BLACKHAND GORGE STATE NATURE PRESERVE
Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve is a 956-acre area that was dedicated as an interpretive nature preserve in 1975. This dedication process ensures that the area's scientific,educational and aesthetic values will be preserved indefinitely for use by all Ohioans.
The prime feature of the preserve is a narrow east-west gorge cut by the Licking River through the Black Hand sandstone formation. This cross-bedded, conglomeratic sandstone, well exposed in many places, creates a rugged topography. The dry hilltops are dominated by oak, hickory, Virginia pine and mountain laurel. Mixed hardwoods and a lush spring flora abound on the wooded slopes and ravines. The floodplain is predominantly sycamore,cottonwood box elder.
The name "Blackhand," for whichthe preserve is known, originated froma large, dark hand-shaped petroglyphthat was engraved on the face of thesandstone cliff. Many Indian legendswere passed on to early pioneers aboutthe origin of the "black hand." Possiblythe most prominent is the one that says itmarked the boundary of a sacred Indianterritory where no man was to raise hishand against another. The petroglyphwas destroyed in the 1820s during theconstruction of the Ohio-Erie Canaltowpath when canal builders blasted thecliff face.
Historically, the area around thegorge was very important to both themodern Indian and the prehistoricMound Builders. The rich deposits offlint found nearby at Flint Ridge madethe Licking River system a strategicallyimportant transportation route evenbefore the advance of white settlers.By 1929, the gorge had witnessed thepassing of the Ohio-Erie Canal, thesteam powered Central Ohio Railroadand the electric CN&2 interurbantrolley line.
Today the canal boats, trolleys andsteam locomotives are gone. A modernrailroad has been relocated to higherground, but the stark remains of old canallocks still dot the preserve.