I’ve been wanting to profile many of the central Ohio parks I visit regularly, and I might as well start with a place I visited just last week.

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Hayden Falls Park is a small place-

Located on the west side of the Scioto River along Hayden Run Road, just west of bridge over Griggs Reservoir. A boardwalk, steps and overlooks were constructed in 2006 to aid in accessibility as well as protect the ecosystem.  There are a few picnic tables are on upper level and a small parking lot is also available.

This park includes a unique gorge habitat that only occurs along the western shore of the Scioto River. This ecosystem is home to a beautiful 35-foot waterfall and also rare and endangered plants.

When I say ‘small’, I mean 2 acres (which is very small for the parks I visit).  But there’s a lot in that small space!

The park takes its name from Jacob Hayden, an early settler in the area.

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A set of stairs take you down into the gorge where Hayden Run empties into the Scioto River.

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This is a great place to see mother Mallards and their ducklings in the spring and early summer, by the way.  Keep an eye out for fish, tadpoles and Bullfrogs, too…

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…and don’t forget our ever-present friend, the Painted Turtle.

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The boardwalk takes you through the gorge in comfort.  The area is prone to flooding after lots of rain.  Quite a few species of trees can be seen here, including Sycamores, Black Walnuts, Hickories, Buckeyes and Redbuds.

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Here is Hayden Run, the stream that runs for miles before joining the Scioto River at the end of this very gorge.

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The waterfall is an uncommon feature for central Ohio.  It ranges from a trickle during high summer to a raging torrent in the wet spring weather to a frozen ice cascade in winter.  It attracts kids who love to play in it, and photographers who enjoy the scenery and find it a pleasant background for portraits.  Apparently people used to jump off the top of the falls when the pool below was deep enough, but this was quite dangerous as you can imagine.  Signs advise people to stay on the boardwalk, but many an irrepressible youth has happily ignored that advice.

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The stone cliffs give form to the gorge that defines the park.  The stone is exposed fossil-bearing Devonian limestone that reminds me of the gorges in southeastern and north-central Ohio, products of serious glacial melt-off.  The fairly narrow gorge has its own microclimate- being somewhat protected from winds and sun, and the stone walls trapping the moisture from the waterfall.

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This microclimate undoubtedly favors certain unusual species of plants, such as Wild Columbine.  I’ve seen this beautiful wildflower growing on the rock walls.  Look at the above picture closely to see their fireworks-shaped red and yellow blooms.  This is the only place in the area that I’ve seen these wildflowers growing naturally.

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The stone attracts other living things as well.  I see a pair of Indigo Buntings foraging through the Jewelweed, and a Catbird who is a regular.  A pair of Rough-Winged Swallows nested in a crack in the rock wall.  It’s a nice refuge for them, I imagine.

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This Ruby-Throated Hummingbird inspected the stone walls closely- perhaps for insects to feed its nestlings (the only time hummers eat bugs).  It flew into the spray of the waterfall for a quick shower.

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This is an Eastern Phoebe, one of a pair that nested this year on the rock wall not far from the waterfall.  They are mild-mannered flycatchers that seem to love the gorge.

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Here’s mother Phoebe perched on some stonework not far from her nest.

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Phoebes make liberal usage of moss in their nests.  She’s placed it on a narrow rock shelf- a perfect location where no predators can climb.

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Here’s where the Scioto meets the stream.0613-3 (32)

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This is a small but very scenic and enjoyable park!