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Shallenberger State Nature Preserve

Preserving 88 acres in Fairfield County

Jay M. Shallenberger, the area's original owner and protector, wanted to see it both preserved and open for the enjoyment and education of Ohioans. His wishes were carried out by the Fairfield County Commissioners who received the land after his death in 1971.

Early in 1973, the commissioners transferred the property to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

On May 15, 1973, the area was dedicated as a scenic state nature preserve and it is managed by the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.

Geological History

More than 300 million years ago this portion of Ohio lay under the waters of a vast inland ocean. Large sand deltas were deposited by streams flowing into the ancient seas. Over millions of years, compaction of these sand deltas fused the sand into rock, creating the Black Hand sandstone formation found in Ohio today.

The oceans have long since disappeared and the subsequent weathering of this massive sandstone formation by water, wind and temperature extremes has created striking gorges, overhangs, rock shelters, promontories and waterfalls, best known in the Hocking Hills region.

At Shallenberger, the long process of weathering produced Allen Knob, a promontory of highly resistant sandstone, and the smaller adjacent Ruble Knob. Allen Knob towers 240 feet above the surrounding countryside and provides an impressive vista of the central Ohio lowland plains to the west.

While this major feature of the preserve owes its origin to an ancient marine environment, the preserve also shows the effects of the last major glacial period. More than 10,000 years ago great sheets of ice, in some places more than 1 mile thick, covered portions of Ohio.Shallenberger lies at their southeastern limit.

The tops of Allen and Ruble knobs apparently remained free of ice. However, their bases were buried under an end moraine, an accumulation of rock, gravel and sand debris which wasfrozen in glacial ice and deposited at the melting front of the ice sheet.

Plant Communities

In a more subtle way, the plant communities at Shallenberger also reflect the influence of glaciation. The unglaciated tops and steep sides of Allen and Ruble knobs have thin, rocky soils low in moisture and nutrients. Chestnut oak and mountain laurel, a flowering shrub more commonly found in the Appalachian mountains, are abundant on the knobs. However, few other woody species have gained a foothold.

The knobs also provide habitat for a number of ferns, including polypody, ebony spleenwort and walking fern.

Local Directions

Located in Fairfield County, 4 miles southwest of Lancaster on U.S. Route 22; proceed 1/4 mile north on Beck's Knob Road to the marked preserve parking lot and trail system.

Special Features

Spring Wildflowers
Geologic Features
Bird Watching

  • Allen Knob
  • Excellent spring wildflowers


  • Parking lot
  • Trail system


Shallenberger map

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