Fort Hill Earthworks and Nature Preserve

walk in fort hill

Ever visit Fort Hill Earthworks and Nature Preserve? It’s about about 30 miles straight north of our home, and we managed a visit last weekend before the snow fell. Our hike began with a long, steep climb. Unlike a lot of nature preserves Fort Hill permits dogs, and Wilbur was happy to accompany us.

Beth, who had Wilbur on the lead for the start of the hike, was just as happy Wilbur was with us as he practically pulled her up the mountain in his enthusiasm. I, 20 ft below, slogged along on my own leg muscles. The frequent stops and deep breathes necessitated by exhaustion gave me a lot of time to survey the landscape and reflect.

Because the trees are so large, there is a lot less brush in the forest here than there is in our little woods at home. This variegated leaf was among the few green plants visible on the forest floor. Anybody know what it is? The leaf looks a little like a trillium, but I’ve never seen a variegated one.


We also saw a lot of mushrooms, including what appeared to be a mushroom party happening on this fallen tree. The iNaturalist app with which I am experimenting suggested they may be Bay Polyphore.

fungal log

Fort Hill would be worth a visit just because it is 1000+ acres of what the Arc of Appalachia calls “one of the largest and oldest contiguous forests in all of Ohio.” But for many, the highlight comes at the top of the mountain, where you pass through the gate of an earthen wall into a flat site where people of the Hopewell culture gathered 2000 years ago. The ramparts they built are still visible and presently range from 6-15’ high. When you consider 2000 years of wind, rain, and snow, you start to appreciate how much work they required and how much more impressive it must have been when the site was in active use. I try to imagine who these people were, what their lives were like, what was important to them, but the only answer that arises is the place–the wind and the light, the mountain, the trees, the sky. The things that existed at this place 2000 years ago and still do. But even this assumption, I know, is my own projection.

If you are inclined to take a long drive so that you can take a long walk, consider a visit to Fort Hill. It reveals that here, in southern Ohio, we live amidst deep natural and cultural wealth. In a time when so much can be known so quickly, this place retains big secrets. I think it’s okay to let some of this mystery and wonder seep into our own lives and to believe what we do here is important, if only in some unfathomable way.


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