Winding Waters Group Successfully Promotes New Nature Preserve
Part of Anderson Falls Park was dedicated as a State Nature Preserve this spring, thanks to the efforts of the Sierra Club's Winding Waters Group. The approximately 40-acre tract of land in eastern Bartholomew County, just off state road 46 east of Columbus, is home to over 200 types of wild plants. Stands of mature beech and maple grow along deep ravines. White oak, shagbark hickory, and buckeye predominate on the ridges. Each spring an astonishing number and variety of wildflowers delight visitors.
While most of Bartholomew County is relatively flat, this area contains steep-walled valleys and a waterfall. At the falls, spanning close to 100 feet, water cascades 13 feet from the limestone bed to a pool below. Beneath the limestone lies outcroppings of Waldron shale that is easily eroded, which is how the falls were formed and what is still causing them to slowly progress upstream.
One hundred fifty years ago this area was home to wild turkey, bear, panther, otter, and passenger pigeons. While hunting and habitat destruction have eliminated many of these animals, the woods are still home to deer, raccoon, fox, skunk, opossum, squirrel, and an abundance of birds including songbirds, woodpeckers, and hawks.
Were it not for Clifty Creek Concerned Citizens who banded together in the early 70s, this remarkable site and much of the surrounding acreage would be under water. The group opposed the Army Corps of Engineers proposal to build a 900-acre reservoir, and the project was deauthorized by the state in 1979.
A grant from the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation of Columbus, combined with local and statewide fundraising, enabled The Nature Conservancy to purchase Anderson Falls in 1977. It was dedicated in 1979 as a memorial to David C. Mosier, a former Conservancy chairman and volunteer who was instrumental in saving the site from inundation by the proposed reservoir project.
Later in 1979, The Nature Conservancy gave the property to the Bartholomew County Parks Department on the condition that it be kept in its natural state. The Parks Board has managed the property for the last 24 years and has considered it one of its crown jewels.
When Cliff Chapman, an ecologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and wildflower enthusiast, came to a meeting of the conservation committee of the Winding Waters Chapter of the Sierra Club in Columbus in 2001, he told the group he felt the area was so unique it should receive State Nature Preserve designation. We enthusiastically agreed. Winding Waters and the DNR made a presentation to the Parks Board recommending the designation, and over the last three years the Sierra Club has acted to facilitate the transition.
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