Natural History

Lewis Gorge


Breathtaking Karst Topography. Lewis Family Gorge is a prime example of a karst landscape and ecosystem associated with the exposed Silurian limestones in the Highland-Ross Country region. Many floral species grow on the bluffs and in the sheltered ravines of Lewis Gorge,  the floral complex being representative of intact limestone/dolomite gorge ecosystems found in the Highland & Ross County region. Some of the characteristic species have adaptations to the high pH and thin soils of the region’s calcareous bluffs; others to the rich alkaline soils of the sheltered canyon floor and lower ravine slopes.

Outstanding Wildflower Displays. Silurian Karst Country boasts some of the most beautiful and verdant spring wildflower displays in the state – particularly in Ross, Highland and Adams Counties. Fallen boulders and bedrock outcroppings in Lewis Gorge are covered with exceptionally beautiful and dense displays of spring flora, including such signature plants as false rue anemone, snow trilliums, twinleaf, roundleaf ragwort, smooth rockcress, stonecrop, shooting star, columbine and alkaline loving ferns such as walking fern, smooth cliffbrake, and bulblet ferns.

On the vertical canyon walls the noteworthy rare Sullivantia (once state-listed) grows in abundance. On the higher elevation slopes above the gorge, karst-adapted chinquapin oaks are embedded in a rich complex of hardwood trees and shrubs, including the limestone-loving shrub, leatherwood. The upper elevation ravine slopes  have floral displays more characteristic of  mesic communities, including with dense colonies of white-flowered trilliums along with Jack-in-the-pulpit, hepatica, rue anemone, bellwort, spring beauty and mayapple – just to name a few of the species represented.

Protecting Pristine Waters. Lewis Gorge will protect 1.475 miles of streamside forests and 2.44 acres of lake habitat. A large lake exists on the Lewis Gorge property, protecting a rich aquatic system including many species of breeding amphibians, reptiles, and fish, as well as mammals such as beaver and mink.

Breathtaking scenery at Lewis Family Gorge
Sullivantia sullivantii. Photo by John Howard
Sullivantia sullivantii. Photo by John Howard