A small waterfall flows down a tributary to Big Creek in Pennywort Cliffs Nature Preserve, southern Indiana
Pennywort Waterfall A small waterfall flows down a tributary to Big Creek in Pennywort Cliffs Nature Preserve, southern Indiana © © Christopher Jordan

Places We Protect

Pennywort Cliffs Preserve

Indiana

A southern Indiana hardwood forest, this preserve offers a variety of woodland experiences along Jefferson County’s Big Creek.

Why You Should Visit

100-year-old tulip stands, flowing springs and a 30-foot waterfall makes Pennywort Cliffs an awe-inspiring experience. Walk through TNC planted walnut plantation, and admire the tulip stands which are more than 36 inches in diameter and still growing. While well-defined trails are easily followed, what is found off the beaten path is stunning. Two constantly flowing springs meet and make their way over a 30-foot waterfall before reaching Big Creek, Jefferson County's largest creek. The Cliffs are also one of the first classified forests in Indiana (1931).

What The Nature Conservancy is Doing/has Done 

TNC protects forests along the stream corridor and other forested sites nearby by acquiring land from willing sellers and working with private landowners to manage their timber through the Forest Bank. Conservation targets at the site include the Midwest moist limestone and Dolostone cliff community as well as the American water pennywort.

What to See: Plants and Animals

When is the best time to visit Pennywort Cliffs? Any day! Throughout the year, wildflowers - like wood anemone, Mayapple, Jack-in-the-pulpit and Virginia Bluebells - can be found on the forest floor. Visitors in July and August might get a glimpse of the American water pennywort, the wildflower for which the preserve was named. Look for it at the base of the limestone cliffs overlooking Big Creek (on the east boundary of the site). This preserve is nestled in the Muscatatuck Flats and Canyons Natural Section of Indiana and offers a glimpse of its namesake with forest “flats” that hold water much of the year and a deep canyon along Big Creek. A variety of tree species including ash, oak and tulip poplar create a gorgeous canopy. In autumn, the forest is painted by the yellow of the tulip, orange sassafras and red gum leaves. Winter has its own offerings as well when large patches of ground-cedar and partridgeberry are easily seen. As the generous previous owner, Mary Clashman, once stated, “Pennywort Cliffs is truly a natural cathedral."

The easy to moderate terrain and existing roads at the preserve will make for a pleasant hike. Just make sure to bring insect repellent for mosquitoes, ticks and flies.