The Riverside Walk At Ripley, Ohio: Amazing Combination of Nature & History

If you’re looking to combine outdoor exercise with some amazing American history, look no farther than the riverside walk at Ripley, Ohio.  The beautiful half-mile stretch in Brown County along the Ohio River packs a powerful punch of scenic views, lovely historic homes, and informative signs telling of the part the town played in the Underground Railroad.  Looking across the river it’s easy to imagine the dramatic rescues of men, women, and children, as they crossed the river, fleeing for their lives from the slavery of the south.

picture of river
Escape route to Ohio past a 100 year old tree…

We walked on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, at about 11:15, with a temperature of 52 degrees, partly cloudy.  We started at the intersection of Main Street and Front Street, walking west on Front Street on a paved sidewalk along the river side of the street.  After a short distance there is a picnic area and a boat launch, and you soon come to a huge tree with a sign saying it has been there for over 100 years.  There is a nice black iron fence along the sidewalk, and iron benches placed periodically for people to stop and enjoy the view of the river.

picture of riverfront
The Riverfront

On the other side of the street there are the wonderfully preserved homes that face the river, with signs telling of the families that originally owned the houses, and the part they played in the Underground Railroad.  There’s even a sign at the spot where Eliza crossed the frozen river with her baby, which became a part of the book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”  At the end of this stretch there is the John Parker Park, a small square park across the street from the river with a paved trail, trees, informative signs telling the life and accomplishments of John Parker, and even some antique artifacts.  The John Parker House and Museum is also located at the park.

picture of park
John P. Parker Memorial Park

We walked the riverside walkway a few times to get in a two mile walk, and then explored the quaint streets of Ripley to round out our day.

Restrooms:  There were no public restrooms, but stopping for lunch at one of the restaurants is a great way to take a break.

Traffic Noise:  The sidewalk along the river is along Front Street, but there was very little traffic while we were there.  There was very little river traffic as well, only one barge and tugboat as far as we could see.

picture of river

Historic Points Of Interest: John Parker’s home stands at the west end of Front Street. He was born a slave in 1827 and through his own endeavors managed to buy his freedom in 1845.  By 1848 he had started a family and moved to Ripley, where he set up shop as an iron monger (a manufacturer of iron goods). He started his factory behind his home, which eventually evolved into the biggest iron works between Cincinnati and Portsmouth.  In his off hours, he became a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and helped slaves escape from Kentucky by boat. He often traveled into Kentucky to guide slaves towards Ohio, at great risk to his freedom and his life. John Parker also managed to put all six of his children through college, no small feat for a former slave.

picture of Parker's house
John P. Parker House

Overall Rating: We loved our little adventure in Ripley as we soaked in the scenery, history, and charm of a small river front town.  We were the only ones exploring Front Street on this fine day, and made a day of it by eating lunch in the Rockin’ Robin’s Soda Shoppe, and meandering through the wonderful Olde Piano Factory Antique Mall.   If you go, be warned that most of the shops are open limited hours, mainly Thursday through Saturday, and Rockin’ Robin’s closes at 4:00.  There were quite a few empty shops on Main Street, and the town appeared to be struggling a bit to fulfill its potential, but this also helped create its charm as it captured and showcased the hardships and triumphs of the past in all its natural glory.

picture of riverfront


Finding Our Way Around The Wild & Wonderful Pierce Township Nature Trail

The Pierce Township, Ohio, Nature Trail is easy to find, right off Locust Corner Road with a convenient gravel parking lot, but finding our way around the trails was another story.  Located at 871 Locust Corner Rd., Cincinnati, Ohio, 45245, it is just down the road from the Pierce Township Park that has a paved walking trail, a playground, picnic tables, sports fields, and more.  We chose to explore the more natural setting of the Nature Trail, and were pleased to have had a full nature experience.

picture of nature trail park

We arrived on Saturday, November 4, 2017, around noon, with a temperature of 55 degrees, cloudy, with very little wind.  The trail begins as a wide mowed path through a large field of high grass heading toward the woods that surround the field.  This stretch runs along the yards of some houses that soon end, leaving nothing but quiet woods along side the trail.  About a quarter of the way around the field there was a bench to sit on, although it was leaning dangerously to one side.  At about one half mile there is a fork in the trail where you can continue around the field or turn right and go into the woods.  We went into the woods where the trail became muddy in spots, and besieged with large molehills, and completely immersed in the woods.

picture of trail..


