Ohio Department of Natural Resources’
Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

Credit: Ohio Department of Natural Resources


2200 Gratiot Road SE
Newark, OH 43056

Website  |  Get directions to this location

Site Overview

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ 981-acre Blackhand Gorge Nature Preserve is home to the famous Blackhand sandstone formation. This narrow, east-west gorge cut by the Licking River is named for a dark, hand-shaped Indian petroglyph that was carved on the sandstone cliff. Although the petroglyph was destroyed in 1828 by canal builders, sections of the canal towpaths and canal locks are still visible from the trails along the river.

In addition to its cultural features, the preserve’s natural highlights include oak-hickory woods with Virginia pine and, on northern exposures, cooler-climate species like eastern hemlock and yellow birch. 

Across the state, The Nature Conservancy is working to protect diverse forest communities like those found at Blackhand Gorge.

Why It Matters

The diverse forest communities found at Blackhand Gorge not only serve as habitat for animals like nesting songbirds, but also help to protect the water quality of the Licking River flowing through it.

A popular recreational area for outdoor enthusiasts, the area around the gorge also represents an important part of tribal history both for modern Indians and the prehistoric Mound Builders.  Today’s visitors will enjoy a bike trail—the only one in Ohio’s state nature preserve system—marked by cultural features like canal towpaths and locks.  

Natural Treasures Landmark

Join hundreds of others who have chronicled their adventures! Take a picture of yourself at Blackhand Rock at Blackhand Gorge Nature Preserve and upload it to our site.

Fun Things to Do and See

While on the hunt for the landmark, enjoy the abundant adventures this Ohio treasure has to offer. The thrill of nature can be experienced at any level!

Patio Dweller

  • Explore the Licking River and snap a picture of the narrow sandstone gorge cut. Upload your favorite to our Facebook page.

Backyard Camper

  • Blackhand Gorge Nature Preserve is home to six scenic trails, including more than four miles that can be explored while biking. Decide if you want to experience them on foot or while riding. How many different animals did you spot along the way? What was your favorite flower?

Frontier Explorer

  • Put your hiking boots on and grab your supplies for a 4.26-mile hike on the Blackhand Trail. Be sure to keep track of the variety of plants and wildlife you encounter along the way. Post a status update to our Facebook page once you’ve accomplished this feat!


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