Spruce Hill Earthworks

270 Acres in Ross County

 

A Nationally Significant Archaeological Feature. Spruce Hill is best known for its stone wall outlining the rim of a steep-sided flat-topped hill that was built two thousand years ago by the Native American Hopewell Culture. But Spruce Hill is also renowned for its showy spring wildflowers, high botanical diversity, upland wetlands, steep bluffs, and breath-taking vistas of Paint Valley as seen from the ridge. In 2008, with the help of Clean Ohio funding, we completed the purchase of Spruce Hill after over a year of work. Click here to read the story of how the Arc saved Spruce Hill from the auction block.

Spruce Hill: The most important feature preserved on Spruce Hill is the aesthetic broad vista of the Valley from the top of the hill, certainly the reason the Hopewell people chose this site for their ceremonial grounds. The second important feature preserved on Spruce Hill is archeological — the largest Hopewell hilltop earthworks ever discovered in the United States.

Dense Spring Wildflower Display. The Spruce Hill property includes the hilltop meadows that cover the large flat ridgetop, and a portion of the steep forested hillsides which are covered in young hickories, maples, and oaks. The understory of this mixed-mesophytic forest has a classic assemblage of Appalachian forest wildflowers — offering some of the densest displays in the state. Wild Ramps, Wild Hyacinth,Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Wood Poppy, Fire Pinks, Rue Anemone, Dwarf Larkspurs, and Spring Beauties, as well as three species of trilliums  Large-flowered, Drooping, and Sessile Trilliums — have been recorded. Even some of the rarer flower species are found on Spruce Hill in large quantities: over 54 specimens of blooming Puttyroot Orchid have been recorded in one season, as well as a number of Cranefly Orchids.

Extremely High Diversity. Preliminary plant inventories have already discovered over 300 plant species for the tract, which is extremely high for one property. Interestingly enough, Spruce is not a species found here. It was incorrectly named historically “Spruce Hill” for the formerly abundant Virginia Pines logged from its hillsides.

Swamp White Oak Wetlands.This unusual upland swamp forest community surrounds a very old vernal pool on top of the flat ridge of Spruce Hill. It is an important resource for breeding populations of native amphibians.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Tim Pholar.
This 19th century drawing of Spruce Hill shows the central wetlands on the large flat ridge top.