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Places We Protect

Green's Bluff

Indiana

Ferns and evergreens in and alongside a steep sandstone cliff.
Green's Bluff Great any time of year! © Jesse Moore/TNC

Great improvements are happening at this great preserve.

Overview

Description

Why You Should Visit

Green’s Bluff is a picturesque nature preserve located in Owen County, comprised of two separate properties, each with its own loop trail. Green's Bluff features an upland forest, rocky bluffs, and a lush floodplain forest along Raccoon Creek. The steep bluffs are home to a grove of eastern hemlock trees, a species that is only found in Indiana on steep, north-facing slopes that provide a shady, cool environment. The preserve also features a great blue heron rookery, as well as cave entrances and remnants of an old grist mill. This preserve was established in 1985, and as of 2021, the preserve is 1,134 acres.

 

What's New at Green's Bluff

TNC has improved the existing trail at Green’s Bluff and added interpretive signage to enhance visitor enjoyment. In 2020 and 2021, TNC also created a second trail and ten acres of pollinator habitat at the newer acquisition.

The new trail and pollinator habitat were made possible by a grant from the Duke Energy Foundation. Duke has been a long-time supporter of TNC and conservation projects in Indiana.

What The Nature Conservancy is Doing/has Done

The Conservancy has added important acreage and protected the site from imminent development. We are also actively pursuing more additions at the preserve to consolidate protection of oak forests.

The Nature Conservancy has planted more than 68,000 trees at Green’s Bluff in order repair and connect the fragmented forest here.

  • WHY: Many plant and animal species need large, unfragmented forests to survive.
  • WHAT: We planted hardwood tree species such as red oak, white oak, black walnut, black cherry and shagbark hickory. Also included in the mix are flowering dogwood and hazelnut trees.
  • HOW: TNC staff machine-planted fallow hayfields, planting 680 trees per acre. We selected trees based upon their growth rates, historical presence in the area and habitat value.
  • WHEN: The trees were planted in 2001, 2016 and 2017. 

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Spencer, Indiana

Hours

Open year-round from dawn to dusk

Highlights

Green’s Bluff features an upland forest, rocky bluffs, and a lush floodplain forest along Raccoon Creek.

Size

1,134 acres

Explore our work in Indiana

Photos from Green's Bluff

Tag your preserve visits on Instagram with #GreensBluff to have your photos featured here!

Trail runs through lush green foreset.
Ferns cling to steep sandstone cliff.
Two large black and white great blue herons face to face.
Big bobcat with black markings stalks through the snow.
Stone wall in lush green forest.
Bright red tanager with black wings perched on branch.
Small ruby-throated hummingbird in flight.
A cerulean warbler with black and blue markings pecks at berry on branch.
Forest treetops against a blue sky.
Creek runs by steep sandstone cliffs.

Visit

  • Trails

    The North Loop Trail is a 1.2-mile moderate loop trail through the northern section of Green’s Bluff. The gravel parking area at the trailhead can accommodate 5 vehicles, with room for a few more along the road next to the cemetery. The trail overlooks hemlock bluffs above Raccoon Creek, then descends a steep slope to continue along the face of the bluff down to the creek. This portion of the trail can be quite rugged. The trail continues along the creek, where a sharp eye may notice the stone foundation of James Green’s grist mill from the late 1800s.

    The Raccoon Woods Trail is a 1.4-mile moderate loop trail through the newer southern section of Green’s Bluff. The gravel parking area at the trailhead can accommodate 5 vehicles. This is an excellent trail for spotting migrating birds in the spring and admiring colorful leaves in the fall. After starting in a clearing where TNC has planted rows of oak trees, the trail winds through deep woods with many mature oak, beech and hickory trees. As it descends into steep ravines, the trail crosses spring-fed creeks. Climbing out of the ravines, it offers views of the forest canopy. At the far end of the loop, the trail rises into an open area where TNC is attracting birds and insects with pollinator plantings.

    The North Loop Trail at Green's Bluff can be quite rugged. The Raccoon Woods Trail is more moderate. New interpretive signs, funded by the Duke Energy Foundation, are found along both trails.

    It’s just a ten minute drive between the two trailheads, so why not visit both trails while you’re in the area? 

  • Directions

    To get to the North Loop Trail (located at the dead end of CR 75E in Spencer, IN 47460):

    From Bloomington, travel on S.R. 48 west for eight miles to the junction with S.R. 43 (where S.R. 48 ends). Take S.R. 43 north about five mles to the village of Freeman. About 1.5 miles past Freeman turn left onto Sherfeld Road. This road comes to a "T" after about a mile. Turn left and go about 0.4 mile to where the road ends. You'll see a Green's Bluf Nature Preserve sign at the trailhead.

    From Spencer, travel on S.R. 46 east. Just past McCormick's Creke State Park turn right on S.R. 43. After about five miles turn right on Sherfield Road. This road comes to a "T" after about a mile. Turn left and go about 0.4 mile to where the road ends. You'll see a Green's Bluf Nature Preserve sign at the trailhead.

    To get from the North Loop Trail to the Raccoon Woods Trail

    Head north on Heddings Rd/CR 75E to Sherfield Rd/CR 525S. Turn right onto Sherfield Rd/CR 525S. Travel one mile and then turn right (south) onto State Highway 43. Travel 1.9 miles and turn right onto E Porter Ridge Rd/CR 675S. Travel about 2 miles. Parking for Raccoon Woods Trail will be on the right (north) side of the road. 

  • What to See

    The dominant features of Green’s Bluff are the steep, rugged sandstone cliffs along Raccoon Creek and the associated plant communities, including remnant groves of hemlock trees. Thick beech-maple woods grow in the rugged ravines while sycamore trees tower over the scouring rush (horsetails) which flourish along the creek.

    Green’s Bluff is one of two Indiana sites where mountain spleenwort can be found. Competing for available soil and moisture in the deep shade are the large, thick leathery fronds of marginal shield fern, maidenhair fern, plantain-leaved sedge (a showy species as far as sedges go), sharp-lobed hepatica and a variety of other ferns and wildflowers. Other rare plants include hay-scented fern, goldenseal and spotted wintergreen.

    Spring is a great time to view the vast array of stunning wildflowers, and the view from atop the sandstone bluff reveals a wooded landscape that feels like true wilderness.

    Green’s Bluff also boasts a nesting rookery of great blue herons—tall, regal wading birds that search the waters of nearby Raccoon Creek and the larger White River further downstream for food. Close approach of their nesting colony by human intruders will be met with the loud, raucous calls of this highly gregarious species. To minimize disturbance during their nesting season, the herons should be enjoyed from a distance.

    The wood thrush, red-eyed vireo, Acadian flycatcher, scarlet tanager and Louisiana woodthrush can also be found either nesting high in the trees or nesting in the brush. Leopard frogs, green frogs and banded water snakes are among the amphibians and reptiles found at the preserve. Various mollusks, crustaceans and fish also make their home in the meandering Raccoon Creek. 

  • Preserve Visitation Guidelines

    Please consult TNC’s Preserve Visitation Guidelines. 

Nearby Preserves

Need more nature? Visit The Nature Conservancy’s other preserves.

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

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