Hemmer’s Woods State Nature Preserve
Northeast of Buckskin. Wonderful virgin timber and wildflowers as well as birds. Start at Hwy. 57 at Buckskin. From the east side of town go to the third road on the left and turn left. This brings you to the woods on the right where there is an upper woods and lower woods separated by a small field, but the upper woods is the only one owned by the state. On the right, you’ll see a small parking lot. The trail departs from there. (The lower woods remains private property, so please respect ownership. Since there are such incredible trees here, however, do bird from the road.)
For another short loop especially good for spring warblers, from Hemmer’s Woods, return to Buckskin. Cross Hwy. 57, continuing straight west. This road curves south and comes back on to Hwy. 57 near Pigeon Creek. (See DeLorme Map 61, A 11.)
Near Oakland City, east of the junction of Hwy. 57 and Hwy. 64. Scenic, good birds, nice array of wildflowers. Starting at the junction of Hwy. 57 and Hwy. 64, turn east onto Hwy. 64; but instead of following the curve of Hwy. 64 into Oakland City, go straight east on Co. Rd. 200 S. Pass golf course, cemetery, Parke Recreation area road. Turn right on the next road to New Lake, a man-made lake supplying water for Oakland City. There are two roads providing access to the lake. The first dead-end road to the right takes you all along the north side of the lake. The second dead-end road to the right takes you into the south side of the lake and onto a point. Along the main road, there is also access to the dam on the right. Bring a scope to check out the lake. Access by boat or canoe as well.
Continuing east on Co. Rd. 200 S, pass the South Fork Watershed Restoration Project where acid mine water runs through limestone filters to de-acidify it and then down to a beaver pond. (Close look at a beaver dam here.) Bring a scope to check out the standing timber in this large body of water. Check the edges for improving habitat as well. This road continues to wander through mined areas, but you may want to end here. (See DeLorme Map 55, H 11-12.)
Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area
Indiana’s newest National Wildlife Refuge, established September 7, 1994. Still under acquisition, the refuge is at present made up of numerous parcels of land that are not contiguous. Stop by the refuge office for a map of the property: 510 ½ West Morton, Box 217, Oakland City, Indiana 47660. Phone: 812-749-3199. Or check the Web at http://www.fws.gov/r3pao Respect private property. Property brochures list ducks, geese, Coots, Soras, Common Moorhens, Common Snipe, Woodcocks, Bobwhite Quail, Turkeys, and Ring-necked Pheasants.
Snakey Point South (also called Boyd’s Slough) Auto Tour Loop
Snakey Point is part of the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, north of Oakland City. (See also entry for Patoka Refuge.) Good birds and wildflowers. Start at the east end of Oakland City, past sewage plant and road next to sewage plant. Turn left (north) on next road (Co. Rd. 1275 E). This road winds around and changes numbers. At the Y, veer left. This brings you to the slough. Park and bird along the road. Bring a scope. You can also take an easy walk along the woods on the east end (to your right) up to the north end of Snakey Point, but there is no trail per se. If you have a canoe or boat, you can also explore by water.
Beyond Snakey Point South, continue easterly; cross an active mine road (be alert; no trespassing); turn left (north) on Meridian. (If, at this point, you want to leave, turn right to go back to Hwy. 64 at which point it is three miles from Oakland City.) Stop at any point along this drive to bird. Signs will help you know when you’re on refuge land.
At the double railroad tracks, if you hike west (left) on the first set, there are many wildflowers. (The first set of tracks is apparently inactive; however, the second set is in use.)
Drive on to the only pull-off on the left (sign indicates Bottomland Hardwood Forest Restoration Area). At the sign, you’ll find a path to a memorial to the McClures, the family who saved the woods and then donated it to the refuge. No good trail beyond this point, but the public is permitted to walk through the woods into more marsh.
Just past this pull off, there is a boat ramp. This is all good birding by car, by foot, and by boat or canoe.
