German Ridge revisited; A Hoosier National vacation plan

Firearm season in the Hoosier National Forest kept brief a couple blaze-orange-required hikes along the German Ridge Trail in late November. The 24-mile backcountry path is the southernmost section of the Hoosier’s 260-mile trail system and rises and falls a couple miles north of a 90-degree bend in the Ohio River near the historic German Ridge Cemetery and riverside village of Rome, Ind., population 1,300.

Planned after precautionary deer-season discussions with Forest Service officials in Tell City, the day hikes marked a return to this remote section of Perry County backcountry last explored in March 2015. It was also the first stop in a six-month itinerary that resumes in earnest over the Christmas teaching vacation and will end with submission of the Rewilding Southern Indiana: The Hoosier National Forest coffee table book to IU Press next June.

Next stop on the Hoosier trail will be the most significant prehistoric site on the 204,000-acre national forest: a rock shelter frequented by prehistoric hunters and gatherers over thousands of years following the retreat of the last Ice Age glaciers some ten thousand years ago. This obscure, secretive site is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places, requires bushwhacking off-trail and has a limited window for access without special permission.

More a reconnaissance mission than a serious exploration, the German Ridge day trip spawned encounters with only three hunters – two as they strolled through the German Ridge Campground [friendly waves], the other as he set up a tree stand by the Gerald Road parking lot [brief pleasantry]. Still, the potential for flying shot reduced the photo hunts to short stretches along Murmer Creek near the road.

The campground drive uncovered some dramatic sandstone formations that demand further exploration when the woods don’t require blaze orange attire.

German Ridge Lake features a day-use area and historic picnic shelter and outbuildings built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Based at a Depression-era camp in nearby Tell City, these unemployed workers hired by the New Deal-era Work Project Administration reconstructed the buildings with lumber from houses that had been torn down.

Other pending destinations on the six-month exploration list include the 11.6-mile Birdseye Trail, which briefly crosses the county line between Perry and Dubois Counties near the Anderson River, and the Hoosier’s southernmost boundary between German Ridge and Tobinsport, across the river from Cloverport, Ky.

Hoosier National Forest Photographs: German Ridge Recreation Area


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