Fairfield County Ohio Visitors and Convention Bureau
Wahkeena Nature Preserve

Christmas Rocks State Nature Preserve



Blackhand Sandstone

This 415 acre preserve features Appalachian type plant communities, a deep stream valley and a prominent Black Hand Sandstone overlook. Chestnut oak and mountain laurel grace the ridge tops while tulip tree and sycamore inhabit the valley floor.


Traveling from Columbus to the Lancaster area, one leaves the gently rolling glaciated till plains of Central Ohio for the hills of the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau. These knobs and ridges are comprised of Black Hand Sandstone, the same bedrock that makes up the well known Hocking Hills region.


The preserve features glacial alluvial soils in the Oil Mill Hollow valley. Arney Run is an example of a stream reversal. Pre-glaciation, the stream ran northeast towards present day Lancaster. It was theorized that Jacob's Ladder was, at one time, a col or divide that connected with the south side of the valley. With the coming of the glacial wall, several large lakes were impounded. The col at Jacob's Ladder was breached and Arney's Run began flowing south towards Clearcreek Valley.


Jacob's Ladder is a spectacular example of the Black Hand Sandstone, towering some 300 feet above the stream below. The sheer wall itself is nearly 100 feet high and exhibits the honeycombed weathering so common to this bedrock. Once on top, you are looking south towards the Clearcreek Valley.


The predominate plant communities of the Christmas Rock area are chestnut oak, scrub pine, and serviceberry. Once in Oak Mill Hollow, sycamore, birch, maples and spicebush begin to dominate in the richer, wetter soils. Occasional beaver cuttings can be seen along the stream as well as white-tailed deer, gray squirrel and wild turkey. Walking near a tangle might startle a ruffled grouse.


In the Spring, come see the wildflowers, Pink Lady's slipper, large-flowered trillium, trailing arbutus and hepatica are among the many species.