Volunteer Day – Invasive Removal Day at Ohio River Bluffs

Join the Ohio River Cliff Hangers! The Arc’s most athletic conservation crew!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

From 9:45 am to mid-afternoon. Meet at Ohio River Bluffs (directions below)
Please arrive on time for an orientation and a departure from the parking lot at 10 am SHARP. Late arrivals will not be able to find us and we don’t want to lose you!

Free Lodging available at the Arc’s Volunteer Headquarters. Please inquire when you register.

Our Workday.

Ohio River Bluffs is unarguably the most spectacular wildflower showcase in the state of Ohio. In spring, the cliffs facing the Ohio River just outside Manchester in Adams County are petal to petal flowers for a brief, heady 10-day floral explosion. There is literally nothing quite else like it, and we mean that literally because the floral display that once covered the Ohio River’s limestone cliffs for miles has winked out – either through tree clearing the cliffs for agriculture (later proven to be a misplaced ambition), or by the imbalanced invasion of  non-native plants – in most cases a combination of both. Ohio River Bluffs is the last of its kind, and now that we have bought this preserve, we have to continue to work hard to save it year after year, keeping the non-natives from pushing out the native plants. We work each spring pulling garlic mustard and in the fall removing woody invasives – primarily bush honeysuckle and multi-flora rose. We’ve come a long way in our last 8 years of work, enough to feel REALLY good about what we have done, but we have not yet managed to steward our entire acreage yet, so much work still faces us. This fall we will be working on the woodies, scanning the hillsides for bush honeysuckle, and working the mostly level ridgetop to remove multi-flora rose.

Leaders: Debi Wolterman & Nancy Stranahan

 Debi Wolterman is an active conservation leader in the Cincinnati region and is known and loved by many. Her seemingly limitless energy and enthusiasm seems to radiate from her head of red hair, and she is definitely a lady of ACTION and WILL! Debi works all around SW Ohio as an indefatigable force for native plant preservation, and she can be seen pulling garlic mustard at a number of preserves in the region every April and May. We are fortunate she has adopted the Bluffs as one of her favorite preserves. Debi is active in the leadership of the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the Wild Ones, an organization dedicated to encouraging the public to landscape with native plantings. 

Nancy Stranahan has served as Director of the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System for over 20 years. She remembers well the Arc’s lucky purchase of the Bluffs. It all began when an Arc supporter called her back in April, 2004 to say that she had just that morning been gazing at a hillside of flowers on Highway 52 bordering the Ohio River. It was a sight so extraordinary that the cars were pulling off the road to gawk at it. “And Nancy,” she said, “it has a For Sale sign in front of it!” Nancy called the State Botanist, Rick Gardner, to see if the claim was true, and when he affirmed it was, she jumped out of her office chair, drove directly to the realty office in West Union, offered the full asking price of just $1000/acre, and only then drove to the site to see it for herself. It was even better than she imagined and she’s been in love with the Bluffs ever since. So much so, that a few years ago, when she broke her wrist on the steep hillside after taking a fall when she was pulling garlic mustard in the drizzling rain, she was right back on the slopes the following year, at it again! Nancy says, “BTW, we don’t work in the rain any more! Still, even in dry weather, the Bluffs is not for the faint-hearted!”

Please pack your own lunch, but if you make it through the day (smiles), Nancy will treat you to a root beer float in Manchester as your just reward!

Interested in carpooling from Cincinnati with Debi Wolterman? If so, let us know in the note section of the registration, and we’ll get you two in touch.

