A Gorge-ous Place For a Walk
On a beautiful spring morning in April, several of the Explorers met for a hike through Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve.
This special place protects one of the best examples in the region of geology in action. The Little Miami River rushes through the gorge these days, but as the students discussed with Mr. Ramsey, it was not this particular river that formed the landscape. Under the soil are thick layers of dolomite, a relatively hard sedimentary rock, and as impressive as the Little Miami can be, it doesn’t have the power necessary to cut such a deep and narrow gorge through the dolomite.
Instead, a much larger waterway was required, and it came courtesy of ice. When the last ice age ended and the glaciers retreated from the area, vast quantities of meltwater came roaring off the glaciers. This formed the river that carved out the gorge—the Little Miami River came along later and used the convenient channel. It is still deepening and widening the gorge, but at a much, much slower rate than the original river did.
The Explorers first walked along the top of the gorge rim to the narrowest spot, where legend holds that a frontiersman once made a bold leap across the chasm to escape some pursuing Indians. Then they ventured down into the depths of the gorge for a hike along the river. Along the way they examined some of the rock layers of the cliffs, in particular a spot known as a “slump-block cave.” Here, huge chunks of overhanging rocks were left dangling after softer layers of rock were cut back beneath them. Eventually some of them gave into gravity’s insistent pull and snapped loose. Instead of rolling all the way down the slope into the river though, like numerous examples the group saw, these massive rock chunks lodged against each other against the cliff face, leaving gaps and hollows that can be climbed into and explored.
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Geology was not the only thing in evidence during the hike. The students also saw lots of excellent biological specimens, both flora and fauna. Spring wildflowers were out in abundance, while geese and a lone great blue heron were among the examples of flying critters the group spotted.
To see some photos of our spring hike, check out the gallery. For more information about Clifton Gorge and John Bryan State Park (adjacent to the state preserve), click on the links below.