Land Trust report: Explore National natural landmarks during Mental Health Awareness Month

By Shawndra Miller, communications manager, Central Indiana Land Trust

There’s no shortage of crises snagging our attention these days. It seems that wherever we turn, there’s some dire prediction or distressing news story. But in unsettled times, there’s a place to find solace: nature.

Numerous research studies point to the mental health effects of spending time in nature, particularly in forests. Even if there were zero scientific documentation, nature’s restorative power would be obvious to most.

This spring, why not find your way to an old growth forest within a short drive of Indianapolis? Already, driving under a “tree tunnel” on the county road that leads to Meltzer Woods, you might feel a bit restored. As you walk under the elder trees, you might find yourself taking deeper breaths. The wildflowers and birdsong you’ll find there may bring a little bit of peace.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month – the perfect time to focus on recharging in nature. Whether it’s for family time, a mental health break, or spiritual sustenance, nature preserves are wonderful places to explore.

Some special preserves, including Meltzer Woods, have been designated as National Natural Landmarks. This honor is reserved for natural areas of biological and geological significance.

For 60 years, the National Park Service has been identifying these landmark places. NNLs earn the designation based on the sites’ rarity, diversity, scientific/educational value, and more.

There are over 600 NNLs throughout the United States, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of those, 30 are in Indiana, and some are publicly accessible.

Want to explore a site of national significance without traveling very far? In addition to Meltzer Woods, three NNLs offer a stunning nature immersion within a few hours’ drive from Indy. While Central Indiana Land Trust owns Meltzer Woods, the Indiana DNR Division of Nature Preserves owns and manages these NNLs:

– Shrader-Weaver Nature Preserve boasts one of the most gorgeous spring wildflower displays in Indiana, attracting visitors from far and wide. Thousands of blue-eyed Marys and other native flowers carpet the forest floor in early spring.

-Pine Hills Nature Preserve was dedicated as the state’s very first nature preserve in 1969. Here you can hike along sharp ridges in the tree canopy, then descend to the forest floor to find a tranquil stretch of Clifty Creek.

– Portland Arch Nature Preserve is the site of one of the state’s most memorable rock formations, a massive sandstone bridge carved by water.

The beauty of these special places is sure to rejuvenate the spirit!

Headquartered in the Old Northside, the Central Indiana Land Trust stewards nature preserves throughout the central third of the state. For more information on Meltzer Woods and other land trust-owned preserves, visit

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Meltzer Woods is one of 30 Indiana locations designated as a National Natural Landmark.