Why You Should Visit
The Lost River, a large sinking and subterranean stream, and an intricate cave system are the main attractions at the Orangeville Rise and Wesley Chapel Gulf. The Lost River begins as a normal river in western Washington County, but as it meanders into Orange County, the water begins to sink into "swallow holes" in the riverbed. Eventually, it disappears entirely into a vast system of water-carved passages and caves. The Lost River is only at surface level as a dry bed for 23 of its 85-mile length. Only a few times each year does the Lost River fill its dry bed as runoff exceeds the capacity of the many swallow holes that usually siphon off its flow. Orangeville Rise and Wesley Chapel Gulf are two areas where Hoosiers can witness the wonderment of the Lost River.
Orangeville rise was first designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1972 and then was dedicated as a State Nature Preserve in 1975. The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service own and manage Wesley Chapel Gulf, and the Indiana Karst Conservancy owns and manages Orangeville Rise.
What The Nature Conservancy is Doing/has Done
In order to preserve the Lost River and protect the cave system, the Conservancy works to secure the lands overlying the caves between Wesley Chapel Gulf and Orangeville Rise to ensure development does not threaten the fragile ecosystem. Protecting viable cave restricted species, maintaining the water quality and quantity supplying the cave system are other conservation concerns.