harold

Indiana once was covered by a vast forest of some of the most majestic hardwood trees found anywhere in the world. While only scattered traces of this forest remain, there are sections of the state where extensive woodlands still exist.

I have a passion for maps, with most of them relating to Indiana. Looking over these maps it is interesting to see where large tracts of forest still extend over the Hoosier landscape.

The Brown County hills region of Jackson, Lawrence, Monroe, Brown, Bartholomew and Morgan counties have been recognized by The Nature Conservancy as one of the largest and best expanse of forest remaining in the lower Midwest. Efforts are underway to protect and preserve as much of this important forested region as possible.

Among public areas in the Brown County hills region are Brown County State Park, Yellowwood State Forest, Morgan-Monroe State Forest, a large segment in the Hoosier National Forest and lands around Lake Monroe. In addition, the Indiana Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Sycamore Land Trust has a number of nature preserves in this region.

South of the Brown County Hills, large tracts of forests extend all the way to the Ohio River. Large sections of this rugged, hilly landscape are found in state forests and the Hoosier National Forest. While a sizable amount of Indiana’s forests are found in the Brown County Hills and the southern hill country, there are other parts of the state where extensive forest lands can be found.

One very large area of forest is located northwest of Martinsville. This region of hills and woods extends northward from the crossroads of Whitaker to a few miles south of Mooresville. Found in this elongated area of forests are Bradford Woods, owned and managed by Indiana University, and the Ravina Woods, a disjoint section of the Morgan-Monroe State Forest. Part of the forest has recently been donated by the state to Morgan County for the creation of its first county park.

South of the region is another large region of wooded hills. This is north of Spencer and extends northward to I-70. In this scenic area are the Owen-Putnam State Forest and Cagle’s Mill Lake-Cataract Falls area.

Southeast of Spencer the hilly country of Greene and Martin counties have large sections of wooded landscape. In this lovely region are the Martin County State Forest, Crane Naval Weapons Support Center, and scattered parcels of the Hoosier National Forest.

In southeastern Indiana the hills and ridges that extend back from the Ohio River in Jefferson, Switzerland, Ohio and Dearborn counties have large tracts of forests.

Another large area of rugged forest landscape is found along the Ohio River from east of the village of Laconia in southern Harrison County northward to New Albany in Floyd County. This is a landscape of high, rounded hills called knobs, which feature some of the most scenic, rugged landscape in Indiana. The Nature Conservancy and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources have acquired several high quality sites in this region and have established a series of nature preserves that help protect a variety of natural features that help make this such an interesting and important segment of Hoosierland.

North of New Albany and I-64 the forested knobs continue on through Clark, Scott and Jackson counties to the Muscatatuck River. A large part of this region is contained in the Clark County State Forest and the Jackson Washington State Forest. This, like the southern section of the Knobstone Region, is some of the most scenic and rugged landscape in the entire Midwest.

Along the Muscatatuck River is a large acreage of lowland forest. This is one of the most extensive areas of floodplain forest remaining Indiana.

The Nature Conservancy and Department of Natural Resources are in the process of acquiring a sizable segment of this woodland as a fish and wildlife area and nature preserve. This is an important project that will help protect a unique feature of our Indiana natural heritage.

Well I have run out of space in this column so will have to feature more Hoosier wooded sites in a future column. While much of our woods are gone, there are still large areas where one can see what our state once contained.

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