Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve

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Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve
Coordinates: 39.7941609, -83.8315201
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Photos by Tom Fishburn

Ohio Birding Day Hike

Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve Trails
Trails at Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve include:
Narrows Trail – .5 mile
Gorge Trail – 1 mile
Rim Trail – 1 mile
Orton Trail – .5 mile

About Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve
+ One of the finest examples of post-glacial canyon cutting
+ Scenic waterfalls and rapids on the headwaters of the Little Miami State and National Scenic River
+ Excellent spring wildflower viewing
+ Parking lot, trails, interpretive signs and overlooks are provided.
+ No pets are allowed at Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve

This 268-acre preserve protects one of the most spectacular dolomite and limestone gorges in the state. Registered as a National Natural Landmark in 1968, Clifton Gorge encompasses a 2-mile stretch of the Little Miami State and National Scenic River, just east of John Bryan State Park.

Geologically, it is an outstanding example of interglacial and post-glacial canyon cutting. At one point, the river funnels through a deep, narrow channel, which was apparently formed by the enlarging and connecting of a series of potholes in the resistant Silurian dolomite bedrock. In other sections of the gorge, cliff overhangs have broken off forming massive slump blocks scattered along the valley floor.

The shaded, north-facing slopes provide a cool, moist environment for northern species including hemlock, red baneberry, Canada yew, arbor-vitae and mountain maple. This is one of the most spectacular sites in the state for viewing spring wildflowers including the rare snow trillium.

Located in Greene County on OH-343, .25 mile west of Clifton at the east end of John Bryan State Park.
From Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve webpage

About Clifton Gorge
“Clifton Gorge” actually encompasses Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve at the east end, John Bryan State Park in the middle, and Glen Helen Ecology Institute at the west end. All are accessible to the public, except for part of the nature preserve – the scientific area on the south side of the river, which requires a permit for access.

This gorge, which was carved by the Little Miami River as it passed through dolomitic bedrock, is perhaps the most scenic area in western Ohio. Steep limestone cliffs are draped with White Cedar, a rare tree in Ohio, and spring wildflower displays are spectacular.

Many rare plants are protected here, too, and the site is of great interest botanically. All told, over 1000 acres are in protection, and most of this is accessible via a network of well-maintained trails. In addition, Glen Helen maintains an outstanding raptor rehabilitation center, and hawks and owls can be seen up close there.

Most entrances are located along OH-343, between OH-68 and OH-72, south and west of Springfield, Ohio. The western end of the area abuts the east side of the town of Yellow Springs.

Open all year during daylight hours.

There are numerous parking areas throughout the gorge, offering good access to the trails.
From Ohio Ornithological Society

Birds of Interest by Season
Most of our common winter woodland species, and winter finches are sometimes attracted to the conifers. Also, the visitor’s center at Glen Helen keeps feeders stocked, and those are always worth checking.
Good numbers and diversity of neotropical migrants. Migration periods can be particularly good birding, as the heavily wooded gorge is an oasis for birds in an area that is heavily agricultural.
Many of Ohio’s more common and widespread woodland breeders are easily found. Louisiana Waterthrush and Yellow-throated Warbler are easily found along the river, as are Belted Kingfisher and Wood Duck. Prothonotary Warbler is found on occasion. Upland, successional habitats often support Yellow-breasted Chat, and Blue-winged and Prairie Warblers.
Good numbers and diversity of neotropical migrants.

No restroom facilities. Restrooms are nearby at camping areas in John Bryan State Park and at Glen Helen.