The Hoosier National’s historic Special Places

One road trip is all that stands before the end of the prehistoric history phase of Rewilding Southern Indiana: The Hoosier National Forest. The Natural Bloomington version of life on Indiana’s largest chunk of public land from 350 million B.C. to 1650 A.D. has been written. A photo adventure to the most significant archaeology site on the 202,000-acre Hoosier, the last prehistory stop, is high on the itinerary.

The research / writing now shifts to the region’s recorded history, and road trips will highlight a series of national forest Special Places—such as Buzzard RoostHemlock Cliffs, and Wesley Chapel Gulf—which include several that are in fact historic sites. Also some lowercase special places—not officially designated—like the Beaver Creek Watershed down where Lawrence, Orange, and Martin Counties meet.

Superseding the archaeology hike, however, will be a time-sensitive return trip to Wesley Chapel. After days of rain, this eight-acre collapsed sinkhole will effectively be an upside-down waterfall, as an overflowing underground river system expels its liquid contents upward more than a hundred feet to the gulf’s rise pool.

Among the Special Place explorations that will follow this week’s Lost River expedition, which will also include a stop at the nearby Orangeville Rise, a National Natural Landmark where a piece of the Lost River permanently rises to the surface on its way to the White River, will be the Buffalo Trace.

The trace—a 12-20-foot-wide path worn by hordes of American bison from the Falls of the Ohio near Louisville the Wabash River at Vincennes—served as a highway for the tide of white settlement that crossed the Ohio River from Kentucky in the early 1800s. A portion of the trace is visible and protected as a Hoosier Special Place on the Springs Valley Trail in western Orange County.

Another designated Special Place is the early 19th-century Lick Creek African American Settlement in eastern Orange County. This site on a White River tributary was settled five years before statehood by 11 African American families who had fled racial persecution in Antebellum North Carolina.

The Rickenbaugh House, an 1874 sandstone structure on the shores of Celina Lake that served as the Celina Post Office and a church, is not only a Hoosier Special Place, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. The home was built in Late Greek Revival style.

The Brooks Cabin, a log structure built in 1892 on a bend of the Little Blue River in Crawford County, was dismantled a century later and rebuilt on the western edge of the Charles C. Deam Wilderness, which is likewise categorized a Hoosier Special Place.

Just down the road from the Brooks cabin stands the 110-foot Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower, where rangers kept watchful eyes on the surrounding forest for fires, beginning in 1939. The tower is on the National Historic Lookout Register.

And those are just the Special Places that are recognized for their historic and cultural characteristics. There’s another group that’s designated for their natural qualities.

Hoosier National Forest photographs: Top, Brooks Cabin; Center, Wesley Chapel Gulf; Bottom, Rickenbaugh House.


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