We walked further and came to other forks in the trail, and continued walking deeper in the woods, confident that we could find our way back easily because of a large cell tower situated in the park that was easy to spot no matter where you were.  There were sign posts erected at the forks in the trail, but there were no signs on the posts, so we couldn’t follow a particular trail.  As we walked further the trail became challenging with high grass and branches in it, we lost sight of the cell tower, and soon came upon a high fence that surrounded a couple of large oil tank buildings.  We thought the trail would circle back to the field, but it did not, and we turned back at this point, not sure exactly how to get back to the field.  After climbing through some brush, we finally saw the tower, and made our way back to the trail that surrounds the field.  As we got closer to the parking area, we found another bench along the trail.

picture of trail
It’s easy to lose sight of the cell tower in places…

Restrooms:  There were no restrooms anywhere on the trail.

Traffic Noise:  The trail was very quiet without any traffic noise, although we could hear someone using a leaf blower in their yard, and we could hear repeated guns shots in the distance that we assumed were from folks doing some target shooting nearby.

picture of trail

Historic Points Of Interest: Clermont County was established in 1800, and eventually was divided into 14 townships. Some townships were named after local villages, like Batavia and Williamsburg, and some were named for famous people of the time. Franklin Township was named for one of the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, and Wayne Township was named for General ‘Mad Anthony’ Wayne, who opened Clermont County to settlement. Washington Township was named for President George Washington, and three townships were named for sitting presidents, Monroe Township for President Monroe in 1825, Jackson Township for President Andrew Jackson in 1834, and Pierce Township for President Franklin Pierce in 1852.

picture of President Pierce
President Franklin Pierce

Overall Rating:  We had a wonderful time on our nature walk despite finding the trails confusing.  We were the only people there, and along with the lack of a port-a-potty and signs on the trail, we got the impression that the trails were rarely used and neglected.  There was a map of the trails at the parking area showing several different loops around the field, one of which leads to a picnic shelter that we could not find.  All in all we enjoyed our walk as we immersed ourselves completely in nature exploring the woods old-school with just our wits and Mother Nature guiding us along our little adventure on this fine Fall day.

picture of trail
Helpful sign at beginning of trail…

How To Find The Amazing Trails At East Fork State Park

At a park as large as East Fork State Park, it can be hard to quickly find a simple nature trail, so we came, we saw, and we conquered, and have hopefully made it easier for you.  Covering over 4870 acres, with several entrances, and various types of terrain, the park is huge, and we felt overwhelmed at the thought of driving to the park and being able to quickly find a trail.  After doing some research and exploration, not only did we find a simple way to find a great trail, we discovered that the park has many walking options.

picture of visitor's center
Visitor’s Center

We walked on Sunday, September 24, 2017, at 1:00 p.m., with a temperature of 89 degrees.  The main park office is located at 3294 Elklick Rd., Bethel, OH, 45106, but we entered at the beach entrance off Rt. 125, between Amelia and Bethel, which is called Park Road One.  About 1/2 mile down this road is a visitors’ center which was closed, but there was a map of the trails on an information sign in front of the building.  A sign on the building said it was the ‘East Fork State Park Gift and Supply Shop,’ and when we went inside earlier in the week to ask for a trail map, we were told they were out of maps, and had no plans to have any more printed.

picture of trail map
Map at the visitor’s center

A short distance down the road from this building is a cross road with a sign for an Indian mound if you turn to your right, and a small sign with a 3 on it if you turn to your left.  The Indian mound is small, with a split-rail fence around it, and there is a paved parking lot and restroom building there as well.  The road with the 3 is actually Park Road Three where you find the entrance to the Prairie Trail, although there is no sign from the main road showing it is the way to the trail.  Once you turn on Park Road Three, you find signs saying it is an area of native grass and wild turkeys, and eventually come to the entrance of the trail.

picture of park road 3
Park Road 3

There is a large information sign under a shelter at the beginning of the Prairie Trail showing where all the trails go in the area, and how they intersect with each other.  There is also a paved parking lot across the street from the trail entrance. The trail is a wide mowed grass path that meanders through a meadow of high grass and small trees.  After 1/4 mile it enters the woods and becomes a narrow dirt trail with dips and hills and roots to maneuver.  As we walked we noticed colored markings on rocks and trees that identified each trail by color, one of which is a mountain bike trail that you could join, but with folks on bikes whizzing through, it seemed a bit dangerous.  We walked further in the woods a ways, and then turned back and joined the far side of the Prairie Trail that circled back to the entrance.  The Prairie Trail is only 1/2 mile total distance, so it was great that we could lengthen our walk by joining other trails in the woods for a while.

picture of entrance to prairie trail
Entrance to Prairie Trail

Restrooms:  The restroom building at the Indian mound was open, and we saw on the trail map there was at least one other restroom along the longer trails.  There were also restrooms in a building at the beach, which is just a little further down Park Road One, and they were open as well.

