Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve

Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve History

Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve has been a favorite place since my days in scouts.  In those early days, I remember hearing of an early exploring being chased by the Shawnee.  Knowing that he had been cornered at the rim of the gorge, the man facing death leaped the gorge.  I don’t know how much was fact vs legend, but Jeff Louderback offers more details about the legend that made for an enjoyable read. 

Clifton Gorge formed much earlier.  First, the Cedarville dolomite formation was laid down 350 million years ago during the Silurian Period.  About 20,000 years ago, the Laurentide Ice Sheet started melting running water was guided between two glacial lobes thereby forming the Little Miami River.  Due to vertical fractures developing in the bedrock, the river carved its way downward through the dolomite layers creating Clifton Gorge. 

Today Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve lies west of Clifton Ohio and is adjacent to Glen Helen Nature Preserve and John Bryan State Park.  I haven’t found a bad time of year to not enjoy this park.  At 268 acres and with two miles of trails, the park may sound on the small side.  But consider two facts:  first its trails are rich in spring wildflowers and second, it borders John Bryan State Park and Glen Helen Nature Preserve which provides access to 20 miles of trees that weave among 2,100 acres. 

Clifton Gorge Landmarks

  • The Blue Hole: A spot along the Little Miami River where the gorge widens and waters calm forming a peaceful pool of water.  The Blue Hole has inspired artists including Robert S. Duncanson who painted the scene in 1851. 
  • Orton Monument: In 1937, Hugh Taylor Birch bought 160 acres of land adjacent to John Bryan State Park and donated it to the state.  He then commissioned a red granite memorial and dedicated it to his friend, Dr Edward Orton Sr. who was a naturalist, geologist, and professor at Antioch College. 
  • Steamboat Rock: As the river readily erodes the Massie shale layers, it undercuts the Dolomites causing large sections to break off called slump blocks.  Steam Boat Rock is one large slump block that sits in the Little Miami River as if it were an abandoned ship. 
  • John L. Rich Trail and North Rim Trail: The Rich Trail runs along the Little Miami River and allows visitors access to impressive Ohio Wildflowers.  The Rim Trail runs along the top of the gorge where the surrounding tree leaves catch the light in fanciful colors. 

Clifton Gorge Art Prints

Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve holds many of Oho’s natural treasures.  Art prints captured through fine art photography are sought after by homeowners and healthcare facilities seeking peaceful prints that celebrate living in Greene County, Ohio.  As mentioned above, the park is surrounded by additional iconic parks and towns so you may want to check out the galleries below: 

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A springtime view of Clifton Gorge’s Blue Hole where the turbulent river briefly calms in a peaceful pool

Blue Hole, Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve

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A Clifton Gorge trail aligned with the setting sun where the golden light rakes across the pathway out of the gorge.

Sunset Over the Gorge to Rim Trail, Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve

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The Little Miami River passing through Clifton Gorge on a spring day

Little Miami River Passing Through Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve

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The Little Miami River gently flows by ice and thick snow as it passes through Clifton Gorge under blue skies and bright sunlight

Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve in Winter

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