Places We Protect

Green's Bluff

Indiana

Old stone foundation among a forest of green.
Green's Bluff New pollinator trail awaits you! © Jesse Moore/TNC

Scenic sandstone cliffs, wooded slopes and a meandering creek make up this great preserve.

Overview

Description

Why You Should Visit

Owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Green’s Bluff in Owen County is a large wooded riparian habitat with uplands, ravines, tributary valleys, steep cliffs, karst features, hemlock forest and floodplain forest. The preserve also features a great blue heron rookery as well as an old grist mill whose remnants can be found in a bend of Raccoon Creek.

This preserve was established in 1985, and as of 2021, the preserve is 1,134 acres.

What's New at Green's Bluff

In 2015, TNC added 197 acres to the preserves. TNC converted 10 acres of this land into pollinator habitat by first removing invasive species and then planting with native wildflowers and grasses.

In addition, TNC has improved the existing trail at Green’s Bluff and added interpretive signage to enhance visitor enjoyment. TNC also created a second trail at the site, which runs through 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. Ongoing stewardship tasks include trash removal, boundary posting, interior fence removal, and tree planting.

 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

Hours

Open year-round from dawn to dusk.

Size

1,134 acres

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About the 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 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.

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

What to See: Plants and Animals

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.

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. For more information please consult the Conservancy’s Preserve Visitation Guidelines.

About the Raccoon Woods Trail

Creating and maintaining a trail requires many hours of work. Given the terrain at Green’s Bluff, the majority of it was done by hand; i.e. no machines were used.
Volunteers from the Hoosier Hikers Council (HHC) worked with TNC staff from June through September of 2020 to complete this trail, which beautifully illustrates HHC’s mission of building, maintaining and promoting high-quality natural trails for hikers and runners in Indiana.