|A Metro Park in a Rural Valley
The Clear Creek valley extends from the intersection of Clear Creek with the Hocking River in the east to the town of Revenge in the west. In 1996 the valley officially opened as Clear Creek Metro Park, part of the Franklin County Metro Parks system.
The beauty of the Clear Creek valley comes from the overlap of geologic and climate zones. Here the prairies of the west meet the Appalachian forests of the east. Canadian hemlocks pushed south by glaciers meet southern species such as rhododendron. And it all rests on a bedrock of Blackhand sandstone.
The topography of the park is extremely rugged, with many steep ravines, rock outcroppings and cliff faces. While hemlocks and ferns prefer the cool ravines, the hillsides are covered with oak forests. Open fields on the ridgetops and in the valley provide habitat for meadow plants and animals, and wetlands along the creek create homes for sycamore trees and waterfowl.
Over 1200 plant species have been identified in Clear Creek. Among the standouts are mountain laurel, little gray polypody, maidenhair ferns, horsetail, pink ladyslipper, skunk cabbage, witch hazel, American chestnut, and persimmon trees.
The valley is home to over 150 species of birds, including black vultures, eastern bluebirds, veeries, wood thrush, great blue heron, woodcock, wild turkey, and many species of warblers.
Evidence of beaver activity is easily found near the creek, but bobcats live more secretive lives among the rock ledges. Chipmunks rustle among fallen leaves and deer sightings are frequent.
|Photo of creek|
Much of the land in Clear Creek Metro Park comes from three sources. The Allen F. Beck and Emily Benua families had been acquiring and preserving valley properties for decades, and Oscar Barneby owned valley land on which the Camp Indianola church camp was built. The Ohio State University later converted the church camp to the Barneby Center, a natural resources lab.
In the late 1960's there was talk of damming the valley and turning it into a reservoir. After this project was defeated, the Beck and Benua families began donating their land to the Franklin County Metro Park system. When OSU abandoned the Barneby Center, Metro Parks was able to buy it. The park now contains about 5,000 acres of woods and fields.
Under Ohio law any county can set up a metropolitan park district. That organization can acquire land for parks both inside and outside its home county. The Franklin County Metro Park system was given donations of Clear Creek land and had the resources to acquire and care for more of the valley. They were able to step in and save this wonderful place when others could not.
Clear Creek Metro Park will always retain its semi-primitive nature. Future development will provide more trails, picnic spots, and areas for nature program presentations, but there will also be sections kept closed to the public for the preservation of rare and endangered species.
Clear Creek Road, or Hocking County Rd. 116, meets US 33 just south of the Fairfield/Hocking county line. As you drive west into the park on Clear Creek Road you're welcomed by Leaning Leena, a large slump block boulder that tilts precariously over your path.
Clear Creek Road continues seven miles through the park to the town of Revenge, where State Route 793 will take you north to Lancaster.
|Picnic Areas and Trailheads
Picnic areas and trailheads are located at several points along Clear Creek road:
The Hambleton Day Use Area has two picnic areas: Ironwood and Valley View. A shelter house is also being constructed here.
All picnic areas have picnic tables and shade. Hambleton has water and flush toilets, but there are no sources of water at the Creekside and Fern Picnic Areas, and only portable toilets, because of the potential of flooding from Clear Creek.
Hiking trails begin at each parking area. Many trails require some climbing, since there is a 300-foot elevation gain from the valley floor to the ridgetop.
Trails meander through cool groves of Canadian hemlock and forests of towering beech and oak. The woodland floor is covered with ferns, the creek is lined with scouring rushes, and wildflowers fill the meadows with color. Pileated woodpeckers laugh in the trees, frog choruses sing in the marshlands, and red-tailed hawks scream as they soar high overhead.
There are over ten miles of trail open to the public. These include the:
As additional areas of the park are developed, more trails will be opened.
The park naturalist hosts nature programs and hikes several times a month. Most programs are held on the weekend or during the evening.
The programs focus on understanding the animals, plants, geology, and human history found in the park. Past programs have looked at turkeys, comets, ferns, wildflowers, woodcocks, owls, stream life, moths, Indian trails, and frontier life.
Naturalist-led hikes let you explore areas of the park that are not currently open to the public. These "back-country" hikes last about four hours and usually include a stop for lunch. You'll need to wear sturdy shoes for these hikes.
A schedule that lists the nature programs and hikes for all the parks in the Metro Park system can be found at the park bulletin boards. The schedule covers a three-month period so you can plan ahead. You can also call the District office at (614) 891-0700 to receive this schedule by mail.
|Hunting and Fishing
Fishing access signs along Clear Creek Road mark places where you can pull over to park and walk to the creek. A fishing license is required.
The park wildlife management program may allow deer hunting during the regular gun season. Hunters must obtain a permit in order to hunt within the park. Information about the permit program is posted on park bulletin boards prior to hunting season or may be obtained from the Metro Park District office by calling (614) 891-0700.
|Caring for Clear Creek
Please help us take care of Clear Creek by observing these rules: