ohio.

Ancient forests of massive oaks and American chestnut once blanketed nearly all of what would become southern and eastern Ohio.  When the first white settlers arrived in the Ohio Valley, wolves and elk wandered this rustic landscape of pristine rivers and fertile forests. 

Yet by the early 1900s, about 90 percent of the original forest cover had been cleared to make room for farmland and to feed the iron furnaces of southern Ohio – severely degrading part of North America’s oldest and most biologically diverse forest systems. 

Today, Ohio’s Appalachian forests are returning, with nearly 40 percent of the region cloaked in mixed hardwood forest. The Nature Conservancy’s 20,000-acre Edge of Appalachia Preserve is a key component of this recovery process, mending habitats on a large scale and preserving the landscape’s unique natural legacy. 

Current Conservation Work

The Edge of Appalachia Preserve is threatened by the invasion of woody species into prairie openings, as well as unsustainable forestry practices and habitat fragmentation in areas surrounding the preserve.  In addition, the unauthorized use of off-road vehicles inside the preserve is disturbing habitat and creating favorable conditions for the establishment of non-native weedy plants, which eventually can displace native vegetation.

The Conservancy has been working to combat these threats through land acquisition, education and restoration efforts. 

  • Land acquisition focuses on consolidating land holdings and linking critical areas within the preserve system, which consist of eleven contiguous preserves that are owned and managed by both the Conservancy and the Cincinnati Museum Center.
  • The Conservancy's Sunshine Corridor Project aims to link the Edge of Appalachia Preserve System with Shawnee State Forest, creating the largest contiguous, protected forestland in Ohio.  This will benefit resident and migrating wildlife as well as create more recreational opportunities.
  • Land management efforts include restoration of glade communities and prairie openings and addressing timber management issues as they relate to local economic development and neo-tropical migrant birds.
  • The Conservancy continues to build partnerships with the local community, and public and private entities to develop innovative approaches to compatible economic development.
  • Young scientists are gaining knowledge and skills at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve's Science Camp, run by the Cincinnati Museum Center, which takes place every summer.  Here, teens (ages 17-19) have the unique opportunity to assist scientists in the research process.
  • The Conservancy and the Edge of Appalachia Preserve System are part of an active community of local businesses and organizations working to promote the exciting destinations and things to do in Adams County.  Follow backroads to find quilt barns, Amish baked goods, historic sites and much more.
  • The Nature Conservancy in partnership with many other organizations as part of Leadership Adams created a Hiker's Guide to Adams County Ohio.  The guide is a detailed brochure of nature trails, maps and interpretive information to make visiting Adams County easy and enjoyable.  Download the map or check it out online here.
  • In October 2019, 14 additional miles of trail were officially added to the Buckeye Trail on Edge of Appalachia Preserve property.  Through a partnership between Buckeye Trail Association (BTA) and TNC, BTA volunteers constructed this new trail. This additional portion of trail can be accessed from the end of the Joan Jones Portman Trail. This effort gets more of the Buckeye Trail off roads and into the wilderness.
  • Hunting is permitted on a very select portion of the Edge of Appalachia Preserve.  Permission to hunt needs to be granted by Nature Conservancy staff and paperwork needs to be carried on your person at all times while hunting on Edge of Appalachia Preserve property. A limited number of permits will be granted. Due to social distancing and challenges associated with interstate travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Nature Conservancy has not yet finalized decisions regarding deer hunting permits for the 2020-21 hunting season. Please check back here on this webpage after July 31 for more information.

What You'll See

The Richard and Lucile Durrell Edge of Appalachia Preserve is one of the most biologically diverse collections of natural systems in the Midwestern U. S., encompassing rugged woodland, prairie openings, waterfalls, giant promontories and clear streams. 

Here, within Ohio’s largest privately owned protected natural area, visitors will find mixed mesophytic forests, flowering and medicinal plants, and Appalachian herbs like great rhododendron and Canby’s mountain-lover.  Cerulean warblers and other neotropical birds abound during warmer months, while imperiled animals like the Indiana bat, green salamander and Allegheny woodrat persist throughout the year.  

All told, more than 100 rare plant and animal species make their home within the preserve system. 

The preserve boasts a total of 27 miles of hiking on five different trails—including Christian and Emma Goetz Buzzardroost Rock, The Charles A. Eulett Wilderness, E. Lucy Braun Lynx Prairie, Joan Jones Portman, and John and Marion Becker Cedar Falls trails.

Single-night primitive camping along the portion of the Buckeye trail that is on Edge of Appalachia property is available by written permit for backpackers. To obtain permits, please contact The Nature Conservancy at 937-544-2188 or ohio@tnc.org.  Camping is not permitted on any other portion of the Edge of Appalachia Preserve.

Please check individual trail pages as activities and visitation rules are different for each trail.

The following activities are NOT permitted at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve:

  • Pets of any kind - service animals are permitted (Pets are allowed on the Joan Jones Portman Trail/Buckeye Trail ONLY)
  • Driving an ATV or off-road vehicle
  • Biking and mountain biking
  • Camping
  • Cooking or camp fires
  • Horseback riding
  • Hunting
  • Picking flowers, berries, nuts or mushrooms
  • Removing any part of the natural landscape
  • Rock climbing
  • Snowmobiling

Please note, most trails do not have any restroom facilities. There is a restroom at the Dr. George Rieveschl, Jr. Creek's Bend Overlook near the Joan Jones Portman Trail.

The Edge of Appalachia Preserve Hosts the Buckeye Trail

For nearly 1,444 miles, the Buckeye Trail winds around Ohio, reaching into every corner of the state.  Now 16 of these miles are contained within the Edge of Appalachia Preserve, thanks to a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and Buckeye Trail Association.  The Nature Conservancy owns the land and helped fund the installation of the trail, while the Buckeye Trail Association helped to build it and maintains it.

This section of the trail also coincides with the North Country National Scenic Trail, which stretches 4,600 miles to connect New York to North Dakota, and is the longest national scenic trail in the United States.

Previously traversing nearby backroads within the Edge of Appalachia, the Buckeye trail is now off-road and passes through one of Ohio’s most significant natural areas, providing visitors with a unique, primitive hiking experience.  

Single-night primitive camping along the portion of the Buckeye trail that is on Edge of Appalachia Preserve property is available by written permit for backpackers. To obtain permits, please contact The Nature Conservancy at 937-544-2188 or ohio@tnc.org.  

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