Exploring Hopewell Culture in Licking County – Part 1

August 20, 2017 – On Sunday, a girl friend and I decided to get our Ohio 4th Grade History on and go explore the Hopewell Culture and Mounds in the Licking County Area.  This continued a Mound series for us after visiting Chillicothe in the Spring.

Super quick History lesson for those not in the 4th Grade: the Hopewell Culture refers to a time period more so than a specific tribe of prehistoric people.  Ohio was the epicenter of this culture.  Two of the most notable features of the Hopewell were mound building and flint trade.  There are mound sites throughout Ohio.  While we cannot know for sure what the mounds were used for, they appear to be generally ceremonial and sometimes used for burials.

This group also traded extensively.  Ohio has some great flint that is exposed which makes arrowheads, spear points, and the like.  Oho Flint has been found all across the U.S.  And beads, shells, and other items have been found in Ohio that came from far away places.  Ohio was the place to be in AD 200.  For more detail, the Ohio History page has some info here.

Blackhand Gorge

Exposed rock face – Blackhand Gorge

We started out at Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve.  Early settlers found a prehistoric petroglyph of a hand on the sandstone in this area, hence the name.  No one is quite sure what the hand was for, but generally it is believed to have been some kind of marking point for people coming through the area on their way to the flint quarries near by. Early construction of the canal and towpath through this area destroyed the petroglyph.

This park has a multi-use paved trail that is a “Rails to trails” path.  It also has a few side trails for hiking, which is what we were after.


  • The hiking trails have a few steep spots, a few muddy spots, and some really cliffy areas.  BE PREPARED! This is not a flip-flop hikeable trail.  You want good shoes here.
  • Keep little kids or easily distracted ones very close.
  • This is a nature preserve.  Dogs are not allowed off the paved path.
  • There is a pit toilet at the parking lot.  There is no water or trash cans available.  Pack in and out what you need.
  • This trail is nice in spring and fall when there are fewer leaves on the trees and better views of the rocks.

We started at the trail-head near Tobosso Ohio.  Using Google to get there by the name/address is a b*&%.  Here is a link to the parking lot. From the lot, head past the toilets and onto the paved path.  You’ll find way-point signs along the path, however they forgot to put the letter in the “you are here” part for several of them.  At the marker that should be “B” about 1/4 mile down the path.  If you are standing looking directly at the sign to read it, the trail is right behind you.  Take that.  * This first section of trail can be pretty muddy.  If you aren’t in the mood for that, go on up to the “C” sign and pick it up there.*   The highlight of this trail is between the “D” and the “E” signs.  You will come to a very nice view of the exposed rock where you can see the various layers.

The Narrows at Blackhand Gorge

When you get back to the paved trail, go left for more hiking or right to head back to the car.  If you go left, there is another trail at point “F”.  This one has a very steep start and then some up and down through it and it is rather long and a bit harder to follow.  It’s nice if you are into seeing trees, wildflowers, etc.

When you head back to the car, you will go through a pretty neat narrow area with rock cuts on both sides.  Remind yourself that you are walking on an old train track and try to imagine a train coming through here.  Especially if you were a passenger in the train looking out the window.

Flint Ridge

We headed on to Flint Ridge next.  The park is about 15 minutes away from Blackhand Gorge.  Here is the link in google maps.

This area was home to the flint quarries for the ancient Hopewell people.   the area was also used later on to get the stone for the grinding stones used in grist mills (stones used to make grain into flour).

If the museum is open when you arrive, stop in.  Admission is a couple of dollars each unless you have an Ohio History membership.  This museum is run entirely by volunteers and has a small gift shop, restroom, and a few interpretive displays that the State put in many years ago.  There is also an amazingly old (but short) video of an archaeologist showing how to knap flint into an arrow head.

Flint Ridge Quarries

After exploring the museum, there are a few short hikes worth checking out. You will see the pits left from the quarry.  It is really hard to photograph these.  So the picture doesn’t help here.  But they look like little ditches in between hills.   Kind of visually underwhelming but notice how many there are and how busy this area would have been.  There are examples of the flint rocks near the museum.  Take a look at these then see if you can find some along your hike.  DO NOT TAKE ANY HOME.  This is a nature preserve! Preserve it! 🙂

If you feel like hiking around a bit, there are a couple miles worth of trails to explore; one is across the road.  A nice picnic area and shelter are at just off the front entrance as well.  We decided it was lunch time and headed into downtown Newark to refuel.

Newark, Ohio

Downtown Newark has updated a bit since the last time I was there.  We found the Barrel & Boar BBQ restaurant.  Our food was quite good and an cold beer from the local Homestead Beer Co. was even better.

After lunch we headed onto find some mounds.  Stay tuned for Part 2!

Barrel & Boar Restaurant – Newark


3 thoughts on “Exploring Hopewell Culture in Licking County – Part 1”

  1. Sounds like fun!!! Should have taken me along, I have the Ohio history membership. Could have saved you a couple of dollars. Trail sounds too hard for me. Wish I was younger.

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