Rock Run Preserve

802 acres on the Ohio River
20 miles west of Portsmouth


Breathtakingly Deep Ravine defines Rock Run’s Wilderness. Rock Run is an 802-acre Arc Preserve region protecting the Appalachian hill country surrounding the exceptionally deep ravine of Rock Run, a small but pristine creek that flows directly out of Shawnee Forest and into the Ohio River. Rock Run lies near the southern borders of the state forest  – north of the Ohio River, east of Rome & Stout, and west of Buena Vista. Rock Run’s highly dissected wild Appalachian hill-country is exceptionally scenic, highly bio-diverse, and heavily forested. The larger Shawnee State Forest region, supplemented by preservation holdings of both the Arc of Appalachia and The Nature Conservancy, protects an extremely large block of forest, with some of the roadless areas worthy of the term “wilderness.” The State Forest alone is over 60,000 acres in size.

Rare Sand Ecosystem & Ancient Sand Dunes. Rock Run includes a section of the Ohio River known as Sandy Springs. Here the north shore of the river is bordered by wide, flat expanses of deep sand terraces. The preserve protects the last intact sand dunes remaining on the north side of the entire Ohio River, and the region is a notable Paleo archaeological site. Half of the Clovis points registered with the Historic Preservation Office came from Sandy Springs, indicating that in ancient times this river crossing teemed with wild game.

Our Conservation Goal for Rock Run. The Arc of Appalachia’s goal is to complete the conservation protection of the entire drainage of Rock Run. To protect an entire watershed anywhere in Ohio is in most cases simply not feasible, but the relatively small size of Rock Run’s drainage and its location in the heart of Shawnee State Forest makes it a leading candidate for success. Since 2004, the Arc has acquired ten private properties in the watershed that were never part of the State Forest. Our goal is to make Rock Run one of the best protected watershed in all of Ohio is now 98% accomplished!

Legendary Wildness.  The 400-foot depth of Rock Run’s valley is stunning, the topography including what we suspect is Ohio’s greatest elevation change from ridgeline to stream bed per horizontal foot. The forest shelters bobcat, timber rattlesnakes, and over 10 rare and endangered plants. Rock Run’s lower elevations contain a rare forest association of black birch, hemlock, and sweetgum. To our knowledge, Rock Run is the only location giving this type of forest permanent protection in Ohio. Not surprisingly, Rock Run’s forest floor botanicals are spectacular, boasting rare flowers and an abundance of fern species. The hillsides show exposed layers of both shale and sandstone. The sandstone was heavily quarried in the mid 1800’s, producing fine quality stone blocks that were loaded up in the river and floated downstream to Cincinnati and beyond. City Ledge became the building blocks of some of our nation’s biggest cities, and most of its engineered buildings remain standing today. The lower elevations of the Rock Run’s hills protect a hemlock-black birch forest ecosystem, the upper elevations splendid oak-hickory forest. Learn More About Rock Run’s Natural Treasures.

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Rock Run's steep hillsides are composed of layers of shale and sandstone, and the creek in many areas is filled with a rubble of small and large pieces of sandstone. Photo by John Srofe.
A view of Rock Run

Our Partners. The Arc has many partners working toward the goal of protecting Rock Run, including the Ohio Division of Forestry, the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) and Save our Shawnee Forest. OEC is currently working with the Ohio Division of Forestry (DOF) with a visionary request to put all of the watershed in a special forestry designation under which all timber harvests will cease. If successful, Rock Run wilderness ambience and a significant forest tract of mature old-aged forest will be protected, forever. Learn more about their efforts by clicking here.