SOUTHEASTERN OHIO – According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, more than 20 Ohio state nature preserves in southeastern Ohio offer Ohioans an opportunity to escape into nature. Many of these special places exist due to the generosity of Ohioans who donated a portion of their tax refunds to the State Nature Preserves Fund.

Across the entire state, donations to the State Nature Preserves Fund help protect the best of Ohio’s natural landscapes: from bogs and fens to prairies and old-growth forest, as well as the native plant and animal communities found in these biologically diverse landscapes.

In the Hocking Hills region of southeast Ohio, donations to the State Nature Preserves Fund help protect Ohio’s rarest species and significant geologic features through land protection and critical management of non-native invasive species, which threaten the region’s delicate ecology. Donations also provide funding for public education activities, which give visitors a chance to gain a deeper understanding of nature.

Through the years, the impact of tax refund donations is unmistakable. Many of the state’s preserves were purchased using these funds. Today, these donations are used to make them accessible to all. From creating parking lots, trails, staircases and foot bridges, to controlling invasive species that threaten ecological integrity, donations are critical to protecting the state nature preserve system.

The rugged beauty afforded by the scenic overlooks at Christmas Rocks State Nature Preserve in Fairfield County or Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve in Hocking County provides more than just a break from the daily grind. These places offer an opportunity to really slow down, to look deeper and see more clearly.

Each and every preserve is a time capsule, safeguarding the story of Ohio’s natural history. Contemplate how years of wind and rain sculpted the rock in the Hocking Hills region, imagine a time when towering glaciers were a mere stone’s throw from a person’s resting place. These places tell a time of when bison roamed the woodlands, and early Native Americans made their homes here.

The preserves of southeast Ohio are lovely in any season. As winter turns to spring, the hills and valleys will begin a show of color. Shades of white with the trillium, bloodroot and Dutchman’s-breeches are mixed with the pinks, purples and blues of lady-slipper orchids, geraniums and violets. And not to be outdone, the spring bird migrants also bring their songs to the woods.

Henry David Thoreau wrote of nature, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Plan a trip to see what awaits at one of our state nature preserves.

Ohioans can donate all or part of their state income tax refund by making a contribution on line 26d of the 2016 Individual Income Tax Return.

To learn more about visiting Christmas Rocks or any of Ohio’s 136 state nature preserves open to the public, visit