Field Trip – Ridgeview Farm’s Vernal Pools and Maude’s Cedar Narrows

Explore the swamp forest and vernal pool restoration project at Ridgeview with Land Steward and Director of the Arc, Nancy Stranahan, alongside John Howard, one of Ohio’s most expert naturalists who has overseen the creation of a significant number of new vernal pools in Adams County. In the afternoon we will hike the wildflower-rich tributary of Franklin Branch of the Rocky Fork Creek, featuring beautiful showcases of spring wildflowers and view the Sanctuary’s largest waterfalls.

General Hike Location: Highlands Nature Sanctuary. Ridgeview Farm is approximately two miles south of US 50 on State Route 753. The address is 6636 State Route 753, Hillsboro, Ohio 45133

Driving Distance from the Appalachian Forest Museum: 20 minutes.

Time & Meeting Place: Meet at Ridgeview Farm at 9:15 am. The hike will begin promptly at 9:30 am.

Bring: You don’t have to get wet to enjoy this program but if you want to get closer to the water’s edge, wear waterproof mid calf rubber boots..Bring a bottle of water and a day pack for your lunch, which we will enjoy on the back deck of Ridgeview Farm.

Length: We will walk 3.0 – 4.0 miles over flat to gently rolling terrain on established and well maintained trails.

Difficulty: The trail is moderate in difficulty only because of the distance. Terrain is gently rolling and we will be following well maintained paths.


Ridgeview Farm’s 130 acres was purchased to expand the Highlands Nature Sanctuary back in 2003 due to the beautiful swamp forest in the farm’s “back forty,” boasting large colonies of marsh marigolds and skunk cabbage. Ridgeview Farm is the Arc’s model Biodiversity-Restoration Project, demonstrating successful techniques for bringing native species back to old agricultural lands.  Each year the species lists climbs every higher at Ridgeview! Black vultures nest in the barn, groundhogs under the deck, chimney swifts in the chimney, and five species of snakes just around the house site alone, where Director Nancy resides. The acres of grassland support turkeys, fox squirrels, weasels, skunks, possums, deer, and songbirds. Michigan Lilies, Queen of the Prairie, Drooping Trillium and Cerulean Warblers are just a few of the species sheltered in the swamp forest. Ridgeview Farm’s open fields dependably shelter large numbers of the extremely rare Henslow’s Sparrow, a grassland bird suffering diminishing numbers in Eastern United States but thriving in the Sanctuary, especially in its western most holdings such as Ridgeview Farm and Maude’s Cedar Narrows.

During this trip we will visit two vernal pools that were recently newly established for amphibian reproduction at Ridgeview. Thanks to their recent presence, In just a few months span of time frog and salamander numbers have exploded at Ridgeview Farm.

In the afternoon participants will visit the nearby Maude’s Cedar Narrows tract. Maude’s shelters and extremely rich floral display as well as a handsome waterfalls. Maude’s Cedar Narrows protects a long section of the Rocky Fork Creek corridor, as well as the beautiful rock formations of Franklin Branch, a tributary of the Rocky Fork. The signature feature of Maude’s Cedar Narrows are the dense trillium displays of Franklin Branch, rivaling those found further downstream at Barrett’s Rim and Valley of the Ancients. If time permits, we will also take a short walk onto the adjacent God’s Country trail leading to spectacular bluebell displays. Maude’s Cedar Narrows is the Sanctuary’s most recent expansion and is located on the far west side of the preserve not far from Rocky Fork Lake State Park.

Ridgeview Farm's Skunk Cabbage Colonies
Marsh Marigolds at Ridgeview Farm
Juvenile Easter Gray Treefrog by John Howard
Bluebells on the Rocky Fork near Maude's Cedar Narrows