Chaparral Prairie State Nature Preserve is located near West Union, Ohio and consists of 66 acres of prairie, forest and old field habitat. Purchased by the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves in 1985, it was one of the first prairies preserved in the state of Ohio, and is home to over fourteen rare or endangered species of flora. Chaparral Prairie contains one of the most extensive collections of rattlesnake-master in the state, along with milkweed, pink milkwort, prairie dock and spiked blazing-star.
In southern Ohio, namely between Clermont and Scioto counties, many such small prairies were found between openings in the forest. Various topographic features influence the distribution of these prairies. Initially covered by glacial ice approximately 200,000 years ago, Chaparral Prairie was covered in debris referred to as till, and then by loess, a type of rich soil. The combination of till and loess led to improved farming conditions over other parts of the state.
Over the period of a century, settlers plowed and planted row crops, causing widespread soil erosion and degrading the top soil to the point that it had become broken and gullied. Grazing was maintained when crops could not be adequately planted. Today, strict management practices is returning the farmland into a prairie by carefully thinning the forest, utilizing controlled burns, and manual cutting of plants to control plant succession.
- The Hawk Hill Loop Trail ascends Hawk Hill through milkweed and milkworts and into a thinning forest, pockmarked with a bountiful collection of wildflowers supported by the checkered light filtering through the treetops.
From West Union, take OH 247 for .1 mile, then turn left onto Chaparral Road (County Road 22-C) for 2.7 miles. Turn right onto Hawk Hill Road (Township Road 23) for .2 mile.