Destination: Green’s Bluff

process-00180 (Large)If you are looking for a hard-to-find but wholly spectacular hike, try Owen County’s Green’s Bluff Nature Preserve.

This gorgeous 563-acre Nature Conservancy property brackets the impressive namesake bluff along a bend in Raccoon Creek. With a parking area on a dead-end road that only accommodates a few cars, the only people to visit are hikers who know where they are going.

The area was originally named for James Green who built a grist mill in the valley around 1840. The foundation of the mill can still be seen along the one-mile-long moderately-challenging loop trail that winds down the face of the cliff into the bottomlands.

The hike starts with an interpretive sign at the top of the bluffs that tells the history of the area and details some of the unusual native plants such as hemlock trees, wintergreen and hay-scented ferns. From this point, the trail enters a tunnel of small hemlocks to descend below the brow of the cliff.
The trail, winding down a series of switchbacks along the face of the cliff, is narrow and offers impressive views and steep drop-offs reminiscent of hiking in Kentucky. Finally arriving at the bottom, the trail winds around the loop of the creek past some interesting stone ruins of Green’s gristmill then returns up the hill on an old road to rejoin itself.

Once you’ve hiked the loop, an alternative destination is Boone’s Cave. The cave, one of Indiana’s longest, is well known among spelunkers and is even mentioned on topographic maps. However, it is a mile east of the parking area along a poorly-marked, unmaintained trail that winds along the creek, entering a power-line clearance before returning to the woods and ultimately the cave.

process-00176 (Large)The large cave mouth sits at the base of a large bluff with a stream flowing from it but is surprisingly difficult to locate until you are nearly upon it. The cave mouth was not gated at our last visit but visitors should refrain from entering the cave both for safety reasons and to prevent spread of the deadly white-nose bat virus.

The cave makes a great destination to take a break or lunch but beware: we’ve found ticks to be very active in the tall grass around the cave mouth. The spring water issuing from the cave looks pristine and clean enough to drink but there have been reports of septic leakage from nearby homes entering the cave.

After visiting, you return to the parking area via the same trail.

The bluff trail is well marked and should not present major problems for most people aside from the general fall danger; small children should be kept tightly controlled or taken to the bottom via the old road. Hiking during rainy or icy conditions would be inadvisable.

Hikers attempting to find the cave should have a topographic map, compass and GPS in addition to normal equipment such as drinking water and rain gear. In the valley there is no cellular signal and while the area isn’t as remote as Hoosier National Forest, it would be entirely possible to get lost for the entire day if you aren’t prepared for backcountry navigation.

 

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Brent Wheat
A well-known and award-winning writer/photographer/radio & television talent/speaker/web-designer/media spokesperson/shooting instructor/elected official/retired police officer/bourbon connoisseur/cigar aficionado/backpacker/hunter/fisherman/gardener/preparedness guru/musician/and jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none, Brent Wheat is the editor and publisher of WildIndiana.com

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