Nelson, Ohio (Portage County)
Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park is located on State Route 282 in Nelson Township, Ohio south of Route 422 and north of State Route 305.
We are calling it the "Minnehaha Falls Trail" because the most prominent geological point of interest along the trail seems to us to be Minnehaha Falls. The State of Ohio calls it the "white" trail on the signs at the park.
This small but beautiful waterfall along Sylvan Creek is visible from the Minnehaha Falls Trail at Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park.
Being the white trail, the path is marked with blazes of white paint on rocks and trees. Be attentive however, as the trail, like all trails at Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park, is poorly marked. Please stay on the "marked" trail, and away from dangerous cliff edges. One of the keys to a nice hike here is keeping your feet planted on solid ground.
This easy hiking trail provides a scenic, tranquil place to hike. The flat trail traverses a forest dominated by Red Oak trees. The strong, sturdy Oaks provide a picturesque backdrop to the shrubs and groundcover of the park. As you hike this trail, such native shrubs as Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), with its sparse but beautiful yellow flowers that bloom in late september or October. You will also see maple-leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), a shrub with leaves that look like miniature maple leaves.
Beneath the shrub layer of the forest, you will note a great number of oak seedlings. While some scientists and naturalists contend that there is a problem with oak regeneration in Ohio and elsewhere, it is likely that the great predominance of oaks we see in Ohio today is due to disturbance history and management, rather than natural processes. In areas where oak would naturally be found in undisturbed forests, such as on dry ridges and rocky communities with high amounts of available sunlight, such as that persent here above the ledges, it seems as if the oaks are regenerating just fine. In the absence of stand clearing events like fires or large scale windfalls, light loving, species such as oaks naturally give way to shade-tolerant species like maples and American beech as long as there is enough moisture to accomodate these species.
Among the oak seedlings, and native shrubs, you will also find a great treasure trove of wildflowers. Solomon's seal, spring beauties, red trillium and a whole host of others grace these forests in the spring and early summer. In fall, you will see some forest asters, and a few goldenrods as well. As you get closer to Minnehaha Falls, you will see barriers that have been placed along certain areas of the cliff, both to prevent accidents, and to encourage appropriate vegetation to reestablish in these areas that have been over-used for decades. Please respect the rules and stay on the right side of the barriers.
Minnehaha Falls will appear soon on the left hand side of the trail. This little waterfall is part of Sylvan Creek, which flows through the park, over the ledges, then out of the park again on its way to the Mahoning River, and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.
Soon this trail will lead you in a loop back toward your starting point ,where you can pick up the "yellow" trail for a quick and pleasant hike to Cascade Falls, where you can continue your explorations of Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park along a tributary stream of the Grand River.
Bring a picnic and take advantage of the grassy picnic area on the other side of State Route 282, near the parking lot. These trails are worth spending an entire day with the family.
Cascade Falls Trail
Devil's Icebox Trail