From the Dunes National Lakeshore to the Hoosier National Forest, starting 14,000 years ago

With the Northern Indiana guidebook travel and photography phases complete, it’s transition time at Natural Bloomington. Attention is turning back south to the Hoosier National Forest.

Thirteen new Photo Albums from the last road trip to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Northwest Indiana’s moraine country are now posted, featuring the sandy region’s natural features beyond the dunes: the forests, the wetlands and the prairies. Write-ups on more than 120 preserves, parks and wildlife areas are in third- (and last) draft edit, right on the 75,000-word target.

Coming next is an exploration of cultural and historic sites in the Hoosier National Forest, some of which are listed on the U.S. Forest Service’s Special Places list. Images from most are already in the photo archive: Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest, Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower, Lick Creek African American Settlement, Mano Point, Rickenbaugh House, Buzzard Roost, Hemlock Cliffs and Buffalo Trace.

The historic elements in some of these albums – Rickenbaugh and Buffalo Trace – are incidental to the album. Others, such as Pioneer Mothers, Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower and Lick Creek, are searchable subjects with multiple albums. A Photo Albums page search for “Charles C. Deam Wilderness” produces 17 results. The collective Hoosier National Forest page has nearly 900 images.

Still others aren’t yet on the list.

The new focus is on research and field trips related to the next Natural Bloomington book project: Rewilding Southern Indiana: The Hoosier National Forest, a coffee table book to be published by IU Press in 2020.

The image-heavy book will relate the 202,000-acre Hoosier story, from vast wilderness to devastated landscape and back to the closest thing the state will ever have to true wildness. There is not and never will be wilderness in Indiana, despite the Deam's designation as such. The Hoosier National Forest is the most fragmented in the National Forest System; the Deam is bisected by a county road. And while the Hoosier isn't technically the nation’s smallest forest, in reality it is.

History is where such projects begin, which in terms of Hoosier geology (already researched for the guidebooks), begins some 4.6 billion years ago.

The human history dates to the Paleoindians, hunters and gatherers who occupied North America some 14,000 years ago, as the Wisconsin Glacial was beginning to recede. As meltwater from the last ice sheets to cover Northern Indiana began eroding the Southern Indiana hills from 400-million-year-old bedrock, the Clovis people had made their way to Southern Indiana.

The Clovis, the best known of the Paleoindian cultures, according to the 2006 U.S. Forest Service publication Looking at Prehistory: Hoosier National Forest Region, 12,000 B.C. to1650, most likely used the Hoosier’s rugged topography for hunting party kill sites

“At least some of the steep ravines and hollows of the Hoosier National Forest may have been used as natural surrounds by Clovis hunters to trap and kill game and make winter camps that would have been at least partly protected from the wind and cold of the Arctic-like conditions they endured,” says the report, authored by Noel D. Justice, then assistant director and curator of collections at IU’s Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology.

While no kill sites have been documented in Indiana, Clovis artifacts have been recovered by archaeologists in Hoosier National Forest rock shelters and at Mano Point on the Ohio River, where archaeological excavations suggest a large village existed from 7500 B.C. to 1000 B.C. Projectile points, manos and other tools were uncovered there before the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers built a boat ramp in the late 1960s. A mano was a rounded rock used by Paleo people to grind nuts and grain.

Thus, the transition has begun. The Northern Indiana guidebook isn’t due until the end of the year, so months of fine tuning lie ahead.

But from here on, it’s the Hoosier.

Photographs: Top, Little Calumet Headwaters Nature Preserve, Second, Barker Woods Nature Preserve, Third, Trail Creek Fen Nature Preserve, Fourth, Cressmoor Prairie Nature Preserve, Bottom, Mano Point, Hoosier National Forest.


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