Traffic Noise:  There was no traffic noise except for an occasional car in the park.

Historic Points of Interest: The Indian mound is the Elklick Road Mound, and is identified as being from the Adena Culture who lived in the area from 800 B.C. to around 100 A.D. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Adena Culture is distinguished from earlier cultures by the invention of pottery, horticulture, house building and extensive burial mounds.

picture of Indian mound
Elk Lick Indian mound, a bit overgrown

Overall Rating:  Although walking the trail was a lovely experience, the Prairie Trail portion was short, and the dirt trail in the woods looked like it could be treacherous in wet conditions.  For folks looking for a backpacking experience, however, the park offered many options, as other trails ranged from 9 to 32 miles in length.  After walking the trail, we drove further down Park Road One to where it ends at the beach.  The lake looked beautiful as the blue water twinkled beneath the hot sun, and happy people enjoyed the beach. Although there were paved stretches to walk at the beach, we were disappointed that there wasn’t a nature trail going along the edge of this beautiful lake view.

picture of another trail
Another trail accessible from the Prairie Trail

Exercise For Mind, Body, and Soul at Serpent Mound

If you’d like to soak up some ancient culture with your nature walk, you can’t ask for more than a visit to Serpent Mound in Peebles, Ohio.  The Serpent Mound Park is operated by the Arc of Appalachia, which manages 15 preserves and 5,000 acres of natural areas and ancient historic sites in southern Ohio. Serpent Mound is unique in that it is the world’s largest surviving example of an ancient animal effigy mound.  Located at 3850 State Route 73, Peebles, Ohio, 45660, it is 50 miles east of Batavia, and makes for a wonderful country drive with little traffic, and lots of wide open farm land and rolling hills.

picture of serpent mound
Serpent Mound

We arrived on Saturday, August 19, 2017, at 12:30 p.m., under sunny conditions, around 82 degrees.  It was the weekend of the solar eclipse which drew more crowds than usual to soak up the magic and attend various events.  Saturday was Archeology Day, which included displays of archeological finds from ancient cultures in the area, and a presentation about the latest discoveries at Serpent Mound.

picture of Brush Creek nature trail
Brush Creek nature trail…

Although there is no admission fee to enter the Serpent Mound area, there is a parking fee of $8.00 per vehicle, or $5.00 per motorcycle.  The parking lot is paved asphalt, and after a short walk on the asphalt trail from the parking lot, the trail then runs along the outer edge of the raised mound where it circles back to the beginning, distance of around a mile.  It is an easy walk on the flat wide trail with trees along the outer edge, and the beautiful serpent shaped mound on the inside, carefully preserved to observe as you walk.  The mound sits atop a narrow flat ridge at the edge of an ancient crater, and there are several scenic viewing spots overlooking the valleys surrounding the mound.

About half way along the side of the mound, we came to the entrance of the Brush Creek Nature Trail, which goes into the wooded area surrounding the mound. The dirt trail slops downhill to the East Creek, a tributary of Brush Creek, and is immersed in the woods, with branches across the trail serving as stairs as you walk down to the level of the creek. The trail circles around the front of the mound along the edge of the ridge, and joins the asphalt trail around Serpent Mound about half way on the opposite side, also one mile long.  There was a nice wooden bridge and stairs leading to the creek, and small signs along the trail, identifying vegetation like Wild Ginger.

picture of mound
View of mound from local tower…

Restrooms:  There were two brick buildings in the parking lot for men’s and women’s restrooms.  They were open, clean, and well ventilated.

Traffic Noise:  There were no sounds of traffic on the trail around the mound, and complete silence on the nature trail.

Historic Points Of Interest:  According to the brochure we were given when we paid for parking, it is difficult to know for certain which ancient culture built Serpent Mound because no artifacts were found in it or around it to connect it with a certain time or culture. The two Indian cultures in the running are the Adena culture, who flourished around 1000 to 100 BC, and the Fort Ancient culture, who existed from 1000 to 1550 AD. To add to the confusion, there are two Adena culture burial mounds close to Serpent Mound, and one Fort Ancient burial mound nearby as well. No doubt the site was popular in ancient times. Most effigy mounds in the U.S. have been dated around 1000 AD, and no others are known to exist from before that time, so current speculation is that the mound was built by the Fort Ancient culture.