Ohio River Bluff’s Natural History

Ohio River Bluffs is a 62 acre tract on the Ohio River, just one mile west of Manchester in Adams County. The moderately young forest is a rich mixture of oaks, maples and hickories as well as yellow buckeyes and Kentucky Coffeetrees. The tract borders Highway 52 and runs from the base of the cliffs just above river, elevation, to the top of the bluffs. Both ridgetop and the calcareous steep bluffs are LOADED with flowers. Large colonies of bluebells cover much of the lower third of the elevations, and the remaining property is amazingly carpeted with dense stands of toadshade trillium, wild hyacinth and dwarf larkspur, as well as anemones, false Solomon’s seal, and Dutchman’s breeches. Ohio River Bluffs Preserve is open for each year’s Wildflower Pilgrimage and hundreds of people have enjoyed the natural floral spectacle over the years.

Physical Requirements

No invasive removal experience is necessary for this work day, but participants must be in good shape, possessing the kind of fitness that results from frequent moderate exercise and having sound balance and flexibility. Age, by itself, is not a limitation. All ages are welcome. The bluffs are very steep in some sections – not outright cliffs, but yes, definitely steep – and other areas only moderately sloped. Working any of the slopes can be a challenge. In the steepest zones, you are pulling garlic mustard with one hand and holding on to the nearest tree with the other to keep upright, or just laying on the ground for safety. Working on the Bluffs can be hard on one’s ankles because seldom are your feet aligned on level ground. Because the ground is rocky, a worker must be careful to avoid any falls whatsoever. When we work the bluffs, we take every step with deliberation and hold onto small trees for extra support when ever needed. For safety sake, we usually work facing up slope. When walking down slope we keep our attention only on supporting ourselves and not slipping. The physical challenges of the Ohio River Bluffs are part of the attraction of being a member of the Bluffs Blasters. We know this crew is not for everyone, but we also know when we risk the Bluffs that we are doing the “holy work” of protecting the preserve’s spectacular beauty for others. Our gift to the world!

What to Bring

Bring a bottle of drinking water, and, if you are coming to remove woody plants and do not have prescription glasses, bring a pair of sunglasses for eye protection. (Glasses are not necessary for garlic mustard plucking).  IT IS ESSENTIAL to wear snug but comfortably fitting footwear possessing a good tread, and a brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face. We haven’t tried cleats, but it might be a good idea to experiment with. If you have your own clippers, garden gloves with rubber coated protection, and light handsaws, bring them along. If you don’t, we can share our tools with you. Neither bugs nor poison ivy will be a problem at the Bluffs.


Please contact Kayla with any questions at services@arcofappalachia.org or 937-365-1935.


Address: Gilkison Hollow Road at US Rt. 52, Manchester, OH 45144

Ohio River Bluffs Ohio River Bluffs lies just west of the Ohio River town of Manchester on Rt. 52, the state route that parallels the southern border of Ohio on the Ohio River from Cincinnati to Portsmouth.

Directions from Bentonville to Ohio River Bluffs

Most trip plans to the Bluffs go through Bentonville, Ohio, 45105. Directions below will begin at this town.

At BENTONVILLE, turn LEFT, following the signs for State Route 136 South. Note that State Route 41 will separate from 136 and go off in another direction. Follow State Rt. 136 south approximately 5 miles until you reach MANCHESTER. When SR 126 deadends on 52, turn RIGHT on State Rt. 52. Follow State Route  52 WEST through the town of Manchester. As you leave the corporation city limits on the west side of town, set your odometer. It is one mile to our arranged parking destination. After leaving Manchester, look for a road to your right called Yates Road, and immediately after Yates, Gilkison Hollow Road. Continue on 52 past both these roads. The slope on the right is now the hill containing the Ohio River Bluffs Preserve. Look for your leader’s cars on your right roughly one half mile further on 52 from Gilkison Hollow Road. A wide shoulder offers ample parking off well back from the road. This is not a formal trailhead and will not be signed, but you should see red flags hanging off the trail’s entrance if you look closely. If you come to Owl Hollow Road on your right, you went a bit too far. 

Nancy Stranahan, Director, hopping over briers with a capture of Garlic Mustards in her hand. Are we having fun?? Yes!!! Photo by Crystal Narayana.