If you choose to continue, turn right at the next crossroads and come to Area 1 of Sugar Ridge Fish and Wildlife Reserve. Check the open fields and mined-area ponds. Continue to Hwy. 61. Turn south (right) to Hwy. 64. After Boyd’s Slough, you are in Pike County. (See also listing #49 Sugar Ridge in Warrick County.) Reclaimed land is almost entirely open to the public.
Snakey Point North
A part of the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, north of Oakland City. (See also the entry for Patoka Refuge.) Good birds and flowers. Start at the junction of Hwy. 64 and Hwy. 57. Travel 3.4 miles north on Hwy. 57 and turn right on Co. Rd. 75 N. Road ends on other side of railroad tracks. Bird along the road. Park in the pull-off to the right and check out the lake. Beyond the lake there is slough on both sides but slough on left is private property. Cross the railroad tracks and park on the north side of Snakey Point where you can scope south. Check the lotus blossoms! Area good for Yellow-throated Vireos and Tree Swallows. Orioles and tanagers in the woods.
Double back 2/10 mile to Co. Rd. 50 N to head into the Patoka River Bottoms (see next entry).
Patoka River Bottoms
Part of which is included in the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge properties, northwest of Oakland City. When flooded, the area is excellent for waterfowl, passerines, and raptors. Start at the junction of Hwy. 64 and Hwy. 57. Drive 3.2 miles north on Hwy. 57 and turn left (west) on Co. Rd. 50 N. This road runs parallel to the river on the south side, and you can go as far as Co. Rd. 650 E for roadside viewing. Take a scope. Take side roads off Co. Rd. 50 N to get closer to the river. West of Co. Rd. 1050 E, you pass part of the old Wabash and Erie Canal. At turn in road, go right and park at the end of the first field, near an oil tank. You can walk on the road and/or levee trail to the river. Yellow-crowned Night Herons sometimes found here. At any road, you can turn left (south) and get back to Hwy. 64.
East of Francisco. Very good for warblers in spring and other passerines. Start at Hwy. 64 on top of the hill east of Francisco. Turn south (left) on Co. Rd. 750 E. The woods is just past the first crossroads. This is private property, so bird from the road.
Publicly owned property north of Owensville. Nice woods, birds, and wildflowers. Start at the junction of Hwy. 64 and Hwy. 65 north of Owensville. Going west, Hwy. 64 divides the woods. Trails not yet developed, so take side roads through it.
Duke Energy Power Plant
Also known as the Gibson County Power Plant, west of Princeton, south of Hwy. 64, at the Wabash River. As you approach the facility on Hwy 64, follow the sign into the area. Access to this area has become more restricted in recent years. But the roads through the property are public roads, so drive the circumference watching wetland areas for shorebirds, open water for ducks, trees for woodpeckers and woodland birds, and the sky for eagles and hawks.
Cane Ridge Wildlife Management Area
Cane Ridge is a 464 acre property situated on the south side of Gibson Lake which is the cooling lake for the Duke Energy Power Plant. Access the site by turning south on SR64 onto SR65 and travel 1.3 miles to Levee Road. Drive 4.8 miles until you see signs for Cane Ridge and park in the lot next to the observation deck. Cane Ridge is an area that has been restored by creating moist soil units and a pool containing two nesting islands for least terns. In 2005 the National Audubon Society designated Cane Ridge as an Important Bird Area. This is a great area to see a diversity of waterfowl, shorebirds, terns, and gulls. The first nesting record of black stilts in Indiana occurred in the moist soil units.
Tern Bar Slough
Tern Bar Slough is an 840 acre property managed by the Indiana DNR that is comprised of least tern islands and restored prairie, wetlands, and forests. The property is adjacent to Cane Ridge and can be accessed following the same directions used to find Cane Ridge. This is a great place to find grassland species, such as Grasshopper and Henslow's sparrows.