Serpent Mound was most likely used for some kind of ceremonial purpose that included astronomical duties, as the head of the serpent points to the summer solstice sunset, and the tail points to the winter solstice sunrise. The bends in the serpent’s body are also in solar and lunar alignments.

picture of Ancient Indian artifacts
Ancient Indian artifacts from the surrounding area

Overall Rating:  A trip to Serpent Mound is much more than a simple nature walk, as it feeds one’s mind, body, and soul.  There is a fun gift shop and educational museum, picnic tables, and a shelter that is available to rent.  There is also a steel tower that you can climb to see the serpent design from above.  The trails are open year round, but after a short rain shower, we found the dirt trail in the woods slippery, and there were caution signs posted.  Peebles is in Adams County, but is worth the drive, as there is nothing like it in the world.  The mound miraculously survived hundreds, if not thousands of years, a testament to traditions that fused man with nature.  It’s a place of reflection, contemplation, and connection to early people of the area.  Walking the trails, you can’t help but feel the calm, powerful strength of these people, the universe, and nature around us.

picture of mound tower
Majestic view from the tower

Scenic Trail At William Harsha Dam

Beautiful William Harsha Dam is the perfect place to soak up nature on a large scale as you get in a good walk.  The dam was built to create East Fork Lake, and can be reached by taking Route 222 to Slade Road.  Slade Road takes you across the top of the dam, giving a gorgeous view of the lake on one side, and a large valley on the other where the lake water pours through a small opening and is the beginning of the East Fork of the Little Miami River.  Past the dam is a nice visitor’s center and a scenic viewing area complete with small shelters that can be reserved.  We could see exhibits through the windows of visitors center, but it was closed when we were there.

picture of visitor's center
Visitor’s Center

We walked on Sunday, July 23, 2017, at 11:30 a.m., and it was 75 degrees, and light rain.  We parked at the visitor’s center and walked on Slade Road a short ways to the beginning of Deer Ridge Trail.  The entrance to the trail is a small wooden bridge, and there is no sign marking the trail until after you have crossed the bridge and entered the wooded area.  An information sign says the trail is 1/2 mile, and we walked it briskly several times.

picture of the trail

The trail was made of mulch, and immersed us completely in the woods immediately.  It dips and turns as it starts a loop, breaking into a small clearing, made of high brush with some birdhouses.  This part of the trail runs along Slade Road about 10 feet in from the road, and the wooded area in-between the trail and road hides the road most of the time.  The trail then turns inland as it runs parallel to itself about 20 feet inland.  This part of the trail runs along the edge of the valley created by the dam, with woods about 10 feet between the trail and edge of the valley hillside.  There were benches placed along the trail at some lovely places to sit and gaze into the lush greenery and watch songbirds.

picture of trail
Place for reflection….

We then drove across the dam, (a hill built with large rocks), and went to the picnic area in the valley side of the dam called Tailwater Shelter and Fishing Area.  There was a shelter, grills, playground equipment, and benches along the edge of the river.  We could see dirt trails in the brush beside the picnic area as well. Every part of the dam area was clean, well maintained, and litter free.

picture of Tailwater
Tailwater Picnic Area

Restroom:  There were restroom at the visitors center building, but they were closed. There was also a brick restroom building at the Tailwater Picnic Area that was open, clean, and well ventilated.

Traffic Noise:  We couldn’t hear any traffic noise walking on the trail.

Historic Points of Interest: The dam was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1973.  Besides their combat missions, the Corps has had civil projects since they were formed in 1810. They built or helped build our country’s roads, railroads, dams, harbors, lighthouses and more. The Corps operates and maintains over 700 dams nationwide, the benefits of which include flood risk management, safer navigation, hydropower, recreation and conservation.

picture of William Harsha Dam
William Harsha Dam

Overall Rating:  We loved the trail, and the fun of being at a dam.  The trail was a perfect, fast way to become immersed in nature, and although there were others at the visitor’s center, we were the only ones on the trail.  The trail was narrow at some places where our bare legs rubbed against vegetation, and we wondered about the possibility of rubbing against poison ivy.  We also imagined the experience would be different in the winter when there were no leaves on the trees, and you could easily see the road from the trail.  The view from the road on top of the dam was amazing though, and it was fun to be reminded of the beauty of big spaces like lakes, valleys, woods, and sky, all put together to enjoy by man.


picture of lake overlook
Lake Overlook At Visitor’s Center