OHIO OUTDOOR NOTEBOOK
By Laura Jones, Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Ohio’s geology diverse, dramatic and accessible
Over time, nature has shaped our landscape with water, wind and ice. As a result, there are beautiful and dramatic geological formations on display throughout the Buckeye State. Just consider the smooth glacial-carved grooves on Lake Erie’s Kelleys Island or the deep gorges in Greene County cut by the rushing waters of the Little Miami Scenic River.
Now is a great time to grab your camera, put on the hiking shoes and explore some of the Ohio’s fascinating geology. Best of all, you don’t need to be a geologist to have fun discovering these natural wonders!
It’s no secret that the Hocking Hills area is unrivalled in Ohio for scenic beauty with its steep-walled gorges, recessed caves and dramatic arches. Situated in the southeastern portion of the state, it is also considered one of our most geologically significant regions, featuring the well-known Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls and Conkle’s Hollow. It is also here that the state’s largest natural rock bridge can be seen.
Located within Rockbridge State Nature Preserve, this natural bridge juts out more than 100 feet, gracefully arching 50 feet above a rocky ravine. Wind, rain and percolating groundwater worked together for centuries to carve a deep cave-like recess. Eventually, the stone’s softer mid portion wore away, leaving behind the narrow rock arch. Rockbridge is unique considering Ohio has only 12 other natural arches.
Just off of Ohio’s north coast on Lake Erie’s Kelleys Island is a fascinating geological feature left by the movement of glaciers. State geologists speculate the deep, winding glacial grooves were created by the flow of running water underneath the considerable pressure of a mile-thick glacier. The island’s gray, smooth grooves which stretch more than the length of a football field are among the most spectacular and well known in the world, attracting curious visitors for more than a century.
Melting glaciers also had a big impact on the area around what is now known as Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve in Greene County. As Ohio’s glaciers retreated and melted, rushing river waters carved through bedrock, creating breathtakingly deep gorges like those found at this southwestern Ohio nature preserve. Clifton Gorge is one of the state’s finest examples of what is called post-glacial canyon cutting. Today, the Little Miami State & National Scenic River flows through the gorge to reveal deep, narrow channels and imposing overhanging cliffs. Those who hike the trails here will enjoy how they wind along the river, bringing the beauty of the gorge right to their feet.
The spectacular rock formations at Nelson-Kennedy Ledges in northeast Ohio’s Portage County have become trademarks of the park, treating visitors to a stunning collection of geologic curiosities. Some of the towering blocks form wide passages resembling canyons, while others lean over narrow tunnels creating the feel of caverns.
Freezing and thawing water, along with wind, wore away at the softer rock layers, resulting in remarkable sandstone cliff formations. As the layers eroded, large blocks of rock fell away leaving stronger layers behind to create ledges. The rock formations sport imaginative names, such as Old Maid’s Kitchen, Dwarf’s Pass, Fat Man’s Peril, The Squeeze, Devil’s Hole and Devil’s Icebox, along with Minnehaha Falls and Cascade Falls, one of the most scenic features among the ledges.
Of course, there are other wonderful geological attractions in Ohio, but these are a sampling of some of the best. Have fun exploring and be sure to take pictures!