Weiler-Leopold Nature Preserve
Black Rock Barrens Nature Preserve
During its relatively brief history, NICHES Land Trust has built an impressive portfolio of preserves, and this is nowhere more evident than along the Wabash River. Black Rock and Weiler-Leopold are among the earliest of NICHES’ acquisitions, but over time the Trust has added many properties along the river corridor. Might some future generation be able to enjoy a continuous footpath that connects Battle Ground with Portland Arch? Time will tell. In the meantime, the two adjacent properties described on this page provide a tantalizing glimpse of what may someday come to pass.
Black Rock Barrens
Black Rock Barrens lies to the east of the parking area. A loop trail, marked with yellow-orange blazes, wastes no time entering the woods and then heads east past numerous shagbark hickory trees. A few hundred yards in, the trail turns sharply south to avoid a large ravine. In doing so, it begins descending a dry slope strewn in places with loose rock. Aspect and vegetation change with elevation; on the floodplain below, where organic matter accumulates, the soils are deeper and better at holding water. The trail wends its way back to the west, and then makes another right-hand turn at a narrow gravel wash. As you climb back up the hillside, the rutted wash will gradually reveal itself as an old road, and then intersect with the entrance trail close to its beginning.
Weiler-Leopold Nature Reserve is west of Black Rock Barrens and has a substantially different appearance. The Ron Bogard Trail is a loop with ten numbered stations; be sure to pick up a brochure. You’ll begin by passing through a large restored prairie, planted to native grasses in 2000 and various other native plants since. After a couple of hundred yards, the path enters oak savanna habitat – broken tree cover, with grasses and other vegetation below. Watch for some white oaks, but not the tall skinny sort found in forests. These individuals had the space and sunlight to grow laterally and took advantage. The trail passes through a seasonally wet meadow where numerous seeps seem to keep the path permanently soggy. Before long, the trail turns back to the north, crosses the prairie again, and returns to the parking area.
TRAIL MAP (Click to enlarge)