By: Amy Nicolai | Rural Action Camp Oty’Okwa AmeriCorps Member

On a warm Friday in December, Camp Oty’Okwa AmeriCorps members Anna Haught and Amy Nicolai joined Mike Nicolai, Director of Environmental Education. They had the pleasure of taking a driving tour with guest expert Paul Knoop to learn about the glacial history of Hocking Hills.

The purpose of the tour was to help the Environmental Education team at Camp Oty’Okwa learn more about the areas so they can incorporate the information into their programming for visiting schools and camps.

We started in the eastern part of Laurelville on State Route 56 near Big Pine Road and learned about the gravel deposits along Salt Creek Valley. When the 800 to 1,000 foot glaciers crept into the area about 10,000 years ago, they blocked Salt Creek, which turned into a lake that broke through a ridge and is now referred to as the Narrows. Because of this reroute, the creek flows in the opposite direction of where it flowed pre-glacier.

This process, called “stream piracy,” has occurred in other places in Appalachian Ohio, including Clear Creek Metro Park.

Adelphi, a small town adjacent to Laurelville, is on top of a terminal moraine, which are giant piles of gravel – up to 60 feet tall – that were deposited by the glacier. We learned the hills contain pink granite that traveled all the way from Canada.

We took a moment to stretch our legs, and Paul pointed out geological features visible from Green Summit Cemetery, which is on the western edge of Laurelville, overlooking the flat farmland that faces west and northwest toward Columbus. I couldn’t resist singing to the cows that stared at this curious crew from the other side of the fence.

Our conversation pivoted to the Indigenous and European impact on nature. Paul told us that the forests in Ohio dropped in density from 90% to 10% from 1850 to 1900. This decimation of trees no doubt contributed to accelerated erosion, further shaping the landscape.

Our last stop was Kinnikinnick Fen in Chillicothe for lunch and a stroll. A question about the difference between fens and bogs came up, and we learned that one of the differences is the acidity of the water. Fens are alkaline, and bogs are acidic. Further research shows that natural water sources feed fens, and bogs are ground depressions fed by rainwater.

Paul also taught us about cattails and honey locust trees. We learned that the scant orange sticky substance inside a honey locust seed pod is quite tasty: honey-flavored with floral notes. We are extremely grateful for Paul’s companionship and expertise on our drive. His deep knowledge of the natural history of our area helped us understand more of what we can share with students and campers who visit Camp Oty’Okwa.