Local Ohio Department of Natural Resources officer Adam Somerville told The Times-Gazette that while neighboring Adams County has a total of seven nature preserves, Highland County is home to one — the Miller Nature Sanctuary — located off Barrett Mill Road south of Rainsboro.
Tucked away at the bottom of a hill and a curvy county road is the namesake of Eugene and Henrietta Miller, which is also known as the Rocky Fork Gorge State Nature Preserve.
According to the ODNR, the gorge portion of the preserve, which contained nearly 25 acres, was first dedicated as a gift from the Millers in 1982.
Four years later, the remaining portion of the property — a little more than 61 acres of forest and abandoned farm land — was purchased from them.
The Miller Nature Sanctuary today consists of almost 86 acres of rocky cliffs, hardwood forest, old field habitats and the natural rock arches and waterfalls of Rocky Fork Creek.
In an ODNR news release, the agency said that summer heat was fueling white, pink, yellow and purple wildflower blooms across Ohio’s state nature preserves, including the Miller’s.
“Ohio’s beauty goes far beyond the first flowers in spring,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. “You can reconnect with nature while admiring colorful wildflowers lining trails and hillsides all over the state.”
Rocky Fork Gorge contains some of the best spring and summer wildflower areas to be found in southern Ohio, a brochure available at the bulletin board kiosk near the trailhead stated, with more than two miles of carefully maintained hiking trails.
Ohio’s wildflower season began in the woodlands in spring, but transitioned into more open habitats during the summer.
Some of the sampling of summer wildflower species to be found at Miller’s Nature Sanctuary includes royal catchfly, purple coneflower, sunflowers, wild bergamot, spiked blazing-star, butterfly milkweed, Allegheny monkeyflower, queen-of-the-prairie, arrowhead and prairie dock.
Three separate hiking trails, described as easy to moderate, allow for hiking over slightly hilly terrain with wooden steps, staircases, bridges and boardwalks having been built for convenience and safety.
A new wooden bridge spanning a small waterfall was recently installed at Falls Trail, the longest hiking trail at one mile in length.
Tuliptree Trail measures three-fourths of a mile and is named after the yellow poplar, while the shortest and easiest of the three trails, Arch Trail, is only one-third of mile long and passes directly below a rock natural bridge archway.
All of the trails begin and end near the parking area, which is at the end of a gravel road roughly one-half mile from the gated entry off of Barrett Mill Road.
Trekohio.com notes that the preserve was formerly permit-only, with the entrance consisting of a small, paved parking area and a narrow one-lane gravel road that is gated.
If the gate is closed, the ODNR said visitors could park at the entrance and walk in around the gate.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.