Clifton’s Nature Center highlights gorge
- Published: April 2, 2015
As a state nature preserve, the Clifton Gorge is managed for the primary purpose of protecting its unique land formations and native ecology. And as one of the most popular of Ohio Central District’s 16 preserves, the gorge welcomes visitors to hike its trails and learn about its history through the Clifton Gorge Nature Center located at the trailhead near the parking lot on State Route 343. The Nature Center opens for the season on Saturday, April 4, and maintains hours on Saturdays and Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from April through October. The facility will be closed on Easter Sunday. Visitors are welcome free of charge.
A stuffed woodpecker, a fawn, a beaver and an adult snapping turtle greet visitors on the way into the one-room learning laboratory. The pelts of a dozen of Ohio’s native furry creatures are displayed next to tubs of live box, map and musk turtles, as well as Crunch, a nonnative red-eared slider. There are collections of Ohio’s freshwater clam shells, birds’ eggs and bird nests as well as an active Italian bee hive, a fish tank with a longnose gar, and a microscope that projects to a video screen for group viewing.
The Nature Center was designed in 2011 by naturalists Tom Wiegel and Richard Dellapina, both Springfield City school teachers and former researchers at Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory, a freshwater biological field station at Lake Erie. But the two elderly scientists retired from the job last year, and the preserve is looking for naturalists and volunteers to help manage the nature center.
Clifton Gorge is maintained by central district manager Michelle Comer, above, with crew members Heidi Edwards, Jaime Nirider and Nathan Jero, who split their time between all the wetland, prairie and forest preserves from Greene to Union and Mercer counties. They keep busy controlling the invasive bush honeysuckle and protecting the endangered red baneberry and resurrection fern. They need others to lead naturalist programs and reach out to the public through the Nature Center.
The gorge is open daylight to dusk.