Twin Creek Valley
Twin Creek Valley Twin Creek Valley © Ron Leonetti

Places We Protect

Twin Creek Valley & Henderson Park

Indiana

Glades, oak forests, caves and waterfalls make up these wonderful preserves.

Why You Should Visit 

Twin Creek Valley in Washington County is a mesic oak forest peppered with limestone glades, rock outcrops, scenic cove waterfalls, and numerous caves. This valley is a beautiful habitat for special cave animals, gorgeous spring wildflowers and for anyone who loves nature. Henderson Park is just a portion of Twin Creek Valley but is the only area developed for visitation. Henderson Park is owned by the City of Salem and is managed by The Nature Conservancy through a conservation easement designed to protect the forest, glades and caves at the site.

What The Nature Conservancy is Doing/has Done

Protection of the Twin Creek Valley began with a generous donation of 139 acres from Helen Roberson in 1996. This original gift of land spurred The Nature Conservancy to work with the City of Salem in 1999 to secure a conservation easement on Henderson Park. This easement allows the Conservancy to care for the rare limestone glades known as Steward’s Demise and Indian Racetrack. The long-term goal at Twin Creek Valley is to protect and enhance the limestone glades and forest surrounding Twin Creek. We also utilize our Forest Bank program as a management tool for buffering the core preserve. The Forest Bank is available to landowners near the Twin Creek Valley preserve who want to continue using their forest for timber production while also realizing an economic return in exchange for their conservation efforts.

Prescribed burns, redbud and cedar removal on the limestone glades, controlling invasive species and curbing ATV trespass are the primary conservation activities of our stewardship staff at Twin Creek Valley. The sun-loving plants associated with limestone glades are threatened by shade from redbud and red cedar. In a fire-dominated landscape, these native shrubs and small trees are kept in check, but the absence of natural fire in Indiana threatens these magnificent glades.

An interesting bit of management history on Indian Racetrack glade is a photo taken in the early 1980s that shows Indiana Division of Nature Preserves staff standing among 8-foot tall prairie dock. By the time the Conservancy began working on the glade in 1998, the prairie dock could not be found. Efforts by preserve stewards to increase sunlight reaching the glade were rewarded when in the late 2000s prairie dock returned.

This work is done in partnership with the Indiana Heritage Trust.

What to See: Plants and Animals 

Twin Creek Valley consists of an upland oak forest containing karst features like rugged limestone boulders and aquatic caves. Karst is defined as a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks, such as limestone, and is characterized by sinkholes, caves, and underground drainage systems. The Twin Creek Valley forest is dominated by oak species while hickory species are prominent as well. The forest understory is green with flowering dogwood, eastern redbud, deerberry, and maple-leaf viburnum. The forest makes an excellent habitat for the federally-endangered Indiana bat, and in the summer months, you can be treated to the cheery call of the hooded warbler. Cove waterfalls are dressed with a variety of spring wildflowers in April and May.

In the central part of the valley, Henderson Park showcases a series of spring caves (with three entrances), managed limestone glades and swift streams. Covering the glades are a variety of prairie plants. 

Henderson Park is open to visitors for hiking and nature study. The park has a road system, albeit rough, that provides a peek at karst features alongside limestone glades. Particularly spectacular in mid- to late- summer, the glades are resplendent with flowers while the cave springs promise a cool comfort to tired feet after a hike.

The best place to see Twin Creek Valley is from the old road system that weaves through Henderson Park. These roads are closed to vehicular traffic, but are open for hiking and make for a nice loop hike.

NOTE:  the caves at Henderson Park are closed due to White-Nose Syndrome.  Henderson Park is owned by the city of Salem, which requires all visitors to the Park first check in with the police station.  The Salem Police Station is located at Salem City Hall on the southeast corner of the downtown square. If the main door is closed, go to the back of the building to the door used by the police - it should be open.