Unveiling the River’s Edge Wildlife Preserve
By Matt Bayman
WEST MILTON – The River’s Edge Wildlife Preserve, owned and maintained by Brukner Nature Center, and sometimes referred to as “Brukner 2,” is a very special place. It’s filled with natural springs, several waterfalls, and a surprising birds-eye view of the Stillwater River.
A deep and wide ravine in the preserve starts with a cascading waterfall on one end and then cuts its way to the nearby Stillwater River. The sides of the ravine contain rock outcroppings that date back more than 300 million years, when Ohio was covered by a series of ancient, shallow oceans. The various layers of limestone and dolomite formed by these oceans can be seen in the waterfalls and outcroppings. All of this, by contrast, is very different from the flat farmland that surrounds the preserve.
Located on Calumet Road near State Route 48, between Ludlow Falls and West Milton, Brukner Nature Center’s River’s Edge Wildlife Preserve contains a short (less than one-mile) hiking trail that loops up and down the ravine and passes each of the above-mentioned highlights.
Late fall and winter are probably the best times to visit the park. This is because, without much foliage to block the view, the magnitude and scope of the ravine comes into focus, as does the view of the Stillwater River from 100 feet above its banks, which is something very rare to see in Miami County.
On the bottom of the ravine, where a creek runs from the waterfall to the river, hikers will come across two small side streams. They both come from natural seep springs that flow directly out of the side of the hill. A short climb up either stream leads to the mouth of the springs, one of which appears to come from the roots of a tree!
Although not as spectacular as the cascading waterfall in downtown West Milton, Calumet Falls are still impressive. They cascade several times, unveiling layer upon layer of that ancient ocean floor. Many of the rocks near the falls, and in the creek bed, contain ancient fossils. Salamanders, living ones, also seem to enjoy the area around the falls.
To the left of the main waterfall is second one. In contrast with the cascades, the smaller waterfall is a quick drop over a huge, smooth rock surface.
The source of all streams in the preserve is surface water runoff, so the flow of both waterfalls, and the seep springs, is dependent on precipitation.
One final thing to take note of at the preserve is the large number of glacial erratics. These are boulders, made of granite, that were left on the surface of the ground by glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age, 12,000 years ago. There is no granite near the surface in Ohio, so the large boulders seen at the preserve are from 500 miles away in Canada. A rather large one stands right along the trail near the waterfall.
There are many other things to discover at the preserve, including several man-made relics from an old West Milton Water Treatment facility and a host of flora and fauna, including puffball mushrooms and beautiful wildflowers, among other hidden treasures.
River’s Edge Wildlife Preserve is open daily from sunrise to sunset and is free to visit.
From top left, clockwise: The cascading waterfall. The entrance sign to "Brukner 2." A puffball mushroom in the fall. An old relic from West Milton's past.