With warm fall temperatures this year, Brown County has had an extended peak season for “leafers.” Many of the trees will hold onto their leaves and their fall color for weeks to come, and people are still flocking to the state forests and hilly backcountry to see what dazzling display nature is putting on.
One of the best places to visit Brown County is little-known Laura Hare Nature Preserve at Downey Hill. With its mature hardwood forest and rolling hills, this Sycamore Land Trust property is quintessential Brown County. Sycamore’s Communications Director Abby Perfetti says the 2.8-mile trail running through the 600-acre preserve takes hikers past seasonal waterfalls, a pond, a few old wells, and “glacier erratic” or “drop stone” — a nonnative boulder that had been transported there via glacier.
But Downey Hill is also part of a larger project for Sycamore Land Trust: creating more migratory-songbird habitats. Along with Brown County and Yellowwood state forests, Perfetti says, Downey Hill is part of 18,000 acres of protected property in Brown County alone. “It’s really important that migratory songbirds such as the cerulean warbler or the pileated woodpecker have lots of land to migrate through,” she says. “They need really big tracts of land to build their habitats.”
Members of the Hoosier Hikers Council plan to build three more miles of trails on the property, in addition to the 2.8 miles they’ve already completed.
Sycamore Land Trust protects nearly 100 properties — that it owns or through conservation easements with landowners — totaling 9,000 acres, with 15 properties open to the public.
It protects an additional 10,000 acres through financial partnerships with the State of Indiana, The Nature Conservancy, and other groups. Many of the properties are in Monroe County and open to the public. Sycamore’s mission, Perfetti says, is “to protect land and connect people to nature in southern Indiana.”
Whether you’re able to visit Downey Hill or not, Perfetti and drone company Aerial 812 have created this video to give you another view — from above. “Downey Hill” is the second video in an ongoing series produced by Aerial 812, a local company founded by Seth Teeters that provides aerial imaging and data services.
• From the intersection of State Road 46 and State Road 135/Van Buren Street in Nashville, drive east on State Road 46 toward Gnaw Bone for 5.5 miles until you reach Valley Branch Road
• Turn right on Valley Branch and drive 1.5 miles
• Turn left into a small gravel parking lot