Cantwell Cliffs State Park in Hocking County. I'm sure there's a story behind its naming. This narrow fissure between a massive sandstone cliff and a huge slump block that calved from the cliff's face long ago is the quickest way to get to the park's namesake cliffs.
Hocking County is the next to smallest of Ohio's 88 counties, but probably generates the most ecotourism traffic of any county. The primary reason people come is because of gorgeous scenery. I like Cantwell in part because it is somewhat off the beaten path for most visitors and isn't as heavily visited as iconic sites such as Old Man's Cave.
recently blogged about.
People tend to love these sorts of places to death. Hordes of visitors stumble down and gape in awe at the rock formations. Kids and adults alike scramble over every surface that it is possible to climb upon. Dogs bark. Children yell. The most disrespectful of the lot carve or spray paint their initials or other messages that no one cares about onto the rock faces. I'd visit these places more often but the constant parade of people quickly drives me crazy. Occasionally, natural selection eliminates one when they fall from the cliffs while trying to play daredevil or get a better photo.
One of the most spectacular, round-leaved catchfly, Silene rotundifolia, with its brilliant scarlet flowers, has nearly been eliminated at Cantwell Cliffs. In the absence of people the catchfly would abound in the dry shaded sands under the rock alcove. It's all been trampled into oblivion, and only a few scattered clumps grow high and out of reach on the cliff face.
Dwarf enchanter's nightshade is far more finicky and only grows on sandy ledges of sandstone cliffs. A big plant might tower four or five inches skyward.
Pellitory is a frequent companion of the aforementioned nightshade, and the ledge upon which I made these photos teemed with both.
It is vital to protect some of these rock shelters from uncontrolled and unregulated people traffic, or we'd lose many elfin specialties such as these plants. Fortunately, there are a number of such sites that are protected from abuse.