WEST PORTSMOUTH — Raven Rock is a hiking hot spot, while the climb can be challenging, the results yield a breath-taking panoramic view of the Ohio River Valley.
While various legends exist as to how the hill received its name, from the air, it takes on the shape of a bird with outstretched wings. According to folklore, Native Americans used the rock as a lookout, spotting European settlers as they entered the region via flat boats on the Ohio River.
But one thing is true, the land was donated by Charles A. Brown, and it was his dying wish that the land be taken care of and preserved for people to enjoy for years to come.
“He was a local man, a lawyer and a Cherokee Indian. He was a really interesting man. He wanted that site to be preserved so he donated the land,” explained Jenny Richards, a naturalist from Shawnee State Park.
In recent years, threats have been made against the preservation of this beautiful piece of Ohio’s geological history.
All those wishing to hike Raven Rock must now carry a permit.
“It was Charlie’s request that the site be made permit-only because he didn’t want it to be ruined. He didn’t want people going up there without us not knowing who it was so that people wouldn’t carve in the rock, they wouldn’t spray paint the rock, they wouldn’t throw litter everywhere. We would know their names and people would be held accountable for what they did,” said Richards.
The rock itself is a promontory of Mississippian age sandstone. The weathering of the sandstone has resulted in three natural arches, the largest with a 10-foot span.
“It’s hard because people don’t follow the rules and we have to enforce the rules. We have very few officers, but we have to respect Charlie’s wishes because he generously gave that land to be protected and cherished by the people in this community forever. It’s very important for people to realize what a special place it is,” said Richards.
The preserve is also home to the potentially threatened blackjack oak and the state endangered small-flowered scorpion weed.
“We just busted some kids a few weeks ago for painting underneath one of the arches, it’s a horrible thing to destroy a State Nature Preserve that’s part of our natural heritage. We’re just trying to protect the few sites left that were meant to be natural and left as they are,” Richards explained.
The permits are free and can be found at the Shawnee State Park Office, or the Shawnee State Camp Store. You can also download the application online at www.naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/ravenrockarch and submit through the mail.
In Scioto County, the fine for a minor misdemeanor violation, such as being on site without a permit, is $139.
The application must be received by the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves at the address, fax, or email address at least 14 days in advance of the requested visitation.
You must specify which preserve(s) you wish to visit. Ten day permits may be available for certain preserves. Call the division at (614) 265-6561 for more information.
Permits will be issued and emailed to the applicant at least 7 days before the scheduled visit. Maps, brochures and any special stipulations concerning the use of the preserve will accompany the permit.
Leaders may be available upon request for large groups. It is the applicant’s responsibility to contact the appropriate division preserve manager in a timely manner to check on availability.
Any questions regarding your applications should be directed to the division at (614) 265-6561 or visit www.naturepreserves.odnr.gov for more information.
Research at a state nature preserve and/or collection of endangered or threatened plants requires separate permits.
All visitors must follow the rules and regulations for use of an Ohio state nature preserve. Copies of the rules and regulations are available from the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves and are usually posted at each preserve.
For more information about Raven Rock, you can go online to www.naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/ravenrockarch. You can also contact the Shawnee State Park Office at 740-858-6652 or stop in the office located at 4404 OH-125, West Portsmouth.
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-353-3101 ext 1932, on Facebook at “Ciara Conley - Daily Times” or Twitter @PDT_Ciara