COLUMN: Forest offers winter adventures

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Guest Columnist

Happy New Year from your Hoosier National Forest, Indiana’s National Treasure. As we welcome the New Year, consider the many fun things to do in the Hoosier National Forest in winter.

Because of the mild climate in southern Indiana, most summer activities can also be accomplished in the winter. Hoosier National Forest trails are open year round, and hiking in the winter is a good way to stay fit. In addition, ticks and chiggers aren’t out this time of year. With the leaves off the trees, you can see farther into the forest for more exploration. Bob Ramsbottom leads hikes all over Perry County, including many in the Hoosier National Forest. Hikes are scheduled on the Mogan Ridge East Trail, Hemlock Cliffs, German Ridge, Oriole, and Two Lakes Loop Trails in January, February and March. To see the full hike schedule, please visit the perrycountyindiana.org Web site.

Mild winter days are also good for horseback or mountain-bike riding. Many of the forest’s trails are available for this type of use. Saddle Lake, German Ridge and Northface Loop at Celina Lake are open year-round, for winter camping enthusiasts. Frost-free hydrants provide water at German Ridge and Northface, and there are three electric sites at Northface.

If a scenic drive is more your style, the Ohio River Scenic Byway meanders along State Routes 66 and 62, passing through the Hoosier National Forest. State Route 37 also offers scenery through the forest from Tell City to Interstate 64.

The Indiana Predator Challenge takes place the first weekend in February. This coyote- and fox-hunting competition takes place across the Hoosier National Forest. Hunting is allowed in the forest except within developed recreation areas. Rabbit, squirrel, waterfowl and furbearer seasons also occur during part of the winter. Please check with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources for hunting seasons and regulations.

Prescribed burns completed this past autumn enhance hunting opportunities by improving habitat for a variety of wildlife species, including grouse, woodcock, migratory songbirds and deer. The 17-acre Antioch Burn in Orange County and the 260-acre Talley Burn in Perry County were completed to enhance dry forest oak ecosystems. We expect to see benefits including re-establishment of native grasses in wildlife openings, along with a decrease in invasive plants and reduction in hazardous fuels.

Water-related activities can also continue in the winter. Mano Point Boat Ramp on State Route 66 is open year-round; however, check the ramp for any debris before launching. When cold temperatures persist, there may be ice fishing opportunities at Indian-Celina, Tipsaw and Saddle lakes west of State Highway 37. Bluegill, crappie, redear and bass are wonderful menu items and so good for you! A project to be conducted later this spring will improve fisheries habitat by cutting and dropping trees into lakes and ponds. The project will target shallow-water areas such as shorelines and coves. When submerged, the trees will offer habitat to enhance feeding and supply shelter for a variety of fish species including largemouth bass, bluegill and other sunfish species. Once submerged, the trees provide a place for algae to grow. Algae attract insects and other invertebrates, which provide food for small fish.

Depending on weather, timber continues to be harvested from the Hoosier National Forest. Operators will operate in the winter when the ground is frozen or dry. The German Ridge Restoration Project to remove nonnative pine and native hardwoods is nearly complete.

Further north is the Oriole Restoration Project, which will remove nonnative pines and increase oak and hickory species. Three other sales, Grove Pine, Mill Stewardship and Jeffries sales, have already been sold. A Deuchars sale is advertised in this edition and a Riddel Pine will be advertised later. The Uniontown South Restoration Project Area around the Indian and Celina Recreation Area west of Indiana 37, will have its first timber sale offering later this year.

For more information about what’s going on this winter, or to report any trees down on the trails, please call our office at 547-7051 or visit our Web site at www. fs.usda.gov/hoosier.

Enjoy your time in the Hoosier National Forest this winter.

Zimmer is district ranger for the Hoosier National Forest.